Reaching for Kiska

A seed by: Lindsay Dawn Dobbin
Project: Calling our Ancestors Home
Lindsay Dawn Dobbin is a Kanien’kehá:ka – Acadian – Irish water protector, musician, artist and storyteller who lives, listens and creates in Wabanaki Territory, following the cycles of the tide. Dobbin’s relational and place-responsive practice is a living process that follows curiosity rather than form with the intent of understanding and kinship—the way of water. As a human being with intersecting identities as well as personal and ancestral displacement and trauma, their practice honours direct experience as a way of coming to (un)know while listening for the shared beingness, health and resilience in meeting waters. Their transdisciplinary work in sound art, percussion, performance, sculpture, pedagogy and writing places wonder, listening, collaboration, play and improvisation at the centre of creativity. Through exploring the connection between the environment and the body and engaging in a sensorial intimacy with land and waters, their practice aims to bring attention to the natural world as witness, teacher and collaborator in learning—making visible and audible our interdependence with the larger web of living beings and systems in which human life is embedded. Dobbin is also an active artistic collaborator, working on projects with Elders, children, musicians, dancers, filmmakers, scientists, writers, visual artists, sound artists, curators, architects, healers, herbalists and many more. They are also a land-and-water-based learner/teacher.


Visual Arts, Music, Interdisciplinary Arts, Arts for Social Change, Film/Video, Storytelling
This seed is a collaboration of: Reaching for Grandma Lillah

In my Arrivals process, I’ve held curiosity around the gesture of reaching. After witnessing Mosa’s Seed, Reaching for Grandma Lillah, I recalled a video filmed by my grandmother of me as a child, reaching to connect with Kiska, then following her as she swam. Kiska was the captive Orca at Marine Land Canada, who passed away right before the “Calling Our Ancestors Home” residency began in March 2023. I was very impacted by her loss. Since I was a kid, I’ve had dreams of orcas, and even wrote poems about being one. When I met Kiska, I felt like I was meeting a relative, and I remember feeling such wonder in her presence, but immense grief around her circumstances. Later that year, my favourite movie Free Willy was released, which starred the orca Keiko, who knew Kiska, as they were from the same North Atlantic waters.

In captivity since 1979, and completely alone without other members of her species for the last 12 years, Kiska was known as “the world’s loneliest orca” to some. Since the ban on whale captivity was passed in so-called Canada in 2019, I advocated, along with many, that she would make her way to a whale sanctuary, but that day didn’t come soon enough, unfortunately.

As I engage with my ancestors through the Arrivals residency, I’ve been thinking a lot about the more-than-human beings who root/walk/swim/fly with us. Beings who have their own stories and lineages and who hold/receive/transmit intergenerational knowledge. Our (me and my ancestors) relationship with these beings makes my life possible, which is the simplest way of describing an ancestor I can think of. And Kiska is certainly part of this story for me, as I continue to pray to/for her, as I have since I met her in 1993, in both wonder and grief. In her transition, I hope that Kiska has returned to her home waters/family. And, with that, I feel a resonant call in my own journey.

When I watch this video, I see the gesture of reaching as a kind of gentle awakening through space and species. A long-ing to connect and follow curiosity. A transcension of colonial borders (of whale ownership, in this case). A meeting of worlds. Is there a freedom in reaching?


*The sound in the video is called “Tatamagouche” and was created after the Arrivals workshop I participated in 2014.

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