Broken Boxes - Interview with Cheryl L'Hirondelle (EP#45)

Broken Boxes Podcast is proud to present this episode as the second installation in a series of interviews featuring participants and their respondents from the socially engaged project #callresponse.  

In this episode we get into conversation with Cheryl L'Hirondelle, a community-engaged Alberta-born, Cree/Metis, interdisciplinary artist, singer/songwriter and curator. L'Hiriondelle speaks about two major projects that continue to evolve through her practice and we hear how music and voice act as the primary tools for expressing her work. She shares reflection on her experience as Ursula Johnsons respondent artist for #callresponse and gives insight regarding the evolving life of the artist and the importance of connectivity.


More About The Artist

Since the early 80's, L'Hirondelle has created, performed and presented work in a variety of artistic disciplines, including: music, performance art, theatre, performance poetry, storytelling, installation and new media. In the early 90's, she began a parallel career as an arts consultant/advisor and programmer, cultural strategist/activist, and director/producer of both independent works and projects within national artist-run networks. L’Hirondelle’s various activities have also found her working in the Canadian independent music industry, as well as various educational institutions, the prison system, First Nations bands, tribal councils and governmental funding agencies, at both the provincial and federal levels.L’Hirondelle’s performance work is featured in Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women (2001), written by the late Âhâsiw Maskêgon Iskwêw, and edited by Tanya Mars and Johanna Householder. L’Hirondelle’s 2001 performative activity and corresponding website cistêmaw îyîniw ohci (for the tobacco being) are also discussed in Candice Hopkin’s book, Making a Noise: Aboriginal Perspectives on Art, Art History, Critical Writing and Community (2006). In 2004, L’Hirondelle and Hopkins were the first Aboriginal artists from Canada to be invited to present work at DAK’ART Lab, as part of the 6th Edition of the Dakar Biennale for Contemporary African Art, Dakar, Senegal. In both 2005 and 2006, L’Hirondelle was the recipient of the imagineNATIVE New Media Award for her online net.art projects: treatycard, 17:TELL and wêpinâsowina. L’Hirondelle’s previous musical efforts have also garnered her critical acclaim with two Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards 2006 and 2007 for her contributions to Vancouver based Aboriginal Women’s Ensemble M’Girl. Her own first attempt in producing (and as one half of) the singing/songwriting duo Nikamok was recognized with a nomination from the Prairie Music Awards (now the Western Canadian Music Awards) and many of her songs have been licensed for television, documentary and feature films. In 2011, Cheryl was also nominated for a KM Hunter Award in Music.

Ever the visionary, she continues to come up with new ways music and her other artistic ideas can converge and in 2009 was recognized as an Honoree in the Net.Art category from the Webby Awards for nikamon ohci askiy (songs because of the land), an ongoing and now international sonic mapping and songwriting project now called Sing Land X Song Mark. She was also nominated for a K.M. Hunter Music award in 2011 and since 2008 has been working on co-composing a series of songs with incarcerated women, men and detained youth in federal prisons, provincial correctional institutions and civic detention centres titled Why the Caged Bird Sings. She is also collaborating with various Indigenous language speakers and emerging songwriters on an international songwriting project and operates Miyoh Music, an Indigenous niche music publishing company.

From 2009 to 2011, imagineNATIVE Film + Media Festival invited L'Hirondelle to curate their first three new media exhibitions: Codetalkers of the Digital Divide (or why we didn't become "roadkill on the information superhighway"), RE:counting coup and S-O-S3 (signals of survival). She has also been involved in a variety of media arts initiatives including:  Smartlab Associate Researcher, 2005–07; Banff New Media Institute Advisory Committee, 2006; Canada Council Media Arts Advisory Committee, 1997–2001; KIDS FROM KANATA On-line Aboriginal Liaison (with Buffy Sainte Marie), 1995-96; and Drum Beats to Drum Bytes Thinktank, 1994. 

Cheryl is currently a member of the OCAD University Indigenous Education Council and has recently begun post-graduate research-creation at UCD, Dublin, Ireland.

Cheryl L'Hirondelle Website

Cheryl L'Hirondelle Bandcamp

Song Lines Project

Medicine Path Project


More About #callresponse

The project is led by Tarah Hogue (French/Dutch/Métis), Maria Hupfield (Anishinaabe) and Tania Willard (Secwepemc) and features five lead artists working in the following locations: Maria Hupfield in Toronto ON, Montreal PQ, New York NY, Tania Willard in Secwepemc Territory BC and invited artists Christi Belcourt (Michif) on the North Shore of Lake Huron ON, Ursula Johnson (Mi'kmaw) in Toronto ON, Vancouver BC, and Laakkuluk Williamson­Bathory (Inuk) in Iqaluit NU.

Stay connected with the #callresponse project: