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ReFreshed summer camp connects with you through urban arts and culture

“It’s a mix of hip hop and Indigenous culture. The reason why the focus is on hip hop is that is the expression of the youth we work with.”

BOW VALLEY – Indigenous and hip hop culture came together for the ReFreshed Crew’s summer youth camp.

ReFreshed Crew, launched back in 2013 by the Freed Artist Society non-profit organization, is focused on empowering Indigenous youth communities through urban culture and arts.

Throughout the five-day summer camp, participants were able to explore different elements which encompass the culture.  

“It’s a mix of hip hop and Indigenous culture. The reason why the focus is on hip hop is that is the expression of the youth we work with,” said Nathan Lenet, founder and executive director of ReFreshed Crew.

“It offers access to all types of personalities and expression … What’s really nice is that within one cohesive culture all types of youths can step in and find a way to express themselves.” 

While exploring the multiple facets of hip hop culture, the youths were able to stay close to their cultural roots. The ReFreshed Summer camp youths accompanied by Elder Jeanette Wildman made a trip up to Lake Minnewanka where they learnt more about Indigenous culture.

“The kids, they learnt where all these traditions come from and then we actually went over to Mînî hrpa – that’s like in Banff, that waterfall – and the Elder just told them what that meant … and the kids just went quiet and silent, listening to these Elders while they’re talking and I thought that was really great,” said ReFreshed Crew youth worker Jarret Twoyoungmen. 

“I love how we can actually speak about our culture everyday. That’s one of the important things that I want to show to these young ones.”

Whether it be connecting through the music aspect, like rap, break dancing or beat production or within the realm of visual arts such as graffiti, ReFreshed Crew brought in art mentors from all of these different parts of urban culture. 

Dance mentor for ReFreshed Crew’s summer camp, Sebastian Patterson used rhythm and movement as his form of expression, demonstrating how various styles of dancing can be a testament of who you are.

“Movement can mean a lot of things whether it’s body language, whether it’s trying to convey an actual message or whether it’s stationary and when you’re listening to music, how moving to music is kind of a way of expressing your own style and how you walk through the world,” Patterson said. 

For Isabelle Kootenay, one of the summer camp youths, she connected with hip hop through visual arts, mentioning last year that they worked on urban-style graffiti painting.

“I really like the culture because like just vibes it gives off and how passionate people can be about it,” said Kootenay. 

Among the other mentors were Bryce “Gremlyn” Plante who taught beat making, Katie Dick with visual art and Louis William’s Ell Dubs Lazarush who specialized in rap and spoken word. Each of these artists demonstrate the diverse avenues of hip hop culture and why it resonates with youths.

“Just looking at the origins of hip-hop, it comes out of marginalized communities who were struggling with poverty and yet through the arts were able to find their voice … and that type of innovation is still alive within hip hop culture and it’s just been our experience that the youth we’re working with, especially on First Nations communities, are just very responsive to it and that it’s creating legitimate access to that through professional arts mentors,” Lenet said.