Animation / Culture

E07: How to Tell Indigenous Stories And Be Successful – An Interview with Chris Kientz of Raven Tales

E07: How to Tell Indigenous Stories And Be Successful – An Interview with Chris Kientz of Raven Tales


In this interview we sit down with Chris Kientz of Raven Tales, a series of half-hour (24min.) CGI-animated television programs. The series was produced by New Machine Studios in partnership with Vancouver Artist & Producer, Winadzi James, and is targeted at school-age children and their families to introduce Aboriginal folklore in a humorous and entertaining way.

Talking to Chris was like listening in on an Elder – there was so much wealth and depth to his knowledge. From talks of #idlenomore to the current state of indigenous funding in Canada, Chris harmonizes his practical experience in the entertainment industry, with the spiritual needs of his First Nations heritage. He fights the good fight.

Healing Old Wounds

Like many of my other interviewees, Chris talked about the impact his mother’s stories had on him growing up. Although he was proud of these stories, his mother would typically tell him to not openly advertise his native lineage. That generation was filled with a lot of fear, shame and denial of their own culture and heritage. It wasn’t particularly their fault, but such suppression from colonialism and Western influence certainly passed on some difficult conditioning.

Taboos

This common thread of pain is felt amongst many indigenous and First Nations people, but our ancestors stories may aid in the healing process. Animation bypasses many of the cultural taboos that typically restrict the telling of such stories in real life. Chris talks about some First Nation clans who share similar beliefs to Australian Aborigines, in terms of not being able to talk about or mention the dead. In some cultures, even animal names are restricted for up to 2 months out of respect for their spirits.

Oneness

The interconnectedness and “oneness” philosophy of indigenous and First Nations peoples is something we can all learn from. Organized religion and monotheism attempted to bring this concept to the masses, yet we still struggle to be at peace. Many have unified under the title of a single God or religion, yet we continue to separate and divide destructively in many other areas of our lives. What’s painful of all, especially to the indigenous around the world, is that the very people who brought the concept of “one God” to native communities separated them from themselves and God – for if God is almighty, then does God not live and breathe through the animals and plants too? It is part of the paradox we live in. We separate ourselves to understand that we were one to begin with.

Funding

There’s also the topic of funding. For many creatives, not just First Nation peoples, this can seem like an uphill battle. When you mix the two, oh boy, you can come up with even more headaches! However, Chris discusses an interesting point – if you learn to pitch your ideas as purely entertainment, they will be more widely accepted than if you pitch “cultural preservation.” There’s almost a stigma to advertising “good work,” which can pigeonhole you to a very tight market. Harmony is an important aspect of indigenous belief and so, too, must this aspect be utilized in the world of money and social causes. The spiritual ideals must be balanced with the practical needs of the physical and material (the Eagle and the Condor).

What do you believe the future holds for the First Nations peoples of our planet? How does animation aid in the healing process? Comment below.

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