INTERVIEW Already-And: The Art of Indigenous Survivance

  • Cheryl L’Hirondelle
  • Natalie Alvarez
  • Keren Zaiontz
Part of the Contemporary Performance InterActions book series (CPI)


In this interview, artist and musician Cheryl L’Hirondelle discusses how her community-engaged and new media practice manifests Indigenous survivance. L’Hirondelle’s work is grounded in the Cree language, which she instructs is indivisible from the land-based practices of the Cree worldview, or nêhiyawin. This is ‘a way to see, and a way to be in the world.’ For L’Hirondelle, this is often expressed in her practice through ‘stealth’ and subversive modes of making work for marginalized communities. Recounting her experience of songs because of the land, a multimedia project in which she sonically mapped cities such as Vancouver and Toronto, L’Hirondelle describes sounding the city for its homeless. Reversing the tradition of busking patronage, L’Hirondelle walked Vancouver, stopping to sing to individual homeless residents, whom she then paid. ‘It was winter, so it was really lovely to say: “You’re probably going to get into a shelter tonight or buy a meal. Thanks for listening to me sing.”’ L’Hirondelle carried this subversive spirit into Why the Caged Bird Sings, a project in which she facilitated the composition of original songs with Indigenous women, men, and youth in prisons, correctional centers, and detention facilities across Canada. For L’Hirondelle, ‘the power of having your own song’ is a survival tool, a means to sound an Indigenous future grounded in freedom and self-determination.


Cree worldview Songlines Sonic mapping Why the Caged Bird Sings Freedom songs treatycard 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cheryl L’Hirondelle
    • 1
  • Natalie Alvarez
    • 2
  • Keren Zaiontz
    • 3
  1. 1.University College DublinDublinIreland
  2. 2.Ryerson UniversityTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Queen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

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