MORE ART & RECONCILIATION AT THE NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE OTTAWA: Going Home Star, Florent Vollant, & 100 Years of Loss Exhibit closes a full month of Indigenous programming

TRC Commissioner Marie Wilson moderates a panel of cultural provocateurs speaking on Art & Reconciliation. 

“It’s time for the rest of Canada to do the heavy lifting” ~ I Lost My Talk composer John Estacio

On Thursday, January 14 the National Arts Centre hosted a panel discussion on ART & RECONCILIATION prior to the opening night of I Lost My Talk, a performance inspired by the poetry of Mi’kmaq elder and poet Rita Joe. The response to this event was tremendous. Hundreds of people swelled up the stairs from the lobby where the 100 Years of Loss exhibit on the impact of Residential Schools is installed until the end of this week. The event also drew political support. In attendance was the Prime Minister’s wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, the Governor General’s wife Sharon Johnston, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde and former Prime Minister The Right Honourable Joe Clark. I Lost My Talk was a commission by Clark’s family for his 75th birthday. A moving and lovely gift that we all got a chance to participate in and benefit from.

Canadian writer Joseph Boyden speaks on his commission to write the libretto for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Going Home Star. 

It’s encouraging to see a National cultural institution take such a leadership role in implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. It’s also poignantly symbolic to have a National cultural institution recognize, in the present moment, a fact that history has tried to obscure. Both the panel and the performance of I Lost My Talk opened with the National Arts Centre acknowledging that “we are on UNCEDED Algonquin territory.”

On the panel, along with Canadian writer Joseph Boyden and John Estacio, the composer for the musical score of I Lost My Talkwas Rachel Maza, “acclaimed Australian theatre director of Jack Charles V The Crown.“  I had the opportunity to attend this incredible play that delved into the impact of assimilation policies on Indigenous people in Australia. Over the course of 75 minutes Jack charmed us with his beautiful way of presenting his biography – a life full of identity confusion and much loss but also an amazing amount of grace due to Jack’s own incredible resilience. I left with many mixed emotions. Find out more about the play…

Jack Charles receives a standing ovation at the closing of his performance of Jack Charles V The Crown at the NAC. 

Going Home Star opens this week in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre.

As this month draws to a close the NAC is hosting Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production of Going Home Star. 

“Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation is the brilliant result of a star-studded collaboration between the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, award-winning Canadian author Joseph Boyden, acclaimed choreographer Mark Godden, and renowned Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. Going Home Star was ten years in the making, first envisioned by late Cree elder/activist Mary Richard and RWB Artistic Director André Lewis. Searing and sensitive, this powerfully emotional classical ballet is the deeply resonant love story of Annie and Gordon, a pair of contemporary Aboriginal young people coming to terms with a souldestroying past. Hatzis’s multi-layered score incorporates music by Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq (winner of the 2014 Polaris Music Prize), Steve Wood, and the Northern Cree Singers.” Read more…

The creative team and performers of Going Home Star speak at the NAC about the ballet during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission gathering in May/June 2015

Going Home Star runs from Thursday, January 28 to Saturday, January 30 and then will continue its tour in Vancouver. Click here for performance dates and tickets. Tickets will be given to Residential School Survivors, more information can be found here.

Also, this weekend at the NAC is Innu author, composer and singer Florent Vollant performing on Saturday, January 30.

“born in Labrador in 1959 and grew up on a reserve named Maliotenam, east of Sept-Îles. He began his musical career in the middle of the 80s and helped to create the Festival Innu Nikamu, which, since its founding, has brought together many musicians and singers from various Amerindian nations.” read more…

And the National Arts Centre has more in store so be sure to follow along with their 2016 programming around Indigenous Storytelling on their website, Facebook  and Twitter @CanadasNAC.

Photography by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

 

JUSTICE FOR FIRST NATIONS KIDS: Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rules in favour of Indigenous Children in Canada

Image from Have a Heart Day 2014 on Parliament Hill, Ottawa with former NDP MP for Ottawa Paul Dewar. 

First Nations Child and Caring Family Society of Canada files complaint and wins after a long battle!

Congratulations to Cindy Blackstock and the First Nations Child and Caring Family Society of Canada. Today is an important moment as the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that the Federal Government is guilty of racial discrimination against First Nations, Inuit and Métis children.

