Mi’kmaw basketmaker invited back to international cultural festival in France

Virick Francis (left) and his wife, Isabel (right) hold the Mi'kmaq Grand Council flag during a parade in Gannat, France in July 2016/Photo courtesy of Isabel Francis

A Mi’kmaw basket-making artisan from Nova Scotia has been invited once again to take part in an international cultural festival in France this summer.

This time, however, Virick Francis has also been asked by festival organizers to bring his own delegation of Indigenous artists and performers to the 44th “Les Cultures du Monde” festival in Gannat, France in July 2017.

“I was very honoured and extremely happy because I believe we are the first First Nations group to attend the festival from Canada,” the Eskasoni First Nation resident said in a recent phone interview.

Francis and his wife, Isabel, attended the international festival in July 2016 as part of an Acadian delegation representing the different cultures of Atlantic Canada. Francis was asked to join the delegation because of his unique skill of making tiny traditional Mi’kmaw baskets.

While they were there last summer, Francis and his wife put on demonstrations of traditional Mi’kmaq basket-making as well as take part in performances. One day, the couple led a parade through the streets of Gannat.

Francis needs $45,000 in order to send delegation to France

Virick Francis, from Eskasoni, will be attending a world cultural festival in France to demonstrate his unique Mi’kmaq basket-making/Photo by Stephen Brake

Since accepting this year’s invitation, Francis has been contacting traditional dancers and drummers from across the Maritime provinces to join their delegation. He has also reached out to other Indigenous performers and artists in other parts of the country.

“We (have) had a hard time trying to get other First Nations involved because of the distance from other parts of Canada,” Francis explained.

Francis is also trying to secure funding to cover his delegation’s travel and lodging. He estimates the total amount his group needs to raise is $45,000 to cover costumes, regalia, airfare and hotel.

In the meantime, Francis is working with his delegation on what they will perform and demonstrate during the nine-day festival.

“We also have to meet regularly, hopefully monthly, to prepare for routine on the dances and the different types of music we will be playing,” Francis explained.

Gannet is located approximately 300 km south of Paris. The town is part of the Auvergne Rhône-Alps region of France. More than 450 artists and 65,000 visitors attend the annual festival which began in 1973. This year’s festival is scheduled to take place July 21-30.

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About Maureen Googoo 263 Articles
Maureen Googoo is an award-winning journalist from Indian Brook First Nation (Sipekne'katik) in Nova Scotia. She has worked in news more than 30 years for media outlets such as CBC Radio, the Chronicle-Herald and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Maureen has an arts degree in political science from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, a journalism degree from Ryerson University in Toronto and a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.