‘Decolonizing Encounters’: Critical Digital Storytelling

Decolonizing Encounters: Unsettling Settler Shame in Rhymes for Young Ghouls, Ryan Koelwyn, York University

Learning through Digital Storytelling

Decolonizing Encounters: Unsettling Settler Shame in Rhymes for Young Ghouls

In this visual essay, Ryan Koelwyn explores the interwoven aspects of identity, otherness and shame as they relate to the Indigenous film, Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013), by Mi’gmaq filmmaker Jeff Barnaby. Described as a revenge fantasy, the film tells the story of Aila, an artistic and strong-willed girl living without parents on a reservation in the 1970s, who makes a living selling drugs to pay a truancy – the intentional absence from compulsory education – tax to avoid attending the residential school. Rhymes for Young Ghouls taps into violence and vengeance in order to “unsettle” its audience, not just with the violence of residential schools and intergenerational trauma, but with the intensity of Indigenous peoples’ ongoing resistance. The ‘unsettling’ potential of this film makes it an important pedagogical tool for understanding shame, an experience that is commonly perceived as bad. What if shame has the potential to generate a particular kind of learning, a learning that leads to transformations of emotions and understandings? The video work is composed as a visual essay with clips and stills from the film to show that, while shame can plague generations, it can also alert us to what we have in common. This is the ‘beautiful risk’ of exploring shame for education: entering with difference – and exiting with commonality.

keywords
ALTERNATIVE MEDIA PRODUCTION
MULTIMODAL ARTS-BASED CRITICAL RESEARCH
VISUAL ESSAY

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