On their website, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) has provided the full document of the Tribunal’s decision.

Over and over the federal government, under former prime minister Stephen Harper, tried to stop Blackstock with Department of Justice lawyers doing all they could to have her human rights complaint dismissed.

Each attempt was defeated allowing the complaint to proceed.”  Read full article on APTN

Below is the livestream of the Press Conference following the Tribunal’s announcement with Cindy Blackstock of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations

In the fight for justice for Indigenous children Cindy Blackstock has engaged local youth. Each Valentine’s Day kids arrive on Parliament Hill to give speeches in support of their peers who have been continually denied equitable education. This popular and positive event has leveraged social media and you can find out more by following #HaveAHeartDay on twitter. You can also join this year’s gathering on Wednesday, February 10 from 10:30 – 11:15 am on Parliament Hill.

ART & RECONCILIATION: A Tribe Called Red kicks off an important week of Indigenous Artists at the National Art Centre Ottawa

As the Truth and Reconciliation closes the NAC implements the Calls to Action.

This past Saturday night A Tribe Called Red along with US Girls, Mehdi Cayenne and The Lionyls kicked off what will be an important week at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Following the closing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission‘s final report releasing Calls to Action that include using institutions of culture to address the stories of First Peoples the NAC has done an amazing job of creating programming, with their Indigenous Storytelling, that answers the call.

Saturday night, due the national and local popularity of A Tribe Called Red, was sold out for the NAC Presents turns 5! event. The NAC basically turned their main foyer into a night club. The effect was brilliant. The NAC definitely knows how to throw a sexy #Decolonize party.

Mehdi Cayenne was also amazing bringing a francophone presence to the event. The importance of the evening was not lost on him and he got the crowd engaged in celebrating the diversity that Canada represents – but a diversity that needs to broaden to recognize First Nations, Inuit and Métis as significant contributors of culture.

Dancer James Jones charmed the crowd during ATCR’s performance combining breakdancing moves with hoop dancing. It was clear from the crowd’s reaction that contemporary Indigenous culture is celebrated and the impact is positive.

If you missed Saturday’s event you can still take advantage of the events the rest of the week. And if you are not in the Ottawa area the Art & Reconciliation Panel Discussion moderated by Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Marie Wilson will be livestreamed at this link here.

TUESDAY – SATURDAY (January 12 – 16 at various times): Jack Charles V The Crown
“Aboriginal. Actor. Addict. Residential School Survivor. Cat Burglar. Homosexual. Jack Charles is an Australian tribal Elder and a living legend. This highly entertaining and autobiographical presentation, which includes a three-piece band, runs the gamut of a life lived to its utmost, spanning Charles’ career as an actor/musician, a lifetime of political activism, and a terrifying descent into heroin addiction and petty crime. His experience as a stolen child echoes the plight of Canada’s own Indigenous people – and his heart-warming presence, generous spirit and unswerving optimism make his journey one of resilience and reconnection. Jack Charles is a theatrical marvel.”

More info…

WEDNESDAY (January 13 from 5:30 – 6:30 pm): Rita Joe National Song Project
“Students from schools in Nova Scotia and Quebec will perform music they created based on Rita Joe’s I Lost My Talk poem.”

Also includes:

  • Mi’kmaq youth from ABMHS High School, Eskasoni, Cape Breton, N.S. 
  • Algonquin youth from Kitigan Zibi Kikinamadinan School, Maniwaki, QC
  • Frances Joe, the daughter of poet Rita Joe
  • Moe Clark, Host and Multi Media Métis Artist
  • Alexander Shelley, Music Director of the NAC Orchestra
  • Annie Smith St-Georges, Algonquin Elder
  • Jessica Bolduc, 4R’s Youth Movement
THURSDAY (January 14 at 6:30 pm) : Art & Reconciliation FREE & LIVESTREAM!
A timely panel discussion on art in the context of reconciliation moderated by Dr. Wilson, Commissioner, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and featuring panelists Rachael Maza, acclaimed Australian theatre director of Jack Charles V The Crown, Joseph Boyden, author of the award-winning novels Three Day Road and The Orenda, and composer John Estacio. The panel discussion will be introduced by the Right Honourable Joe Clark. The event will be live streamed at nac-cna.ca/live. Guests to attend the event include Their Excellencies David Johnston the Governor General of Canada and his wife Sharon Johnston, Mrs. Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, and National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations.

