Humour, heart & hope; Saskatchewan kohkoms open up in new YouTube series

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the health concerns and isolation it has brought to all our lives, the team at Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples (LSSAP) is hoping to spread a little joy. They have partnered with artist Curtis Peeteetuce and filmmaker Marcel Petit to create the YouTube series kohkom.

“Within the family unit, it is the women who provide the solid base,” says Peeteetuce. “We wanted to take apart the stigma of being an elder and being a woman and do it with heart. We have some amazing conversations and the laughter is unending.”

Aaron Marie Nepoose, Wanita Singing Bird and Cory Standing (L-R) play the crazy kohkoms in GTNT’s 2019 Rez Christmas show. (Britainy Zapshalla)

Inspired by his annual holiday play The Rez Christmas series with Gordon Tootoosis Nīkānīwin Theatre, Peeteetuce gathered together three Indigenous women with an interest in theatre. Each week, the trio read scenes from the plays, play games and share in often deep discussions about their own lives. Donna Lynn Lerat is a fan of The Rez stories and jumped at the chance to be part of this spinoff.

“If you ask my family, I’ve always been performing but, when I was growing up, we never had the chance. Not here in Saskatchewan,” says Lerat. “Now, at my age, I’m easier on myself and ready for anything. I’m moving in!”

For the next 8 weeks these women will learn the ins and outs of theatre and explore how they can share their own stories and experience in our ever-changing world.

“It’s so good to hear these women have that rich, belly laugh. That’s really powerful medicine.”

Donna Lynn Lerat is excited to be part of the kohkom video series on YouTube. (Marcel Petit)

“In one session, I asked the women What is a man supposed to be,” says Peeteetuce. “Wow! That conversation went to some pretty deep emotional places but it was also so fun. It’s so good to hear these women have that rich, belly laugh. That’s really powerful medicine.”

The series creators hope it will bring people together to continue oral storytelling tradition in a new way giving voice to these women.

“It breaks my heart, this COVID stuff. The worries are real,” says Lerat. “This is a way that I can wrap my arms around my community and maybe make them laugh. It’s a piece of me trying to send some love out there.”

The video series will wrap up during Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling Month in February. The kohkoms will do a final performance of scenes from the plays they’ve been working on. Peeteetuce hopes it spreads joy and new insight into the lives and stories of elders.

To watch the kohkom series, follow this link.