The founders

Yves Sioui Durand

Theater is the only place where I exist inhabiting my territory… It is where I can walk in my dreams. -Yves Sioui Durand

A member of the Huron-Wendat Nation, Yves Sioui Durand is a performer, actor, dramaturge, director and film maker. Since 1984, he has created a body of theatre work unique in Québec. It is founded on the quest for a truly Aboriginal theatre rooted in the myths and history of First Nations here and elsewhere around the world. From the creation of Porteur des peines du monde, theatre became the medium of his personal ceremony and of his self accomplishment as a dramaturge. Yves is a pioneer in theatre and also in film with, in 2010, Mesnak ˆ the first full length fictional film by a First Nation director in Québec. He is one of the founders of Ondinnok productions and was the artistic director until July 2017. Since then, Yves has focused mainly on his role as an artistic mentor.

A versatile interdisciplinary artist, Yves has also directed a variety of spectacles including the closing event of the 2001 Francofolies featuring Florent Vollant and Richard Séguin and in 2004 that of Taïma with the Inuit artist Elisapie Isaac. In 2001, he collaborated on The Great Peace of Montréal presented at the Musée de Pointe-à-Callières. In 2013, he scripted This is our Story a benchmark exposition on the Aboriginal peoples of Québec at the Musée de la civilisation de Québec.

Looking inward to the dramas experienced here by indigenous people, Yves Sioui Durand envisions an Aboriginal cultural reconstruction through art. He conceives the artist as a living bridge between traditions expressed through archaic ritual, and the new First Nations identity. An important and influential creator at the heart of the emergence of Aboriginal theatre in Canada, he has opened the way for a whole generation of indigenous artists and creators.

My theater seeks to provide access to the imaginary land of my people, which was obscured but persists in us. It is for white, and for Aboriginal audiences, who often have lost touch with their past. – Yves Sioui Durand

Catherine Joncas

Since my early childhood, as long as I can remember, I’ve always imagined myself as an explorer, an adventurer. Theater is still for me an adventure and a discovery. With Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal accomplices, I tell my experience through the game of theater.

Actor, author and director trained at the Conservatoire d’Art dramatique de Québec, Catherine Joncas is one of the founding members of Ondinnok. Since 1996, she has also been the Administrative Director thus assuring the feasibility of all the company’s activities. She has written numerous plays produced by Ondinnok. In 2000, she wrote, performed and directed her most autobiographical play The Kiskimew Rendez-vous. In 2006, she directed Tales of an Urban Indian that, in 2009, toured the Maisons de la Culture à Montréal network, nine First Nation communities throughout Québec and La Rochelle France.

Catherine has shared with Yves Sioui Durand the adventure of Theatre of Healing and has collaborated as an instructor in different workshops and training courses given by Ondinnok here and in other countries since 1995.

Reflecting her community involvement, she has represented Ondinnok since 2009 on the The Art, Culture Committee of the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Strategy Network. From the work of this committee emerged the Destinations Project to create a First Nations artistic and cultural space in Montréal which is foreseen for 2017.

I don’t feel that the culture of indigenous peoples are far from me. I don’t feel like they are the other, that is to say different and separate from us. We all have First Nations ancestors in our genealogy. I don’t see what are the benefits for the civilization of having lost the connection to the earth, and the respect for animals and nature. For me, it is nothing less than a crime. As an artist, defending a theater that shows these values, is my way to defend them. – Catherine Joncas

John Blondin (1960-1996)

Coming from a large and respected family from Deline (Fort Franklin) North West Territories, John Blondin was a talented artist. After having begun medical studies in London England, he came to Montréal at the beginning of the 80’s to study linguistics and to take dance courses with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. During this time he developed a friendship with Yves Sioui Durand and Catherine Joncas. With them he founded Ondinnok and was part of the creation of Porteur des peines du monde at FTA in 1985. In 1988, he performed in Atiskenandahate ˆVoyage to the Land of the Dead, the second production by the company. In 1991, John Blondin returned to Yellowknife to pursue his theatrical path within his own community through the education program of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. He did so by telling the legends of his people and especially the stories inherited from his father, the celebrated George Blondin. The Legend of the Caribou Boy remained his favourite story.

John was an extraordinary man, full of energy, imagination and humour. He believed in art and its power to change things. He was in love with his culture and his territory. A man that favours openness, he spoke perfectly his own language as well as English and French. He was a friend and an important partner of the beginnings of Ondinnok. We will always miss him. – Yves Sioui Durand et Catherine Joncas