Manon Barbeau: Forging Ties with Others

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CASE STUDY.  This case is about Manon Barbeau, a screenwriter, filmmaker, and co-founder and executive director of Wapikoni mobile – a unique, innovative travelling studio serving Aboriginal reserves in Quebec and Canada.

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Manon Barbeau: Forging Ties with Others: Abstract

Manon Barbeau is a screenwriter, filmmaker, and co-founder and executive director of Wapikoni mobile – a unique, innovative travelling studio serving Aboriginal reserves in Quebec and Canada. Wapikoni helps young people in First Nations communities express themselves through film and music, thus breaking their isolation. The daughter of poet Suzanne Meloche and painter Marcel Barbeau, a signatory of the Refus global (Total Refusal) manifesto, Barbeau bears a heavy legacy, especially since her famous parents deserted her when she was three to devote themselves to their art. A survivor of the trauma of early abandonment, Barbeau went on to become a respected, award-winning, and socially engaged artist, championing the cause of Aboriginal youth and allowing them to trade despair for inspiration.

Barbeau runs Wapikoni Mobile with a conviction and efficiency that is the envy of many a decision-maker. She’s had remarkable results. In less than ten years – and despite a crisis that could have shut Wapikoni down – over 2,500 First Nations youth have participated in the organization’s workshops, producing some 600 films that have been translated into several languages, a unique cultural heritage. To date, Wapikoni’s films have won 68 national and international awards. Wapikoni’s film training methodology, a combination of intervention and skills development for First Nations youth in Quebec, has won international renown. But for Barbeau, more important than the accolades are the many young people who, having passed through the organization, have gained a will to live and sense of empowerment. Thanks to their artistic work, they now have the tools to not only turn their lives around but also to impact society. Such an accomplishment – made possible by a woman who managed to build herself up in the same manner as the young people she worked with – for a cause deemed lost is a true source of inspiration. And there lies the crux of the case study.

Teaching objectives

Offer students an in-depth look at a leader. Have students think about leadership and, more specifically, about women in leadership. Have students think about entrepreneurship, artist-creators – their complexity, role, power, social impact, managing arts-based enterprises. Bring students to introspect.

Additional information

Also available in French.

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