2010: Elmiet

2010: Elmiet

2010 Nocturne & Prismatic Arts Festival, Halifax, Nova Scotia
A durational performance art piece where Johnson employed tactics of theatre and the spectacle along with cooperative didactic intervention, while utilizing the media and social media to draw a crowd to the main event.

Johnson began the walk at Grand Parade Square where she placed atop her head a ‘hair-like’ woven structure that covered her eyes, which was constructed with Ash, Maple, Sweetgrass and Reeds utilizing various weaving and interlocking techniques.

This headpiece was symbolic of her hair and trailed down her back and onto to the ground, dragging behind her as she walked.

She paraded through the streets of Halifax, Nova Scotia stopping at historically significant points of land where there have been recorded events of battle or negotiation of treaties between the Mi’kmaw people and the European Settlers. Johnson spent contemplative time at these historically significant places while handing out ‘invitations’ to people who expressed any interest. The ‘invitations’ were in the form of a postcard that was addressed to the attention of Nova Scotian MP’s and MLA’s, with a statement inviting them to support the repeal of the 1756 Scalping Proclamation on Micmac Scalps in Nova Scotia. The card was also inviting them to take part in an event that would be hosted, by Johnson, at Grand Parade Square at 9pm that evening where “A selected participant may be eligible for a cash prize!”

At 7pm, Johnson met up with a group of Parkourists from Halifax who were hired to play the role of ‘Micmac Warriors tasked to guard the last scalp’. Johnson and the Parkourists arrived at 9pm at Grand Parade Square where she stood at a microphone and shared with the participants the emotions that she felt as she walked through Halifax in this headpiece and the empathy that she felt for her Mi’kmaw ancestors who, in 1756, would have hid in fear of being scalped for the proclamation. She shared with the group how the two previous proclamations issued by Governor Cornwallis were repealed by Cornwallis himself in the mid 1700’s but the proclamation issued by Governor Lawrence (Cornwallis’s predecessor) in 1756 had never formally been removed from the books or officially repealed, so she urged the participants to lobby to their MP’s and MLA’s to officially repeal the bounty.

She then invited a volunteer to come up from the group of participants who would be the last European to “scalp” a Mi’kmaw person in Nova Scotia. She offered up the headpiece as a symbolic scalp to be taken on the steps of Grand Parade Square.

To date the 1756 Governor Lawrence Proclamation has not yet been repealed.

Nocturne spotlight: Ursula Johnson: Elmiet (The Coast, October 14, 2010 by Sean Flinn)
Artist Statement
Curriculum Vitae

Images: Krista Comeau (Headshots)
Images: Angella Parsons (Performance Documentation)