Byrd travels to South Africa with other indigenous peoples
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Candice Byrd recently attended the 2017 Next Generation Program hosted by the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People in South Africa.
The association advocates for a safe collaboration space for different cultures and indigenous peoples from more than 100 countries. Out of 200 applicants, Byrd was the only Cherokee Nation citizen attendee and storyteller to attend, she said.
“The purpose was to throw strangers together from all different nationalities. There were about 10 people from South Africa, 10 people from the African continent,” Byrd said, “There were about eight of us all from different countries, I was the only indigenous North American there.”
Byrd attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in film, drama and television. She later earned a master’s degree from Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. Her master’s thesis focused on Native American storytelling.
“I noticed in my very fancy art school none of these stories were about Native Americans, ever. I had grown up around that and I found that strange, I wanted my thesis to shed a light on that,” she said.
She also dedicated her thesis to Oklahoman storytellers. A section was dedicated to Ardeena Moore, her Quapaw and Osage grandmother, and Cherokee storytellers Choogie Kingfisher and Robert Lewis, she said.
“My thesis was a one-woman show. I was using the acting techniques that I learned in graduate school and put it into Native American storytelling. It forms my style along with all the other influences,” she said.
Byrd applied to go to South Africa when her former undergraduate professor, Courtney Sanders, sent her an email to apply. While in South Africa, Byrd attended shows with her fellow classmates to compose a report for the upcoming next generation class. She also focused on workshops and team-building activities.
“It (Next Generation Program) is also for the pure hope to spark international collaborations. A lot of the shows that we saw were international collaborations. I saw a piece that was a collaboration between Senegal and the Mariana Islands,” she said. “This international festival forges international and intercultural dialogue.”
The trip allowed her to mingle with other indigenous cultures while learning about her culture and heritage through the arts. Byrd said she especially enjoyed being able to represent the CN while abroad in South Africa.
“As a Cherokee person visiting other indigenous people it was heartening to see these places for Native voices to be heard again, to promote our culture, heritage and stories of survival,” she said.
Being involved with the CN runs in her family. Joe Byrd, her father, is the Tribal Council’s Dist. 2 representative. He said he believes his daughter’s storytelling opportunities with the CN and the trip to Africa have led to many exciting things.
“That trip led to her being around so many indigenous people in the area of performing arts. She has met so many people and learned about the rights of indigenous people, which fits right in with the Cherokee Nation people,” he said.
He said his daughter storytelling abilities would allow the stories of the CN to be told in a truthful way. “I think now we’re able to tell our own stories through the performing arts. She was able to travel and learn about other indigenous people, and now she is able to tell our story correctly.”