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|Culture and Cultural Activities
Marginalized by geographic and economic factors, the Acadian regions remained culturally isolated until the middle of the 20th century. Music and folklore were the only widespread forms of artistic expression until the advent of higher education and access to the wider world. The 1950s and 1960s saw a virtual explosion of Acadian culture in handicrafts, painting, song, dance, theatre, cinema and literature.
Until the end of the 19th century, Acadians lived in isolated
groups, with little contact with the exterior. This
The songs composed by Acadians at the turn of the 20th
century attest to their cultural awakening, as seen in
The University of Moncton has been teaching folklore since 1966, and in 1970 its Centre d'Études Acadiennes opened a section devoted exclusively to this theme, preserving thousands of songs, stories, legends and cultural traditions. Université Laval now has a rich collection of Acadian material, thanks to its own researchers and students.
Singers and choral groups in Québec and Acadia
have rediscovered traditional songs, which are now heard
Indeed, the rediscovery of Acadian folklore has
given rise to an entire literature: there are volumes of stories,
Author: PÈRE ANSELME CHIASSON WITH RONALD LABELLEMusic
There is an old saying that Acadians are born with
songs in their veins and music in their fingertips. Previous
Arthur LeBlanc, after studying in Québec and Paris, soon achieved international fame as a violinist before his career was cut short by illness. Eugène Lapierre and Benoît Poirier, both from PEI, established solid reputations as organists in Montréal, with Poirier composing many pieces for the organ. Roger Lord, a talented young pianist, has already won many competitions.
In the world of popular music, pianist Paul Saulnier,
violinist Kenneth Saulnier, and the duo of Wendell and
Acadia is also known for its classical singers, its CHANSONNIERS, groups and chorales. Anna Malenfant was one of the first Acadians to distinguish herself on the national and international scene. Laura Gaudet popularized Acadian songs throughout Acadia and the US in recitals and on the radio, while Robert Savoie was a baritone for several years at Covent Garden in London. Suzie LeBlanc from Moncton is building an international reputation by dedicating herself to Renaissance singing. The voices of Gloria Richard and sisters Germaine and Marguerite LeBlanc have gained renown in national competitions. Today, Claudette LeBlanc from Shédiac, Roland Richard from Rogersville and Rose-Marie Landry from Caraguet are applauded at home and abroad.
Among interpreters and composers of popular songs, Édith
Butler enjoys great success here and in France, while Angèle Arsenault
has earned a solid reputation at the national level. Calixte Duguay and
Donat Lacroix are known for their magnificent songs on Acadian themes.
The list would be long indeed were it to mention all Acadian singers of
renown today such as Denis Losier, Raymond Breau, Georges Langford,
Young Acadian singers continue to win competitions in Québec and France. Groups such as Beausoleil- Broussard and 1755 have delighted audiences in Canada and France, where each has won the prize for best song by young performers. Les Tymeux de la Baie represented Acadia at Expo 86, as did the PEI group Panou at the music festival held in conjunction with the Canada Games in St John's in 1985.
Until recently, most Acadian parishes supported a good church choir. One of the best, the choral group Lafrance de Tracadie (director Armand Lavoie), established its reputation far beyond the church and parish. In Bathurst, the Voidunor (Sister Germaine LeBlanc), in Fredericton the choir of Soulanges (Father Stanislas Paulin) and in Memramcook, La Fleur du Souvenir (Charles LeBlanc) have won awards for Acadian choral societies.
Brass bands were long popular in the former boys' colleges Saint-Joseph and Sacré-Coeur in NB and Sainte-Anne in NS, but from the 1950s on, choral groups in the colleges and convents stole the limelight. Groups from Saint-Joseph and Sacré- Coeur, from Collège Notre-Dame d'Acadie in Moncton and more recently from Université de Moncton have won top honours in provincial, national and international competitions. Since 1962 the Lincoln Trophy has been won 8 times by one or another of these groups. The first to gain attention at home and abroad was the choir of the University of Saint-Joseph, established by Father Léandre Brault in 1946. Neil Michaud took over its direction in 1955; in 1963 it became the choral group of the Université de Moncton.
Singing is an important activity in many Acadian schools,
and youth choirs regularly compete in annual music
Some of these choral societies have made excellent recordings
as well. To those already mentioned should be
Acadia is also the site of a major baroque music festival, founded by harpsichordist Mathieu Duguay. It has taken place annually since 1975 on the little island of Lamèque in northeastern New Brunswick and draws musicians from far and wide.
