Ancient Iroquois Creation Story Premieres as Contemporary Live Action/Animated Film Preview

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Date(s) - 07/09/2015
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

500 University Avenue
Rochester, New York 14607


The ancient Iroquois Creation Story—passed down through generations of oral tradition, but never before visualized on film—comes to life onscreen.

This animated/live dance film, a special preview for Friends of Ganondagan, takes place on Thursday, July 9 at 7:00 pm at the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) auditorium, 500 University Avenue. The Iroquois Creation Story film was made possible by the generous support of The Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation. 

This unique project is the result of a collaborative partnership among Friends of Ganondagan, Ganondagan State Historic Site, Iroquois Social Dancers, Garth Fagan Dance, and Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Film and Animation assisted by a corps of international film and animation faculty and students.

“The Iroquois Creation Story is a beautiful tale that contains important messages,” says G. Peter Jemison (Seneca), artist and Ganondagan State Historic Site manager. “To capture its essence on film has been a labor of love.” Jemison was the catalyst and inspiration for the film’s animation.

Helping to tell the cinematic story are traditional Iroquois Social Dancers and Garth Fagan Dancers with film narration by Grammy winning singer-songwriter Joanne Shenandoah (Oneida), RIT animation with characters voiced by Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) actors, and original artwork by G. Peter Jemison. The music combines traditional Haudenosaunee singers with original music by Native composer Brent Michael Davids (Mohican). The 16-minute film will be a permanent feature in the Orientation Theater of the Seneca Art & Culture Center at Ganondagan opening October 3, 2015.

The film’s story is based on the words of Chief John Arthur Gibson (Seneca) who related this version to J.N.B Hewitt in the 1890s, later annotated into a book by John Mohawk (Seneca). According to oral tradition, far above earth in the Sky World, the Great Celestial Tree providing light and food for the Sky World inhabitants begins to fade. The keeper of the tree dreams that the people uproot the Great Tree, renewing their world. When the Great Tree is uprooted, a large hole is produced through which a young pregnant woman falls, landing on the back of a turtle. A new world, Turtle Island, is created. Eventually, Sky Woman’s grandsons, twins Flint and Sky Holder, create everything on the earth and then battle for control of the world. The story has many truths that apply to contemporary society.

Tickets are $10/general admission and $7/Friends of Ganondagan and Memorial Art Gallery members, and are available when the doors open beginning at 6 pm. Tapas and wine will be available for purchase through the MAG’s regular Tapas Night.

At 7:00 pm, Jemison will be joined by RIT filmmaker Cathleen Ashworth, and a representative from Garth Fagan Dance to share their viewpoints on the project and the collaboration, especially from a cross-cultural perspective. Live dance and music performances from the film will be a focal point of the program, followed by the much-anticipated 16-minute film. At the film’s conclusion, audience members will be able to meet the artists, dancers, animators, and filmmakers.

G. Peter Jemison’s original concept drawings will be on display. Orders can be taken for The Iroquois Creation Story, The Myth of the Earth Grasper (out of print), by John Mohawk.

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