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New Telus Spark immersive experience showcases Indigenous superheroes

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Telus Spark's latest digital immersive experience features a new kind of superhero – the Indigenous kind.

Sacred Defenders of the Universe follows four superheroes – Aqueous, Embers, Aireus and Terra – who fight to restore elemental balance to the planet.

The exhibition takes place inside the Spark Digital Immersion gallery, a 278 square meter, (3,000 square-foot) space that gets transformed into a kind of living graphic novel for Sacred Defenders of the Universe. Visitors discover Indigenous science through the Circle of Life, the four sacred elements and directions, and key words in Indigenous languages.

Guests can also interact with the digital story elements on their own, create waves and wind, grow plants and mycelium, and ignite their senses with sparks and fire.

The project was co-created by Justin Jack Bear and Earl Benallie, with animation provided by a team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, all of it produced by Supply and Demand.

Benallie is impressed at how the gallery turned out.

"I'm overwhelmed actually," he said. "Every time I go in there, I see something new, because it's a new technology, it's fully immersive, you have to really go three or four times to really experience the whole thing, it's that incredible."

Benallie has a rain water harvesting background and says he's worked a shovel for the past 23 years. He grew up listening to his elders and their sacred teachings and knew one day his life stories were going to be important to tell.

"During the pandemic when we all got sent home to our rooms to sit I think a lot of people went creative," said Benallie. "(Things like) canning food, drawing, painting, I went to the Sacred Defenders of the Universe."

Sacred Defenders of the Universe opens Thursday, March 23 at the Telus Spark in Calgary

CROWDFUNDING TO CREATE COMIC BOOK

Justin Jack Bear says he and Benallie were looking to start the story in a comic book.

"When we started to create the series, we were actually crowdfunding to get enough money to create a comic book," he said. "We did that for a couple of years and word started to travel and someone at Spark found out and before we could make a comic book, it became an immersive comic book where you can actually be a part of this story."

Jack Bear says the story is a struggle between ego and humility and so if people can understand what that is, they can understand what it means to be a part of nature. He'd still like to make a comic book series, but maybe one day create something for the big screen similar to other action hero movies.

"I'm really hoping that we can really write out the full story and journey of these characters," he said. "We would just love everybody to support them and come experience it for themselves."

RESONATE AND CONNECT

The creative and production teams worked with local and national Indigenous communities, and Spark's Indigenous Advisory Circle, to create an immersive exhibit that will resonate and connect with the community.

Kori Czuy is the Indigenous engagement manager at Telus Spark and worked with the creators and says the story sends a powerful message.

"I think the next generation need to see the depth of science within the Indigenous stories, within the land," she said. "In a story to reconnect with nature and how can we help rebalance the earth."

Czuy says it's important for Indigenous youth to see people like them portrayed as fictional characters.

"Just telling a superhero story with indigenous characters, that was so inspiring" said Czuy. "I saw so many connections through science that we could tell the depth of science within Indigenous knowledge that we've known for thousands of years and especially with reconcili-action, I think it's very much needed for everyone, not just Indigenous people, for everyone to understand the story."

Sacred Defenders of the Universeis open to the public now until October. Learn more about it here: https://www.sparkscience.ca/whats-on/sacred-defenders-of-the-universe

The gala opening Thursday night will feature local Elders, who will talk about balance in relation to the Equinox, the Circle of Life, the Four Elements and more.

Members of the Calgary Fire Department will also be on hand to share some real-life hero stories. The Sorrel Rider Drum Group from Siksika will perform, and you can meet the show's creators, Justin Jack Bear and Earl Benallie.

Reserve your free tickets here.

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