Oki Kano is an Ainu artist and activist from Asahikawa, Japan, whose testimony to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues contributed to the Japanese government’s recognition of the Ainu as an indigenous people of Japan in 2008.
Nate Renner is an ethnomusicologist (PhD candidate, University of Toronto) whose research explores some of the ways Ainu people use music to assert a presence on their ancestral lands, and to contest human-environment relationships in contemporary Japan.
Kano and Renner have been collaborating on a number of projects that illustrate how musical gestures such as those made by performers on stages at public rallies have the power to contest and reinforce institutionalized opinions about who interacts with nature and how; but so do subtler musical gestures and choices, made by people who assert themselves on a daily basis in environments shaped partly by racism and kinds of discrimination.
Their collaboration shares parallels with recent events in North America, where indigenous peoples are compelled and, in some cases enlisted to stand at the frontlines of environmental debates over oil and gas pipelines.
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