Contemporary Nomads: 2017-2021

Today, we are witnessing huge population displacements from the Near East and Africa toward the Mediterranean and Western Europe; from South and Central America toward the United States and Canada, and across South East Asia from places such as India, Pakistan and Myanmar toward destinations from Bangladesh, to Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia, for example. Religion and ethnicity, as well as economic survival has always played an enormous role in these transnational movements. This research identifies two main axes of movement; one that runs in an East/West direction between Europe, the Far East, and the Americas, and another that runs in a North/South direction connecting Canada and the USA to Mexico and Central and South America. Contemporary Nomads seeks to investigate patterns in these large-scale movements of bodies across international spaces by thinking of them as a transnational choreography, one that speaks to the deep fragmentation that exists between communities within as well as outside national borders, between nationalized and personalized bodies, and between social and political institutions and the ordinary people they were meant to serve.

As a Caribbean-born artist and scholar with an international career in dance, theatre, and performance, I attempt to present my own experiences as well as those of other 'wanderers' within the larger arc of what cultural theorist Stuart Hall calls a "contemporary travelling, voyaging and return as fate, as destiny […] as the prototype of the modern or postmodern New World nomad, continually moving between centre and periphery” (Hall in Rutherford, J. 234:1990).

Working across disciplinary platforms but prominently featuring dance, theatre, performance, film, installation and new media technologies, Contemporary Nomads investigates the dynamic organization and re-organization of movement(s) along and around these two axes, with Vancouver as a key hub in some kind of imagined future. The research investigates five stages of the ‘traveler’, ‘migrant’ or ‘refugee’s journey (in the broadest sense of these terms), seeking to find out how, when, and why individuals and populations move from place to place.

These stages are as follows:

1. Home - beginning with the conditions that particular individuals and groups of people currently live under and call home, and what makes them dream of leaving.

2. The Parting – starting with the moment that someone decides to leave a known location or ‘home’. In short, looking at when the physical journey actually begins.

3. The Journey – the particular route taken by each person or group, and any event, experience, situation, landscape marker (a mountain, a body of water, a person, a path, a fellow traveller, a spoken word, etc.), or other experience that was unique to or crucial for the journey.

4. The Arrival - the feeling of making it, or conversely not making it to the desired destination (a state of limbo).

5. The Settlement/Return – the process of making a ‘home’ in the new location, and/or the dream of finding one’s way back - the (im)possibility of return.


Dr. Henry Daniel Principal Investigator - SFU/School for the Contemporary Arts

Dr. Ali Abdi Collaborator UBC/Educational Studies. Somali born Canadian Dr. Abdi is Professor and Head of the Department of Educational Studies at UBC and a researcher in citizenship and human rights education, international development education, multi-centric philosophies and methodologies of education, postcolonial studies in education, and social and cultural foundations of education. 

Simone Rapisarda Collaborator SFU/SCA. Italian born Canadian Professor Rapisarda is an award-winning filmmaker and educator. His feature-length films challenge the traditional borders between creative and critical practice; between fiction, documentary, oral history and anthropology. His films have garnered accolades at festivals such as Locarno, Amsterdam, Vienna, Rotterdam, Ann Arbor, Montreal, Vancouver, Los Angeles, and are part of the permanent collections of museums and galleries such as the MoMA in New York and the National Gallery in Washington D.C. 

Dr. Handel Wright Collaborator UBC/Educational Studies. Wright is a Sierra Leone born Canadian and Professor, Deputy Head, and Director of the Centre for Culture, Identity & Education at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on cultural studies of education, multiculturalism (critical and comparative) and its alternatives, anti-racism, critical race theory, cosmopolitanism, interculturalism, identity issues (youth, Africana, politics of difference, complexities of identity and identification), comparative and international education issues, and postcolonialism and diaspora. 

Adam Basanta Composer/Sound Designer. Israeli born Canadian Basanta is a sought after and internationally acclaimed composer and sound artist. His work investigates perception – and listening in particular – as an active, participatory, multi-modal activity which is distributed throughout a variety of human and non-human agencies. 

