Watch KINUK with Symphony Nova Scotia FREE

Halifax/K’jipuktuk, NS – In Toqnasimk: Carrying the Burden Together, the collaborative duo KINUK and composer Jon Hargreaves join Symphony Nova Scotia in creating a dynamic multidisciplinary performance.

As KINUK, artists Ursula Johnson and Angella Parsons use the protocol of “public land acknowledgment” as a framework for exploring a myriad of cultural values and societal norms that define who we all are as Treaty People residing in Nova Scotia.

Kinuk is a Mi’kmaw word meaning “us”, derived from the exclusive perspective of the speaker(s). Linguistically, the definition of kinuk may broaden with inclusion of others, dependent upon socially nuanced contexts of relational relativity. The collaborative art duo KINUK was created by Ursula and Angella as a way for them to explore concepts of sameness and difference through the medium of performance art. The two met as students in 2001 at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Since then, they have redefined and expanded their ways of relating with one another as classmates, friends, lovers, partners, colleagues, spouses, aunties, and land stewards.

KINUK describes Toqnasimk: Carrying the Burden Together as a public invitation for us all to join them in an open, honest dialogue about what it means to share this land as the Treaty People of Mi’kma’ki. The duo further clarifies, “We are not here to tell anyone what is the right or wrong approach when it comes to conversations about Reconciliation. For information on individual and institutional responsibilities we defer to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls To Action. The goal of KINUK is simple: we strive to facilitate a space where folks might be able to contemplate their individual place(s) in relation to one another. We hope Toqnasimk: Carrying the Burden Together will serve to inspire and encourage thoughtful reflection and ACTION around our individual and collective responsibilities as Treaty people living on Unceded Mi’kmaw Territory.”

Toqnasimk: Carrying the Burden Together begins with Angella reciting Wild Geese by Mary Oliver as she tries to “connect” with the land via mindful embodiment of Pjila’si, to locate her place amongst the people. Moments later, Ursula joins Angella on stage invoking KINUK. From there the two engage interpersonally, gradually expanding the perimeters of KINUK to include Music Director Holly Mathieson, the orchestra members, and eventually the witnessing public, resulting in a wholly inclusive “all of us here together”.

Holly speaks to how part of Angella’s search for connection to Mi’kma’ki is explored by her “trying to hear it so that she can ‘acknowledge’ it”. Holly then goes on to speak to her experience within the collaborative process and offers insight into how the many parts of this project came together cohesively: “The orchestra’s material is like deconstructed pieces of a whole, which we reconstruct like a jigsaw in the performance, with the players having a large degree of choice in how and when their material emerges, within a broad framework provided by the assisting composer Jon Hargreaves. There will almost certainly be spatialization, and I’m hoping they’ll retain their plan for gently inviting the audience to join with us in the sound-making (basically, ritualistic breathing).”

Both Angella and Ursula go on to offer, “The work of KINUK is rooted in the practice of relational aesthetics. French Curator Nicolas Bourriaud coined the term, which he defined as a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space. In his 1998 book of the same name, he sees artists as facilitators rather than makers and regarded art as information exchanged between the artist and the viewers. The artist, in this sense, gives audiences access to power and the means to change the world.”

Toqnasimk: Carrying the Burden Together was created over several months and included a series of workshops facilitated by KINUK.

The Pjila’si Sessions are supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Canada, and the Province of Nova Scotia.

Watch Toqnasimk: Carrying the Burden Together now:



Symphony Nova Scotia is Nova Scotia’s orchestra, championing symphonic music in the province for 40 years. With a home base in Halifax/K’jipuktuk and performances across the province, Symphony Nova Scotia is proud to be a vibrant, vital part of Nova Scotia’s rich cultural community. From sold-out orchestral concerts to free family events, youth and seniors’ activities, and educational partnerships, Symphony Nova Scotia creates unforgettable experiences with truly great music. Visit to learn more.


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Marcus Glover
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Symphony Nova Scotia
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