THURSDAY – FRIDAY (January 14 – 15, 8 pm & 7 pm): I Lost My Talk
“World premiere of I Lost My Talk, composed by John Estacio and performed in Southam Hall by the NAC Orchestra under the direction of NAC Music Director Alexander Shelley. This immersive, multidisciplinary work – based on the poem by the late Mi’kmaw elder and poet Rita Joe – was commissioned for the NAC Orchestra to commemorate the 75th birthday of The Right Hon. Joe Clark by his family, and features an extraordinary film produced by Barbara Willis Sweete.”

Performing in the film is the Kaha:wi Dance Theatre.

More info…

Legacy of Hope exhibit looks the impact of the Residential Schools opens tomorrow at the National Arts Centre

And finally from now until the end of the month the exhibit 100 YEARS OF LOSS: The Residential School System in Canada will be available for viewing from 2 pm onwards each day.

“This bilingual exhibition, created by The Legacy of Hope Foundation, raises awareness and understanding of the history and legacies of the Residential School System in Canada. Through archival photographs and documents, first-person testimonies, and evocative works of art, the exhibition encourages us to learn about this difficult history, to recognize its legacies in our country today, and to contribute our own acts of reconciliation.

More info…

Images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

 

C MAGAZINE REVIEW: Jolene Rickard speaks on Indigenous Cultural Resurgance and Wampum at the Creative Time Summit Venice Biennale

C Magazine looks at the curatorial presentation of the issue of Citizenship at the Venice Biennale.

The Winter edition of C Magazine is out. Inside the pages is a review I wrote on “Questioning Citizenship at the Venice Biennale.”  Here is a little sneak peek: 

I attended the Biennale this past August with The Power Plant’s delegation of artists and curators from Canada to take part in the Creative Time Summit (read CREATIVE TIME SUMMIT AT THE BIENNALE: Mixed Bag Mag arrives in Venice)It was an amazing time where we as creative professionals looked at ways we can critique and improve the Biennale culture from the inside. Along with the opportunity to meet other cultural provocateurs from around the world I also had the opportunity to meet Okwui Enwezor, the curator for the 2015 Biennale “All The World’s Futures.”

This edition of C Magazine is on Citizenship and features: 

“Derrick Chang, Victor Wang on the 12th Bienal de la Habana, Yaniya Lee on citizenship and Canadian art criticism, Krista Belle Stewart, Scott Benesiinaabandan, David Garneau and Cathy Busby responding to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, and Justin A. Langlois, Amanda Shore, Rinaldo Walcott, Leah Snyder, Elle Flanders, Tamira Sawatsky and Adrian Blackwell questioning citizenship at the Venice Biennale; plus an artist project by Tyler Coburn. Also included are reviews of exhibitions and books, as well as our regular sections On Writing by Critical Art Writing Ensemble, Inventory by Bambitchell and Artefact by acqueline Hoang Nguyen” Read more…

To purchase or download the digital version click here.

From the Creative Time Summit Venice 2015 website: 

“As the Director of the American Indian Program and Associate Professor in the History of Art and Art Departments at Cornell University, Jolene Rickard is primarily interested in issues of indigeneity within a global context. Her recent projects include serving as the advisor for “Sakahàn: 1st International Quinquennial of New Indigenous Art” at the National Gallery of Canada in 2013, conducting research through a Ford Foundation Research Grant in 2008-11, participating in New Zealand’s Te Tihi Scholar/Artist Gathering in 2010, and co-curating the inaugural exhibition for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. in 2004. She is from the Tuscarora Nation (Haudenosaunee). Her book,Visualizing Sovereignty will be published in 2016.”

Watch all the Creative Time Summit 2015 Venice presentations here.

 

CREATIVE TIME SUMMIT AT THE BIENNALE: Mixed Bag Mag arrives in Venice

Mixed Bag Mag joins Artists & Curators from Canada at the Venice Biennale.