Chimerik Media Collective Multimedia Designers. Taiwanese born Canadians Sammy and Shanghan are Co-Founders/Co-Artistic Directors of Chimerik, which seeks to converge visual arts, cinema, new media, music, sound art, dance, movements, design, and technology into new languages that can weave through art, design, performance, research and the commercial world

nómadas 2018 (excerpts)

nómadas (excerpts) was presented at the MIGRATION AND MULTICULTURALISM Conference on September 28-29, 2018 in the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theater, SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. It is a re-staging of nómadas, which was premiered on November 22, 2017 with a different cast and music score. nómadas 2018 (excerpts) is supported by the Cambridge Music Society, SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts and the Woodward’s Cultural Unit, and is part of Henry Daniel’s larger Contemporary Nomads project that is funded by a SSHRC Insight Grant (2017-2021). The music for nómadas 2018 (excerpts) was commissioned by the Cambridge Music Conference.

Choreography: Henry Daniel, Full Performing Bodies

Dancers: Marc Arboleda, Nelle Lee, Kaylee Louie, Eden Solomon, Juan Villegas, Seana Williams

Musicians-Fringe Percussion: Luke Hildebrandt, Brian Nesselroad, Greg Samek, Daniel Tones

Music/Text: "StoneMetalSkin" - Nigel Osborne (composer) Ch:The Boat

"Kwakwala Prelude" Interview with Chief Robert Joseph 2010. Used by permission of Chief Robert Joseph Ch:Of Place and Language

"Limology" I - Swell, II - Flight, III - Limbo - Peter Nelson (composer) Ch:Prison, Escape, The Border, A Vision.

nómadas. Text written and performed by Monserrat Videla. Recording Engineer – Jeremy O’Neil, Matthew Horrigan. Ch:Stay, Return, Keep Moving.

"Displacement" - Owen Underhill (composer) Ch:A New Direction

"Afterward" - Owen Underhill (composer) Ch:Another Boat

Production Stage Manager – Kim Plough. Lighting Designer – Sophie Yufei Tang. Videographer – Asad Yahya.
Assistant to the Videographer - Fegor Obuwoma. Cameras – Asad Yahya, Matthew Koropatwa, Colin Williscroft, Rithica Devireddy, Gregory Sparling.

nómadas (2017)

Nov 22-25 Nov 29-Dec 2 2017. SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts


Allison Vicente, Amy Griffith, Anja Graham, Caitlin McKinnon, Jeremy O’Neill, Kadin Vanden Heuvel,

Kaia Shukin, Kestrel Paton, Kevin Locsin, Lynnelle Sura, Montserrat Videla, Nelle Lee, Seana Williams, Vienna Wong, Yian Chen. 

Henry Daniel: Choreography & Direction
; Alan Storey: Set Design
; Adam Basanta: Iris Garland Guest Artist - Sound Design

Chimerik似不像: KRT Visiting Artists, Sammy Chien & Shanghan Chien: Media Design; Emily Bayrock: Video/Film Installation

Asad Yahya: Video/Film Installation
; Jeremy O’Neill: Additional Sound Design
; Joel Lagemaat: Sound Op/Sound Design

Sharon Lau: Lighting Designer
Nyssa Song: Rehearsal Assistance
; Tabitha Alexander: Rehearsal Assistance

Sasha Kleinplatz: Dramaturgical Assistance
Laura Albert: Dramaturgical Assistance
; Parmida Saeidian: Stage Manager

Kieren Eigenfeldt: Technical Director
; Emma Hoogeveen: Assistant Technical Director
; Jenny Jung: Assistant Stage Manager

Laura Coons: Projection Op
; Jamie Sweeney: Lighting Op
; Barry Hegland: Faculty Lead
; Ben Rogalsky: Faculty Technical Director;

Technical and stage management support provided by students of CA 170, 270, and 271 classes of the Production and Design program. 

Additional texts used in nómadas:

Que ferais-je sans ce monde (What would I do without this world) by Samuel Beckett; 

Helen by Henry Daniel
; Bayan Ko(My Country) by José Corazón de Jesús
; Canadian Oath of Allegiance

For women who are difficult to love by Warsan Shire
; Exilio by Pablo Neruda (translated from the Spanish)


the installation

The nómadas 4-6 channel audio/2 channel video installation is presented below as a single two-dimensional screen. Normally these screens are either on opposing or adjacent corner walls, which allows the audience to be in the midst of the sound and video media.

This project is funded by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2017-2021)

This project is funded by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2017-2021)