In Nova Scotia, especially in the vicinity of Baie-Sainte-Marie near the Université Sainte-Anne, musicians abound and cultural events take place all year long. One of the great promoters of all this activity has been Father Maurice LeBlanc, a choral society director and longtime catalyst for cultural life in the region.
One must also note the important contribution of religious communities which have awakened young people's taste for music. Throughout Acadia, priests and nuns fostered young talent, providing encouragement and opportunity for one of the most engaging aspects of Acadian culture.
Author: PÈRE ANSELME CHIASSON WITH RONALD LABELLEPainting and Sculpture
Professional painting and sculpture are relatively new
to Acadia, where the arts have traditionally evolved from
At the turn of the century Dr. Paul Carmel Laporte (born
in 1885 in Verchères, Québec) settled in Edmundston,
A number of artists from the same generation trained outside the province before establishing their careers in New Brunswick, including Sister Gertrude Godbout, Sister Eulalie Boudreau, René Hébert, Georges Goguen, Roméo Savoie, Hilda Lavoie-Franchon and Claude Gauvin. One of Gauvin's murals decorates an exterior wall of a federal building on Sparks Street in Ottawa and another was made for Expo 86 in Vancouver.
Édouard Gautreau (born in 1906 in Saint-Paul-de-
Kent), Claude Picard and Ernest Cormier (born in 1921 in Cap-Pelé)
produced religious paintings and murals for Acadian churches. New Brunswick
has declared the church in Sainte-Anne-de-Kent, sometimes described as
the Sistine Chapel of Acadia, a provincial heritage because of its paintings
by Gautreau. In Nova Scotia, Nelson Surette (born 1920) has earned a reputation
as a painter for his illustrations of Acadian daily life. In PEI, Adrien
Arsenault has proven to be a remarkable artist. In Québec, an Acadian
originally from northeast NB, Néré DeGrâce, has had
one of his paintings featured on a commemorative Canadian stamp; and his
prolific creations on traditional folkloric themes are in private collections
far beyond Acadia's borders. Represented in the collections of National
Museums of Canada are folk artists such as: Léo B. LeBlanc, a South-East
painter; Alfred Morneault and Octave Verret (born 1902),
Today's new generation of visual artists, trained in Acadian universities followed by studies elsewhere, constitute an impressive group equipped to explore new horizons while respecting the traditions of excellence handed down by their elders. Some, such as the multimedia artist Herménégilde Chiasson and prolific painter Yvon Gallant, have already made names for themselves. Others like Paul Édouard Bourque, Jacques Arseneault, Francis Coutellier, Marc Cyr, Pierre Noël LeBlanc, Anne-Marie Sirois, Lucille Robichaud, Lionel Cormier, Luc A. Charette, Daniel Dugas, Guy Duguay, Roger Vautour, Ghislaine McLaughlin, Gilles LeBlanc, Georges Blanchette, Gilles Arsenault, Hélène LaRoche and André Lapointe have, since the early '70s, produced an important body of work which addresses modern concerns but which looks beyond them. Robert Saucier, Jocelyn Jean and Paul-Émile Saulnier, although they chose to work in Québec and have shown their work internationally (France, Germany, Italy, etc.), must be considered to fall within the sphere of Acadian visual arts.
Author: LUC A. CHARETTETheatre
Acadia's first full-fledged theatre company, the Troupe Notre-Dame de Grâce, was founded in Moncton in 1956 by Laurie Henri. It changed its name to Le Théâtre Amateur de Moncton in 1969, and after its founder's death in 1981, to Le Théâtre Laurie Henri. Le TAM's finest moments came with Germaine Comeau's 'Les Pêcheurs déportés' and Antonine Maillet's 'Les Crasseux', both performed in 1976, the latter directed by Jean-Claude Marcus. Since then theatrical activity in Acadia has been largely the work of professional troupes such as the Théâtre Populaire d'Acadie in Caraquet, and the new L'Escaouette theatre co-operative in Moncton. The 2 troupes have given several new Acadian playwrights a forum in which to develop and demonstrate their talents.
