Marvin Francis fonds

Call Number: Mss 247, Pc 250, Tc 141, El 12 (A.06-51, A.09-26)

Title: Marvin Francis fonds.

Dates: 1985-2005.

Extent: 1.5 m textual records and other material.

Biographical sketch: Marvin Francis was an Aboriginal poet, playwright, author and visual artist based in Winnipeg. With his 2002 book, City Treaty, he established himself as a unique voice in the Manitoba arts scene, one that was abruptly silenced by his death in January 2005 from cancer.

Born and raised on the Heart Lake First Nation reserve in Northern Alberta in 1955, Francis began his working life after quitting school in 1971. He spent much of the following decade traveling across the route of the Trans Canada Highway doing odd jobs. Arriving in Winnipeg in the late 1980s, he studied at the University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba, where he earned B.A. and M.A. degrees. City Treaty, the work adapted from his M.A. thesis, earned him considerable acclaim for his experimental yet realistic approach to the writing of poetry. This was solidified in 2003 when he received the John Hirsch Award as Manitoba's most promising writer.

Francis was quick to expand his artistic horizons. He wrote and/or directed radio plays for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, such as The Sniffer and Punching Out Judy, that reflected his unique perspective on Manitoba urban life. Francis also expanded into writing short stories (such as "Pencil Beauty" in the 2005 Manitoba Aboriginal Writers Collective anthology Bone Memory), designing visual art and creating virtual Internet exhibits. He continued writing poetry, however, and was preparing a second collection for release at the time of his death. He was also active politically within the arts community of Manitoba. A founding member of the Manitoba Aboriginal Writers Collective, he was also a board member of the Urban Shaman art gallery and the Manitoba Writers Guild. In these areas as well as his art, he was a passionate supporter of Canadian Native people and the urban poor of Winnipeg.

Custodial history: The fonds was donated to University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections by Francis' partner, Cindy Singer, in 2006 following Francis' death and again in 2009.

Scope and content: The Marvin Francis fonds displays a wealth of background information on the state of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in the late-20th and early-21st centuries, as well as showing the depth and versatility of a uniquely gifted artist. The fonds consists of four series related to the life and career of Marvin Francis. The material documents his writing career as a poetry and prose writer with an indexed collection based on typewritten and handwritten manuscripts. Included are drafts of poetry, short stories, and stage and radio plays. Also in the collection is extensive secondary information reflective of his career as a poet, playwright, visual artist and actor, his work as a creative writing instructor, his participation in writing festivals and readings, and his work as a principal member of artistic groups such as the Manitoba Aboriginal Writers Collective, the Urban Shaman art gallery and the Manitoba Writers Guild.  PC 250 consists of 6 VHS videocassettes and 2 mini digital videocassettes.  The tape collection (TC 141) consists of 7 audio cassettes, 6 mini audio cassettes, and 7 compact discs.  EL 12 consists of 8 3.5" computer diskettes.

Source of supplied title: Title based on content of fonds.

Arrangement note: The files are arranged in rough alphabetical order with adherence to labeled content. The original order was followed where possible.

Restrictions: There are no restrictions on this material.

Finding aid: A printed finding aid is available in the Archives reading room and on-line finding aids are available at the links below:

MSS 247 (A.06-51)

MSS 247, PC 250, TC 141, EL 12 (A.09-26).

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Hardisty Archival Endowment Fund in the creation of this finding aid.