UNSW Art & Design graduate Rachael Pony Cassells has collaborated with Californian musician, Cass McCombs, named by the New York Times newspaper as “one of the greatest songwriters of our times”, to produce a music video for Run Sister Run in the lead up to McCombs’ international tour, which commences in Australia on 4 December .
Cassells directed the video that featured young Canadian First Nation activist and athlete, Tracie Léost. Léost, who was born in Treaty 1 Territory of Winnipeg, Manitoba, came to international prominence when she represented her Province at the North American Indigenous Games in 2014, where at she won three bronze medals. It was at the Games that Léost was affected by the messages of numerous speakers at the Games who advocated for greater awareness of the conditions in which Indigenous people live and the often tragic intergeneration impacts on First Nation families and communities.
The following summer, Léost took action. She chose specifically to raise awareness of the ongoing national crisis regarding the disappearance and murder of Indigenous women and girls every year, many of whom are not seen again and whose remains are cannot be found. Léost ran 115 km over the course of 4 days from her grandparents’ house in Oak Point, Manitoba to the Monument for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women at The Forks in Winnipeg. Her epic run gained international press and raised over $6,000 for the Winnipeg grassroots non-profit organization, Families First Foundation, which provides financial, legal, cultural and spiritual support to families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Cassells says that by listening to McCombs’ Run Sister Run “I remembered reading an article a friend had forwarded me about Tracie’s solo 115km Journey of Hope run for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada... Her piognant run was a rally cry against then Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s repeated denial of a proposed public inquiry into MMIW in Canada. She was to me the embodiment of the archetype of the runner as messenger and therefore as protector. Her strength and determination is very inspiring… I contacted her and asked if I she would retrace her run for the ‘Run Sister Run’ video. She agreed and is such a natural leader, she also became my location producer, enlisting her whole family to help. We had almost all of her original Journey of Hope support and logistics crew involved in helping me recreate her journey for the video. The history of women running in film contains so many images of women filmed from behind, running in fear filmed from the p.o.v of an attacker. It was important to me to not add to the visual history of women running in fear and only film Tracie running forward towards the camera looking forward, her body fearlessly reclaiming public space.”
Cassells’ video has been released in the lead-up to McCombs’ International tour which starts in Australia (Sun. Dec. 4 - North Perth, AU @ The Rosemont, Tue. Dec. 6 - Newtown, AU @ Newtown Social Club, Thu. Dec. 8 - Melbourne, AU @ Melbourne Recital Centre) before heading to the UK and Europe.