In Caraquet, the TPA featured Jules Boudreau's plays,
the best known of which was 'Louis Mailloux' (1975), a musical drama written
in collaboration with Calixte Duguay, the story of a young Acadian hero
who died defending his culture. Boudreau dramatized the aftermath of the
Deportation as well in his play 'Cochu et le Soleil' (1977). In his
other works, Boudreau explores various contemporary themes with skillful
touches of fantasy and humour in contemporary themes. The TPA has also
produced one of the first plays by Herménégilde Chiasson,
'L'Amer à boire' (1977); an adaptation of the novel by Régis
Brun, "La Marie Como" (1980); a show for children, 'Rosine et Renixou'
(1983) by Roseline Blancard and René Cormier; and 'Zélica
In Moncton, the Escaouette theatre has concentrated on
the works of Herménégilde Chiasson. Her plays are markedly
eclectic, hitting every note from the most serious to the most comic, and
exploring 3 main themes: revisionist history in 'Histoire et histoire'
(1980) and 'Renaissances' (1984); humour, burlesque and farce in 'Au plus
fort la poche' (1977), 'Cogne Fou' (1981) and 'Y'a pas que des maringouins
dans les campings' (1986); fantasy, dreamworlds and marvels in 'Becquer
Bobo' (1976), 'Mine de Rien' (1980), 'L'Étoile de Mine de Rien'
(1982), written in collaboration with Roger LeBlanc and 'Atarelle et les
Pakmaniens' (1983), which toured New Brunswick and then Europe in 1985.
Two of these, 'Au plus fort la poche' and 'Becquer Bobo', were staged by
L'Escaouette has also presented plays for school audiences, such as'Le Pêcheur ensorcelé' (1979) by Marie Pauline and 'le Gros Ti-Gars' (1985) by Gracia Couturier. These plays explore both the real and fantasy worlds of children and adolescents. 'Le Gros Ti-Gars' shows a sureness of touch and a mastery of text and dramatic form already displayed by Couturier in the 4 plays she wrote for the Théâtre de Saisons in Shippagan.
Other authors who have chosen Acadian settings and themes
are Raymond LeBlanc ('As-tu vu ma balloune', 1979, and 'Fonds de culottes',
1981); Clarence Comeau ('Au pays des côtes', 1978, and 'Premières
neiges d'automne'), Gérald LeBlanc ('Les Sentiers de l'espoir',
1983); and Marcel Thériault ('J'avais dix ans', 1983). In the rather
more difficult context for francophones living outside NB, theatre survives
thanks to people such as Jules Chiasson and Jean-Douglas Comeau in NS and
Paul Gallant in PEI, whose 'La cuisine à Mémé' has
delighted spectators at summer theatres on the Island. Other authors who
have turned their attention to summer theatre are Claude Saint- Germain
and Léonie Poirier, while Pierre Gérin has published plays
Acadian theatre continues to display encouraging vitality.
Antonine Maillet's national and international career
Author: LEONARD E. DOUCETTECinema
The first film produced in Canada was a feature- length
movie, shot in 1913, on the expulsion of the Acadians and based on Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow's poem 'Évangéline.' Since that
date over 75 films have been made on `l'Acadie.' However, Acadian-made
cinema did not begin until the early '50s, when Léonard Forest started
to work for the NATIONAL FILM BOARD in Montréal. Forest dipped into
his Acadian roots to make such films as 'Les Aboiteaux' (1955), 'Les Acadiens
de la Dispersion' (1967), 'La Noce est pas finie' (1971) and 'Un soleil
pas comme ailleurs' (1972). Although shot in 16 mm film, 'La Noce est pas
finie' is considered the first
Forest was also an instigator of the ground rules for
the NFB's French Regional Production Centre,
The first producer for the NFB's Regional Production Centre,
known as Centre Acadien, was Paul-Eugène LeBlanc from Memramcook,
NB, hired in 1974. He was followed by Rhéal Drisdelle (1980- 81),
Eric Michel (1982-86), Michel Lemieux (1988- 91) and Pierre Bernier (appointed
1991). Of the 20 Acadians who have made films with the producers of NFB's
Centre Acadien, only a few chose filmmaking as their career. Among those
who did not were Anna Girouard, Claude Renaud, and Serge Morin, who nevertheless
helped to define an
Phil Comeau, from Saulnierville, NS, has directed over 27 documentaries and 10 docudramas for the NFB, including: 'La Cabane' (1978), a fictional account of teenagers confronting parental authority in a conservative Acadian village in Nova Scotia, and 'Les Gossipeuses/The Gossips' (1978), a comedy about the crazy antics of 3 women gossips from a similar small village. His first feature, 'Le Secret de Jérôme' (1994), is based on a true story about a Corsican lad with both legs sawed off at the knees who was found on a beach off Nova Scotia's French Shore.
