Louis-Karl Picard-Sioui: Shaman-Warrior of Imagination
Over the past fifteen years, Louis-Karl Picard-Sioui has published numerous novels and collections, in addition to running Kwahiatonhk!, an organization dedicated to promoting the literature of Quebec’s First Nations. Describing himself as a shaman-warrior artist of the imagination, the creator of Wendata multiplies opportunities to reshape the world.
The expression with which it is presented is taken from the theory of sociologist Guy Sioui-Durand. “I agree with him when he says that being an Aboriginal artist means being engaged, whether you like it or not. The struggle is first in the sphere of the collective imagination, which we must change. »
His own perspective was influenced by his Wendat ancestry, his background as a historian and anthropologist, as well as Gilles de la Tourette syndrome. “It’s extremely difficult for me to close the box when it’s time and I have a lot of difficulty with silence. I try to avoid social media because it’s not good for me. It is not surprising that he multiplies the opportunities to express himself differently. Finalist at the Prix du Salon international du livre de Québec, section for young people, in 2006, with his first book Yawendara et la forêt des Têtes-Coupées, he then published short stories in various collectives (Amun, Hungarian peace, Big absences) then his first collection, Kitchike chronicles : The big one is coming. He also traveled the country and the planet to sing his poetry.
The way he can navigate from one literary genre to another without restriction. “I have always rejected artistic categorizations. Art first of all comes from a way of being in the world that captures the fears, hopes and discomfort of society. If you have the talent to recycle it artistically, you can say that you have become an artist. Still, art requires porous boundaries. There must be communication between the artist and the world, and between disciplines. When he wakes up in the morning with an idea, he doesn’t immediately know what form it will take. “I’m someone who gets bored quickly and I have to try new things often. I like to put myself in danger. »
And managing a cultural organization is in itself a “danger” for Louis-Karl Picard-Sioui. “I can’t say that I’m a very good manager. When Kwahiatonhk! was founded in 2015, it needed someone to run it, so I got involved, but it’s getting bigger and bigger. We need weapons. Fortunately, the board of directors helps me a lot and I love that, setting up projects. »
Indeed, he gave himself body and soul to highlight Indigenous literature throughout Quebec. The organization he leads ensures the development of new pens, their promotion and their distribution through initiatives such as the First Nations Book Fair, the literary bingo show or multidisciplinary exhibitions. “We are on the same level as the book industry, but outside the sacrosanct book chain consisting of authors, publishers, distributors, stores, libraries, book fairs and festivals. We work with all links. Our goal is indeed to advance the cause of autochthonous literature. »
No wonder he appreciates the initiative In June: I read native!, posted in 2021. “I’ve been working to spread indigenous art for about twenty years now, and it can take a long time for the community at large to get involved. So, I find it very interesting that the middle of the book enters the scene with us. Since 2011, the First Nations Book Fair has been the highlight of the year in November. And now another important moment reflects our efforts in June. »
When we tell him about the growing interest in Aboriginal artists we’re seeing among non-Aboriginal artists, he couldn’t agree more. “It is clear that the madness has been more and more generalized for five years. The Quebec and French Canadian population is increasingly interested in what we have to say. »
This momentum of discovery is not good, while the two dozen indigenous Quebec pens he listed are not enough to meet the demand of cultural organizations, government departments and private companies developing projects related to indigenous cultures. “This madness puts pressure on the creators. We are overstretched. On social media, I often see indigenous artists announcing as early as January that they are full for the rest of the year. We take the risk of exhausting people and moving on to something else. »
Another potential pitfall: that the latter are instrumentalized by the organization. “The risk is very present for any artist who is a member of a marginalized group. With the Canada Council for the Arts’ emphasis on encouraging exchange between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, more and more organizations are looking to give voice to Aboriginal people. But not always in the right way. “Sometimes there is a lack of sensitivity and tact. In a minority way, I have also seen organizations that needed money imagine projects with Aboriginal people and try to get grants by finding an Indian for services. Even when they mean well, other managers come off as totally clumsy. “Sometimes I have to make them understand that their project doesn’t even consider an Aboriginal artist. They have a project where they support an aboriginal artist’s project hoping that the aboriginal artist will fit in. This is not decolonization. »
Louis-Karl Picard-Sioui also takes the time to warn First Nations artists. “I ask them if the project is really good for them or if it will take them in a completely different direction than expected for their career. In the end, the project must benefit them. »
His latest publication:
YAWENDARA AND THE FOREST OF SEVERED HEADS (Hannenorak)
In order to save her village from the curse that is eating it, young Yawendara, a brave Wendat child, will have to go to the Forest of Severed Heads and bravely face all the dangers, including the leader of the monsters that roam the forest: the son – Areskwe. A children’s novel with vivid writing that takes you to the heart of the Wendatian cosmogony, traditions and beliefs. From 10 years
Photo: © Hélène Bouffard
This interview is taken from a notebook Is the press autochthonous!