Mixed Bag Mag has been invited by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto to participate in the Creative Time Summit 2015 at the Venice Biennale. The Creative Time Summit’s theme this year is “Curriculum” and “throughout the Summit, conversations on curriculum will examine the social, infrastructural, administrative, and private conditions under which knowledge is produced and intertwined with social contracts.”

Mixed Bag Mag’s coverage will focus on how art has the potential to change the way we engage with social and political issues. With the appointment of Nigerian curator Okwui Enwezor as the head curator, this year’s Biennale has taken on a more political tone. He is the first African to be in this position. He has pushed the discussion around immigration and economy using the vehicle of art. I will be exploring his curatorial approach to engaging with the intersections of art, politics and commerce.

10 Artists from Canada will also be attending along with The Power Plant Delegation.

“Each of these artists will share their distinct perspectives on the relationship between art and social change, either by delivering Summit-style presentations on their work, or by leading roundtable discussion groups exploring issues central to their practices.” Read more on The Power Plant’s websie…

The artists participating are:

• Adrian Blackwell (Ontario)
• Deana Bowen (Ontario)
• Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge (Ontario)
• Jen Delos Reyes (Manitoba)
• Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky, of Public Studio (Ontario)
• Justin Langlois (British Colombia)
• Duane Linklater (Ontario)
• Nadia Myre (Quebec)

Thank you to The Power Plant for this opportunity. Also thank you to each of organizations that made it possible for this trip to happen! Thanks to Galerie SAW Gallery in Ottawa for their support.

Images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

 

BLACK LIVES MATTER: For Andrew Loku, Sandra Bland & …

…Jermaine Carpy,  #KindraChapman, #RalkinaJones, #RaynettaTurner, #JoyceCurnell, #EricGarner, #MichaelBrown#TamirRice#TrayvonMartin

I’ve tried to write this post many times. Every time another man or woman is killed by the police and the news comes up on my feed. Another friend, usually a Black friend, sharing, yet again, a sickening story.

I am going to try and write about how it makes me feel as someone who isn’t black but has loved ones who are. I am going to breakdown what happens to my body – the taste of fear that starts to hit the back of my mouth, the hot tingling that runs from my feet up my spine. My mind goes to a place that I can’t explain, it’s primal, and my ability to offer myself some sort of logic ceases. Even inside my own head there here is no passage out. I stop thinking and my body takes over. I panic wondering how the hell I am going to protect my loved ones.

What if they have a moment where they are pushed too far and that tension breaks costing them their life? Will others be around to intervene on their behalf? As we have already seen that often doesn’t even matter.

That’s my body’s reaction. And so what is the reaction of the parents, wives, husbands, and children who find out, that at the hands of someone whose job is to serve and protect, their loved one’s life has been taken? Their bodies must sink into a spot they will never fully recover from. And if they are Black themselves, they have to continue to go out into a world that has proven it’s hostile. There is no way they can reconcile this. Not everything happens for a reason and has a silver lining if you just look hard enough. Things happen because there are systems in place that allow for racism to continue despite the fact that slavery, in North America, has legally ended. Things aren’t in the past because the mechanisms, social structures and economic drivers that positioned slavery as acceptable are still in place.

Andrew Loku. The most heartbreaking thing I read was a friend of Andrew’s who cried out that he survived war in Sudan to be killed by police in Canada.

It’s happening here folks. Close to home.

Do you have someone in your family who is Black? What about your favourite teacher? Or your high school sweetheart? A good friend, your dentist, your therapist, the great neighbours you grew up beside?  If these people matter to you what will you do to protect them?

I brought my body to the Black Lives Matter Toronto Die-in for Eric Garner back in December. And who did I see there? Black people.

For all the talk of how Multicultural our society is and for all the families I see that are multi-racial I wondered where were all the people whose cousins are Black, whose friend or lover or business partner is Black? Where were all the people who don’t have to carry skin colour as a burden? Why aren’t they here to help share lighten that burden for the people they care for?

How does this craziness end? By non-Black bodies saying enough – by standing their embodied with a physical presence in the moment to say I am here committed to this cause. Let those being targeted know that you get it that there is a hatred for Black bodies and that even in saying BLACK BODIES it allows a way for us to distance ourselves. Yes, all lives matter but at this time Black Lives are the ones at risk. So what are you going to do?

Because I want you to help protect my loved ones. I want you to help be the buffer that creates a circle of safety around the people I care about who need to be protected.