Writer, poet, visual artist and cofounder of Phare-Est
Productions Inc located in Moncton, NB, Herménégilde
Rodolphe Caron, from Lac Baker, NB, was cameraman for
11 films before becoming a filmmaker. Cofounder of the only Acadian film
coop, he made 3 documentaries with the NFB and 2 with Cinémarévie
Coop Ltée. located in Edmundston, NB. 'Avec le coeur' (1994),
a documentary about a group of volunteers bringing comfort to the sick
and the terminally ill at the Edmundston Regional Hospital and 'Le Champion'
(1996), a documentary on Canadian champion archer Hermel Volpé,
also from the Edmundston area, are the results of the Coop's directive
to develop filmmakers and production crews in northwest New Brunswick,
where people consider themselves
Writer and cofounding member (in the 1970s) of the musical group Beausoleil Broussard, Jacques Savoie, who was born in Edmundston, NB, directed his first film in 1982. 'Massabielle', from his novel "Raconte-moi Massabielle", is the story of Pacifique Haché, whose land is expropriated but who refuses to leave. He meets an attractive woman and together they come up with a solution to his predicament. His story resembles that of Jackie Vautour and the families whose lands were expropriated to create Kouchibouguac National Park. Savoie went on to write scenarios for the films: 'Les Portes tournantes' (1988) directed by Francis Mankiewicz; 'Le Violon d'Arthur' (1990), directed by Jean-Pierre Gariépy and a fictional TV , 'Bombardier'.
Cofounder of Phare-Est Productions Inc, Ginette Pellerin is originally from Québec. Since her move to Moncton in 1975, she has devoted all her time to working in movies first in assisting capacities. She has directed 3 films with the NFB, including: 'L'Ame soeur' (1991), a documentary on the lives and accomplishments of nuns from the Religious Order of Hospitalières de Saint-Joseph and 'Évangéline en quête' (1996), a docudrama on the myth or reality of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's heroine Évangéline.
Originally from Charlo, NB, Bettie Arseneault was assistant director to various film and television productions before directing 2 films with the NFB: 'Bateau bleu, maison verte' (1985), a documentary on the colourful Acadian homes and boats, and 'De retour pour de bon' (1994), a documentary on Acadians returning home after living for several years in Montréal.
Cartoonist and animator Anne-Marie Sirois, from Madawaska County, NB, has directed 2 animated films for the NFB and 2 for Cinémarévie Film Coop. Her first film, 'Maille Maille/Stitches in Time' (1987), is about 2 aged women recalling their memories while knitting. 'Animastress' (1994) presents humans who have absorbed the stress forced upon chickens raised for human consumption.
Claudette Lajoie, born in Grand-Sault, NB, worked in video productions as researcher, director and interviewer for Télé-Public, a community channel serving northeast New Brunswick, before directing 4 documentaries for the NFB. Her first documentary, 'Une sagesse ordinaire' (1983), is about midwife Edith Pinet from Paquetville, NB, while 'Les Femmes aux filets' (1987) is about women working in fish-processing plants in the Acadian Peninsula.
Robert Awad, from Kedgwick, NB, began his career as a film animator in 1974, going on to make 7 films with the NFB. His first film, 'Truck', is a satire whose central character explains how Acadian history would have been different if trucks had been invented in 1755. 'The Bronswik Affair/L'Affaire Bronswik' (1978) is a comedy about the influence of advertising on people. 'Automania' (1994) is an amusing film about a man's obsession to get to work in his car.
New film directors include: Renée Blanchar, from Caraquet, NB, whose third film, 'Vocation Ménagère' (1996), is about the lives of women working as housekeepers for Catholic priests: Monique LeBlanc, from Bouctouche, NB, whose first film, 'The Acadian Connection/Le Lien acadien' (1995), casts an affectionate look at members of the LeBlanc family living throughout North America and maintaining strong ties with their Acadian heritage; and Moncton-born Christien LeBlanc and partner Paul Bossé who have made experimental video productions.
Author: ROLAND BRIDEAULiterature
The history of Acadian literature can be divided into 5 periods.
• Up to the Deportation (1604-1755)
• From the Deportation to the Return (1755-1881)
• The Age of the Nationalist Debate (1881-1966)
The rediscovery of their own history obviously played an important role for Acadians, and this was soon extended to anecdotal history, biographies, geneaologies, monographs devoted to parishes or individual settlements, and linguistic studies, with Pascal Poirier, the first Acadian senator, distinguishing himself in the latter field. Literary genres conformed to the nationalist theme as well, in poetry (F. Moïse Lanteigne, Napoléon-P. Landry), novels (Antoine-J. Léger, Hector Carbonneau, J.-Alphonse Deveau) and theatre (Alexandre Braud, Jean-Baptiste Jégo), the latter focusing as well on the recurring battles for educational freedom, evidenced as well in the social dramas of James Branch.
By the mid-20th century the nationalist debate no longer
constituted the centre of Acadian thought, since the
Donat Coste, an Acadian living in Montréal, wrote
"L'Enfant noir" in 1957 to denounce the hypocrisy of modern society.
