In 2016, according to the census, the number of native speakers of French in Saskatchewan, known as Fransaskois, was just under 18,000, accounting for 1.6% of the province’s population. For the most part, Fransaskois live in large cities such as Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert, where there are cultural infrastructures and institutions. In some rural communities, such as Gravelbourg, Albertville, Saint-Isidore-de-Bellevue and Ponteix, Fransaskois make up a clear majority of the population. However, Saskatchewan has a dynamic Francophone arts scene, thanks to a publishing house in Regina, a professional theatre company in Saskatoon and a number of well-known authors, playwrights, singers and musicians. The visual arts are also well represented, in particular by internationally renowned sculptor Joe Fafard, whose works of public art adorn many Canadian cities. Despite its small size, the Fransaskois artistic community is particularly vibrant and talented.
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Fransaskois literature and the role of theatre
Although author Jean Féron introduced the world to Saskatchewan with his novel La Métisse, published in 1923, it was not until the 1980s that the Fransaskois literary scene truly took off. Since 1984, Éditions de la nouvelle plume, the only French-language publishing house west of Winnipeg, has published a number of Fransaskois authors, including Laurier Gareau, David Baudemont, Gilles Poulin-Denis, Madeleine Blais-Dahlem and Martine Noël-Maw. Singer Michel Marchildon is also a published writer. Many authors are most successful in the theatre, in particular thanks to the Troupe du Jour theatre company.
Fransaskois theatre: Troupe du Jour
In Saskatoon, the Troupe du Jour theatre company has had a direct impact on the development of Fransaskois theatre since 1985, creating, producing and staging plays. The company promoted the creation of Fransaskois content by organizing the Festival de la dramaturgie fransaskoise in 1992, then the Festival de la dramaturgie des Prairies in 1998 and, finally, the Festival de la dramaturgie de l’Ouest in 2003, opening the door to numerous exchanges with theatre companies in neighbouring provinces. The company has won a number of awards and recognitions, including the recognition of playwright Gilles Poulin-Denis as a finalist at the 2010 Governor General’s Literary Awards for his play Rearview, published by Dramaturges Éditeurs in Quebec. Rearview also won three awards at the Saskatoon and Area Theatre Awards.
In Regina, amateur theatre company Théâtre Oskana sometimes works with Troupe du Jour. Also, Éditions de la nouvelle plume published a five-volume repertoire of Fransaskois plays entitled Théâtre fransaskois. This publication demonstrates the importance of theatre in the Fransaskois collective imagination.
Famous sculptor Joe Fafard and other Fransaskois visual artists
In the field of visual arts, Fransaskois Joe Fafard has earned international fame as a sculptor. Named Officer of the Order of Canada in 1981, Fafard uses ceramic and bronze to sculpt the animal motifs for which he is best known, as well as figures of artists. His works of public art can be found in many Canadian cities. They include “Between Dog and Wolf” in Saint-Boniface (Winnipeg), bison in Regina, horses in Quebec City and cows at the Toronto-Dominion Centre in Toronto. Other artists like Zoé Fortier and Wilf Perreault have also achieved success. Perreault recently received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit for the aesthetic qualities of his paintings, which depict the beauty of Regina’s streets.
In 2017, a collective exhibition entitled La vie fragile, coordinated by the Centre culturel fransaskois, presented works by seven Fransaskois artists: Anne Brochu Lambert, Zoé Fortier, Jean-Sébastien Gauthier, Michèle Mackasey, Claude Morin, Laura St. Pierre and Adèle Suveges.
Fransaskois music and the Campagne family
The Campagne family from the small village of Willow Bunch, formerly known as Talle-de-Saules, has a gift for music. In 1979, seven brothers and sisters formed the band Folle Avoine and sang in French and English across Canada. In 1986, Annette, Michelle, Suzanne and Paul Campagne created the band Hart Rouge, which was very popular in the 1990s. In 1996, Annette Campagne left the group to launch a solo career. Carmen Campagne was extremely successful in Canada in the 1990s, selling tens of thousands of records and videocassettes. In 2017, the Campagne family celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Festival Terre ferme, a music festival held on their ancestral land.
Several other Fransaskois artists are enjoying successful careers in the recording studio and on tour, including traditional bands Les Cireux d’semelles and La Raquette à claquettes, singers Alexis Normand and Anique Granger, poet/singer Michel Marchildon, rapper Shawn Jobin and renowned tenor Émile Belcourt.
Nouvelle scène, the Saskatchewan component of Western Canada’s Chant’Ouest competition, promotes and presents young Fransaskois musicians. Several winners of the competition are now well-established artists, including Les Cireux d’semelles, Véronique Poulin (alias Vaero) and Mario Lepage. Lepage formed the band Ponteix with Adam Logan, Danny Hanson and Kyle Grimsrud-Manz, named after the small village of Ponteix, which is working hard to preserve the French language and culture.
Lastly, Collège Mathieu in Gravelbourg, where the Octopus choir and the band MAT were formed, has been playing a key role in arts education since the 1960s.
Saskatchewan moves to the beat of its artists!
Steeped in a vibrant musical culture, two traditional Fransaskois dance companies, Les danseurs de la rivière la Vieille (Gravelbourg) and La Ribambelle (Saskatoon), dance to the rhythm of its music. In short, Fransaskois artists inspire their community with music, theatre, visual arts, dance and literature.