Department of Theatre PhD candidate Lara Aysal has been named one of the top 25 “Storytellers” in an annual competition announced on May 5 by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. SSHRC’s 2020 Storytellers competition celebrates the best in research communication by post-secondary students.
Aysal is one of two UVic researchers named as a finalist, alongside Erynne Gilpin of UVic’s Indigenous Governance program. Each receives $3,000 and the opportunity to compete in the Storytellers Showcase in 2021.
The Storytellers challenge strives to show Canadians—in up to three minutes or 300 words—how social sciences and humanities research is affecting our lives, our world and our future for the better. The 2020 Top 25 Storytellers represent 19 postsecondary institutions across Canada. Their research stories include topics that are a priority for Canadians and have wide-reaching implications: climate change, the situation for refugees, the stigma of mental illness and Indigenous communities.
“This year’s 25 Storytellers competition finalists show exceptional creativity in communicating the relevance of social sciences and humanities research to the daily lives of Canadians,” says SSHRC President Ted Hewitt. “I commend each of them for their outstanding talent and ability to convey concisely and with great impact, why such research matters. Congratulations to the finalists!”
Community collaboration supports Hul’q’umi’num’ language and culture
Applied Theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta and her students are collaborating with the Hul’q’umi’num’ Language and Culture Society to use tools from theatre to reclaim an endangered Coast Salish language. For the last four summers, the group has met to improvise theatre games to improve fluency and to develop plays performed for the Hul’q’umi’num’ community.
“Working together on plays reinforces traditional values, such as building consensus, overcoming fear, and sharing knowledge with others,” says interdisciplinary PhD student, actor and voice coach, Thomas Jones, Kweyulutstun (theatre and linguistics). “Performing the stories brings out messages and meanings that are not understood when reading from a page.”
Last summer’s performance, “hw’i’ttsus lhqel’ts’—Jealous Moon”, was directed by Applied Theatre PhD candidate Lara Aysal. A video documenting the project, Indigenous Performance and Language Revitalization, produced by One Island Media, was entered into the SSHRC Storytellers competition (below).
“Stories have been the guiding principle to take language learning out of the conventional classroom environment and into a theatrical space where it can be practiced in an everyday life setting,” says Aysal, who has worked on applied theatre projects around the world.
Voices of Indigenous women form narrative of self-determination
Erynne Gilpin is a mixed Cree-Metis, Filipina and Celtic educator, researcher. She is also a PhD graduate of UVic’s Indigenous Governance program. Her winning submission was based on her doctoral thesis—Land as Body: Indigenous Womxn’s Leadership, Land-based Wellness and Embodied Governance.
Guiding conversations with 17 Indigenous women, 21-to-60 years of age from 10 different nations, Gilpin explored definitions of leadership in their everyday lives, their wellness, community well-being and their relationships with land and water.
Gilpin explains, “my research defines wellness within a Cree-Metis framework. These concepts inform what I define as an embodied governance framework of self-determination.” Determined to interrupt the Indigenous story as one of constant crisis, Gilpin proposes new thinking, “which begins with the body as a site of regeneration, resurgence and renewal.”
Gilpin is an Indigenous Learning Specialist with UVic’s learning and teaching unit, and is an instructor with the Indigenous Studies program.
The 2020 Storytellers finalists are invited to participate in the Storytellers Showcase at the 2021 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, which will take place in May 2021 at the University of Alberta. Given the exceptional circumstances caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the nature of the Storytellers competition, where the finalists must learn to effectively communicate their research in front of a live audience, SSHRC decided to postpone the Storytellers Showcase that was to have taken place at the 2020 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Western University in London, Ontario, which was cancelled.
This story originally appeared on the UVic News page