Ronald Després, a musician, poet and translator, also living outside
New Brunswick, published many poems and a novel, "Le Scalpel interrompu",
which provides a tragicomic view of the
This literary withdrawal from the nationalist debate took place as a challenge arose from the younger generation. In 1966 the Rassemblement des Jeunes questioned the very essence of the debate, its emblems, symbols and historical viewpoints indeed the traditional portrait of the Acadian. And the times were sympathetic to their approach. The Liberal government of Louis J. ROBICHAUD (the first Acadian premier of NB, 1960-70) succeeded in implementing this Equal Opportunity program as well as an OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT, at a time when Québec's QUIET REVOLUTION and the widespread radical movements of the decade served as a model and stimulus for change.
The Age of Literature (1966-86)
Many other factors combined with this ideological challenge and social revival: student grievances and their social and legal consequences; the "nuits de poésie" or "poetry nights" where activist poetry was generated and a new sensibility born; the enormous success of "La Sagouine" by Antonine Maillet; the rise of the chansonniers; the more frequent publications by young authors, well served by the newly established Éditions d'Acadie.
Poetry came first, centered upon Acadia for its themes, characterized by a search for identity, by rebellion against traditional views and, paradoxically, by strong attachment to traditional Acadian values. Typical contexts include the burning desire to create one's own country (Raymond LeBlanc) and the violent yet sorrowful denunciation of what is perceived as a collective living death (Herménégild Chiasson). Other works by these same poets celebrate love and everyday life free from any particular political stance. Such is the starting point for Guy Arsenault, the studied naivety of whose language appears to treat lightly, and in fact probes deeply into the ways in which Acadia's very being continues to be depreciated. In a more general way, Ulysse Landry denounces the invasion and devaluation of individuals' lives by so many aspects of modern society. The works of these poets, published between 1973 and 1976, manage to combine everyday language with original stylistic exploration
Although some of these topics have retained their importance, poetry has continued to experiment and evolve in format and theme. Roméo Savoie has moved towards philosophy, while Gérald LeBlanc has introduced a new cosmopolitan inspiration into Acadian literature. Léonard Forest shares this desire to reach out to other cultures through his poetry, developing a distinctive musicality through the use of archaic vocabulary and compelling ritualistic rhythms. A kind of natural surrealism pervades the poetry of Rose Després and Dyane Léger, the former freeing herself from the past in her search for the right gesture and word, the latter surrounding herself with a magic universe of words as she constructs her own literary dream world. Others (Huguette Legaré, Clarence Comeau, Daniel Dugas, Huguette Bourgeois, Robert Pichette and Melvin Gallant) explore, poem by poem, registers of sentiment and emotion which touch the heart.
The Acadian novel is dominated by the works of Antonine Maillet, whose boundless energy combines epic scope with everyday events, calling on all the resources of popular legend and oral storytelling tradition. But other voices are also heard: Louis Haché uses his archived knowledge to retrace the history of Acadian life in northeastern NB. Régis Brun adopts a revisionist historical perspective, finding his heroes among the ordinary folk who display their hunger for freedom and their delight in life. Claude Lebouthillier rewrites history through utopian literature that restores to Acadians their lost homeland; Jeannine Landry Thériault and Laurier Melanson evoke village life often satirically in its personal dramas, its bawdiness, its hopes and disillusions; Anne Lévesque, Germaine Comeau and Melvin Gallant focus on the fates of individuals, as does Jacques Savoiein in his spontaneous, lively prose, creating new novelistic structures. France Daigle, in a minimalist, elliptical style, offers a modern, virtually abstract vision of the world coloured with emotion. Richard Roy's"L'Acadie perdue" (1978) is an impassioned and fascinating book based on solid historical research, while Jean-Paul Hautecoeur's "L'Acadie du discours" offers brilliant sociological insight and Léon Thériault examines politics in his "La Question du pouvoir en Acadie". In autobiographical writing Calixte Savoie's"Mémoires d'un nationaliste acadien" stands out as a book of the first rank.
Contemporary Period (1986 to the present)
The literary institution is becoming more vital. Publishing houses are growing in number, anthologies are being produced and the university teaching of Acadian literature is making certain authors better known, is encouraging the recovery of older texts and is obliging authors to produce collected works.
All genres are being enriched. Established authors are
inspiring the next generation of writers. Poetry is in a
Author: YVES BOLDUC Article compiled with the assistance of LEONARD E. DOUCETTE AND MARC JOHNSON
The 1998 Canadian Encyclopedia ©1998 by McClelland & Stewart, Inc.