John Aitken is a physical actor, carver, film-maker, photographer, and educator. He identifies as Indigenous with a mixed ancestry of Coast Salish, Haida, and Scottish.
John also identifies as a two-spirit. John’s personal belief is that one does not need to be gay to be a two-spirit, he thinks anyone can be born a two-spirit regardless of their sexual preference. Someone with both female and male spirit, a gift given to few.
John has a rich background in performing arts, including dance, acting, and film production. He is also a prolific self-taught wood carver, working within Coast Salish traditional styles as well as exploring his own contemporary style.
As a dancer, he has been a member of Stages Dance Company in Victoria BC. He has also danced and performed extensively with renowned contemporary dancer and Victoria native, Lynda Raino.
John’s work in film and video has focused on issues of great social and societal importance. While working with the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, he produced and directed a short documentary titled “Breaking the Silence of AIDS.” He also directed a short documentary for the Songhees Nation titled “Diabetes Then and Now.”
“Agent for change”
Youth involvement is a particularly important issue for John. With both projects, he included Indigenous youth from local reservations as well as urban areas.
As a wood carver, John’s personal highlight has been carving a twenty-foot “Honouring Figure,” which is based on a traditional Coast Salish Welcome figure.
The majestic carving stands in a Capital Regional District park on Mayne Island. The park was named after his Grandparents, Emma and Felix Jack, to honour them and all other Coast Salish people who lived and still live in the area. It also serves as a beautiful reminder to residents and visitors of the rich Indigenous history on the island.
John’s current projects include the production of a performance art piece titled “The Gift,” based on John’s own challenging childhood. He is also working on the script for a solo performance titled “Mixed Up!” which will explore what it is like for him being of mixed ancestry.
John discusses his theatre piece, “The Gift.”
On a personal note, John says he is fully aware of the “cultural eggshells” many of us simply avoid or gingerly tip-toe through. All his work reflects a desire for everyone to accept that we are all very different and yet very much the same, at the same time. John considers himself a cross-cultural bridge-builder; a lifetime occupation he takes very seriously along with a lot of humour!