A group of three kohkoms have developed a great friendship after meeting together for a new video series presented by the Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples (LSSAP).
“We’re Facebook friends now,” Donna Lerat laughs as she talks about the friends she’s made while taking part in the series.
Lerat is one of the kohkoms in the series.
Curtis Peeteetuce is another face in the series. He explains his role as a support and guide for the three women.
Peeteetuce was motivated to create the series after he realized Rez Christmas Series, a travelling play he is a part of, wouldn’t be able to continue during the pandemic. He describes Rez Christmas Series as the “golden girls” on the reserve and shows their adventures at Christmastime. Young actors, sometimes male, would play the grandmothers.
“The Rez Christmas Series is Cree. We could maybe utilize that to continue to bring health and happiness into the community through humour,” Peeteetuce told the LSSAP.
He also drew inspiration from the documentary film Looking for Richard in which director and actor Al Pacino plays himself and the character of Richard III from a Shakespeare play of the same name. The film shows Pacino’s journey as an actor trying to play the character.
“I thought how fascinating and then that all these years we’ve been having young actors be elders or elderly women and so obviously you’re going to be missing a lot of things in that,” Peeteetuce said. “This time around while why not have these elders, these women, these kohkoms learn the journey of being an actor.”
And with that, the Kohkom series was born.
The kohkom’s include Lerat, Gloria Myo, and Donna Merasty. Marcel Petit is the filmmaker on the series and is Lerat’s brother.
The group meets weekly in Saskatoon and is able to get together in-person since there’s only five of them. The women are distanced at least three metres apart and Peeteetuce and Petit wear masks.
“One of the great things about film is we’re allowed to zoom in so we can still do close-ups and have a mic by the ladies and capture them close up,” Peeteetuce said.
The episodes are essentially video blogs of what the group is up to that week. It also highlights conversations. Peeteetuce often poses questions to the kohkoms in the episodes, such as “What is a man?” and “What is a kohkom?”
The group also talks about the importance of humour and read scenes from other plays.
This past week the women were introduced to theatre games and activities.
“Wow the laughs, the laughs were just incredible,” Peeteetuce said.
Lerat described a game where they had to act out something and then when another player asked what they were doing, the player had to say something other than what they were doing. The player who asked that question would then have to act out what the other player said.
“I asked (Donna Merasty) ‘What are you doing, Donna?’ and she said, ‘Well I’m crawling on the ground like a crocodile,” Lerat started laughing as she told the story on Tuesday. “You can’t see me (but) I’m a big woman so me being on the ground in my skirt – it was hilarious, it was fun.”
Lerat is really happy about her experience with the series.
“I love it. I’ve come away with a sore belly a few times, it’s fun. I laugh so hard my belly hurts when I leave,” she added.
The series also covers more serious topics, as well.
This week, Peeteetuce shared a thought — that we’re aware of what everyone is going through with the pandemic but we may not be aware that there are some people going through a lot more in their personal lives on top of that. He followed this thought by asking the kohkoms what advice they would offer to these people.
“They just offered general responses that you could hear from anybody who loves you like keep faith, keep hope, whatever those are for you and do that through prayer and through just believing,” Peeteetuce said.
He added that it was interesting to hear one of the ladies respond “connect with your families, even through the internet, just laugh.”
Peeteetuce says the series is also about understanding the meaning of the term ‘kohkom’ and deconstructing the stigma associated with it.
The series is funded by SK Arts, Sask Culture, and Saskatchewan Lotteries. It can be watched on YouTube at this link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCA8AIkcGQeImOYDFrMvLVww.