In Memory of Taran Kootenhayoo by Heidi Taylor
Image: Taran Kootenhayoo in a mountain meadow with actors Olivia Nowak and Ariana Lauren and a rainbow behind him, for the short film modern respite, directed by Jason Mannings. Photo by Sophia Dagher.
I met Taran during a walk through X̱wáýx̱way, hosted by Full Circle and led by Rebecca Duncan and Quelemia Sparrow. We walked the territory, learning the names and stories of the places that hold such importance in xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam) and Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) knowledge-keeping. I was excited to meet a new artist. Walking and learning together, we had a lively conversation, and I invited him to check out PTC, hoping we would have an opportunity to collaborate.
He applied with White Noise to our 2018 WrightSpace program. Dr. Lindsay Lachance was our guest dramaturg, and she, Kathleen Flaherty and I wholeheartedly welcomed him into the cohort of writers. His work resonated with all of us, and we were so excited to see where this fresh biting comedy rooted in an Indigenous worldview would go. Kathleen went on to dramaturg the workshop production directed by Renae Morriseau for Savage Society.
I last spoke with Taran in my back alley this past summer. He was visiting my neighbour, and we were happy to see each other (at a distance), to catch up on projects and life. When Davey was curating his Harvest Lens series this past fall, Taran was on both of our minds to commission. His short film, Living in Constant Motion, takes us via skateboard down Pender Street in Strathcona, up to the community garden. He reminds us to plant ideas in fertile soil. To wait. That sometimes, to live is enough.
When my neighbour shared the tragic news of Taran’s death, I watched Living in Constant Motion again, multiple times. His many talents – film making, spoken word, skateboarding, theatre – all come together in a poetic offering that encourages us to take a moment, to stop our constant motion. He speaks of the pain and freedom of living. He gives us a moment of poetic pleasure, the long loping lines and purposeful turns in meaning offering a fresh perspective. Offering a breath.
Taran connected with so many people. When I made a list of folks he had worked with, just in the last few months, it quickly grew – dancers, musicians, playwrights, actors, producers, choreographers, creators of all kinds. We are now linked by our grief, in this attenuated state of distanced mourning. The loss is particularly keen in the Indigenous arts community, where his talent and promise wove together artists and companies nationally, everyone rooting for this political poetical voice that seemed destined to make an impact for years to come.
As we stop – as Taran offers we should do – I hope that we can reach out to each other. That we can pause our constant motion to listen to each other, to be inspired by Taran’s words and being, and to know that to live is enough.
PTC extends our condolences to Taran’s family, friends, and close collaborators.
Artistic & Executive Director