I want you to show up to Black LIves Matter events because when everyone shows up, not just those who are targeted, that will be how we change this thing.

This just came through my feed:

“For all you crying about this damn lion while it’s open season on black people but remain silent… I see you.”  ~ Dayna Danger

Don’t be that person.

#BlackLivesMatter Tonight in Ottawa
Friday, July 21 at 8:22 pm
Vigil for Sandra Bland
More info on the Facebook Event Page

Black Lives Matter Ottawa Coalition & Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition 

And for Eric Garner, Michael Brown Jr, Tanisha Martin, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin,

NATIONAL ABORIGINAL DAY: Celebrating women who are making a difference for Mixed Bag Mag’s coverage of the TRC

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Walk for Reconciliation Ottawa, Rideau Hall Ceremony for Survivors and Buffy Sainte-Marie.

There is always that one little girl, at whatever march or demonstration I am attending, that grabs my attention. I begin to follow along to her skips and steps in an effort to come close to the lightness she contains in her little being. She is at once a promise but also a ghost of all the other little spirits who came before her, with similar promise, but who didn’t make it.

It’s been a few weeks now since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had their final series of events here in Ottawa closing the process of investigating and documenting the Residential School experience on generations of Indigenous children in Canada. Much has been written and said about the TRC. As I attended the events each day I came to the realization that what I witnessing was going to best be expressed without the use of words so here I deliver a message through the images of women. Throughout the four days I ran into many friends and made some new ones. One thing was clear, that despite the heaviness of what we were participating in, there was a lightness contained inside each of the women who you see here and that lightness will continue on as a promise for a different type of tomorrow.

Below are women, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who are putting their energies into ensuring this country will be accountable to the children lost and to the children yet to arrive.

All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

OTTAWA THIS WEEKEND IN SOLIDARITY: May 30 #BlackLivesMatter & May 31 TRC Walk for Reconciliation

SATURDAY MAY 30th #BlackLivesMatter Ottawa March

WHEN: 5 pm
WHERE: Meet at the U.S.Embassy 490 Sussex Drive & walk to the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street

“BlakCollectiv invites you to join us in our Black Lives Matter March. We will be meeting at 5:00pm in front of the U.S. Embassy, 490 Sussex Dr. on May 30th 2015. We will be marching in remembrance of the Black lives lost to police brutality, including cis and trans black women.

We would like everyone to join us in this march to shed light to the issues that our communities are currently facing, and to let the world know that we will not be silent!

This is a peaceful protest so feel free to bring your own posters, family and friends to support. However , we do ask that any organizations that attend to please refrain from using this march as a promotional opportunity. This march is meant for healing and remembering the lives lost, do not come with intentions to disrespect this message.

Allyship: an active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person of privilege seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group of people. Allyship is not an identity—it is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people.”

More info on ways you can help or donate here.

#BlackLivesMatter

SUNDAY MAY 31th Truth and Reconciliation Commission “Walk for Reconciliation”

WHEN: 11 am program begins & 12 pm starts
WHERE: The Walk will start from École secondaire de l’Île, 255 rue Saint-Rédempteur Street in Gatineau (next to the Robert Guertin Arena, where there will be parking) and the walk will end at The Walk will end at Marion Dewar Plaza (Ottawa CIty Hall), 110 Laurier Ave. West.

SHUTTLE BUSES FROM TORONTO & MONTREAL: Round trip buses for youth depart from downtown Toronto @ 6:00 am & Montreal @ 8:00 am and will depart home for Toronto & Montreal @ 6PM

We invite youth to confirm your space contact:
trcwalk2015@canadianroots.ca or bolduc.jessica@gmail.com

“The Walk for Reconciliation is designed to transform and renew the very essence of relationships among Aboriginal peoples and all Canadians. It sounds so simple, but just the act of gathering and walking and sharing our stories can join us all in a shared commitment to creating a new way forward in our relationships with each other. Our future depends on being able to simply get along, respecting each other for the unique gifts we bring.

On May 31, we will walk together in Ottawa to express our determination in rebuilding the relationships among Aboriginal peoples and all Canadians. Join Us.”

More info on the Facebook Event Page and the Truth & Reconciliation Commission website.

