EMERGING BIPOC ARTIST PROFILES : Brefny Caribou

Brefny Caribou is a Swampy Cree/Irish-Settler artist from Toronto, ON, whose stage credits have included working with Infinithéâtre, Urban Ink, Caravan Farm Theatre, and Aluna Theatre. As a creator, her works are known to be collective and collaborative in nature, often encompassing subject matter of identity, culture and decolonization as it relates to her ancestry. Through theatrical storytelling, she explores and expresses her unique challenges as an Indigenous woman living in the contemporary settler state of Canada.

Interrogating and evolving her artistic practice on the regular, Brefny here reflects on the impact of 2020 world events on her craft. 

“I had this moment the other day – and that I have every once in a while now – where I wondered about the next time I was going to be able to be in a room full of people again, and it scared me,” she reveals on the effects of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I love being with other artists and in front of an audience so much, and it’s hard not knowing when that’s going to come back.”

“However, I do get excited about figuring out how to navigate theatre spaces going forward. What will the first show look like when we do return? How do you get that connection and sense of physical closeness that makes you feel comfortable and safe as a performer? It’ll be interesting to see.”

With regards to the BIPOC uprising, “It’s a very intense time because it’s literally a matter of life and death for people in my Indigenous community and in the Black community,” says Brefny. “It’s such a direct and immediate experience that in many ways makes my art feel so small, but in the same breath, it feels like it is the only way that I can really help. It feels as though my responsibility right now is to bear witness to what is happening and then to turn this pain into a cathartic experience that can be shared with others.”

On her hopes for the artistic community as it works towards rebuilding from crisis: “I would wish to see many more of the people whom I admire to have the platforms to speak truth to a wider audience. I would also want to see what the deconstruction of an arts institution looks like. We’ve been doing things in one way for so long now, and it makes me question if maybe there are alternative forms of organizing creative entities, structuring leadership, and distributing financial support. If what we’re doing isn’t working for everyone, then we need to figure out something else. I look forward to being able to have more of these kinds of conversations and I’m hopeful that we will find another way.”

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