#2Reconcile

SEWING CIRCLES & SOUNDSUITS: The Art in Embassies initiative connects social nexuses in Ottawa

Marie Watt’s sewing circle and Nick Cave’s SoundSuits provide ways to start discussions around challenging issues. 

As our long winter was on it’s way out and a new spring beginning an interesting initiative began here in Ottawa. Vicki Heyman, wife of US Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman, launched Art in Embassies, a project started by John F. Kennedy as way to share the talent of American artists abroad as well as “start cross-cultural dialogue“.

Maria Watt was the American artist chosen to open what has become a series of events focused on the role of art as a catalyst for social change. The timing seemed oddly predestined. Marie, a woman of mixed Settler / Indigenous heritage sat on the stage at the National Gallery of Canada speaking to Greg Hill (the NGC’s Audain Curator of Indigenous Art) about the connecting quality of her work.

“My work draws from my experience as a Scottish German Seneca person in the US growing up in Oregon…[I explore] Indigenous moments in history and European history – those nexuses.”  

This was on the eve of the Roundtable Discussion on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that was also taking place in Ottawa that week. On the Friday, as Carleton University was hosting the National Roundtable, the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG), in collaboration with Art in Embassies, was holding a roundtable on Indigenizing the Gallery with Marie as the honoured guest participant. If a nexus “is a series of connections linking two more more things” than what was happening at that precise moment in Ottawa, in the social spaces where art, academia and politics converge, was a moment where Indigenous women’s voices were being prioritized.

One of Marie’s well known works is Blanket Stories: Seven Generations, Adawe, and Hearth. The piece was installed during the National Gallery of Canada’s Sakahàn: Indigenous International Art exhibit and true to Marie’s practice it involved sending a call out to participate. A request was made for anyone who wanted to contribute to drop off or mail out a wool or natural fiber blanket to the NGC. The original call out on the Sakàhan website describes how the installation:

“will highlight the rich history of commerce and trade in Ottawa. The word “Ottawa” comes from the Algonquin word adawe, which means “to trade.”

Along with their blankets participants were requested to write a story that illustrated the importance of that blanket to their family. The stories become the currency and their richness is revealed in their ability to criss-cross countries and cultures, span many generations and fuse past with present. With her works involving blankets Marie does what she can to have the stories available for audiences to read (view some of stories from the NGC install here). At her National Gallery talk she related a few of them to us. One story was Peter’s. The blanket he gave to Marie came from a concentration camp. If I remember correctly, it was his wife’s and it was all she had when she was liberated from the camp. Eventually that same blanket would be used to wrap and protect art work purchased by the couple in the life they created together. Marie feels that such a story flies in the face of Hitler’s denigration of art and is a perfect symbol of reclamation – a blanket’s meaning transformed by its new role.

The stories are also ways for people to enter into the intimate space of another. In this complex historical moment where we struggle to understand the meaning of words like reclamation and reconciliation sometimes the way of navigating that complexity is through the simple act of creating a space for people to share moments. This is the strength of the Art in Embassies initiative which has been infused by Vicki’s desire to explore art as social practice precisely because it can build bridges and foster understanding between disparate social circles. As a way of gathering a diverse group together for a common goal, another event that was held as part of Marie’s visit to Ottawa was a sewing circle. It was moving to see people of all backgrounds, ages, and genders stitching together in the Great Hall at the National Gallery. And the artist was present! Marie took the time to speak with people as well as listen to new stories being shared. For Marie, it’s about being affable in her process. As she says, a sewing circle is about “tucking yourself into something as humble and familiar as cloth. It’s a safe space that’s a much more informal space – getting together in a neighbourly way.”


In these informal spaces people can digest what they might otherwise feel challenged to confront. Marie’s work, although not overtly political, is charged by a political climate that does it best to ignore Indigenous rights and a national leader who publicly declared that the issue of #MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) as not “really high on our radar.” As a Seneca woman she uses her art as a way to generously share Indigenous teachings to a non-Indigenous audience.

The next artist speaking as part of the series is Nick Cave. Nick’s work is also about looking at social as well as disciplinary nexuses of art, dance and fashion. Like Marie, he uses the act of sewing and assemblage to move a challenging conversation forward. The intense subject of racial profiling prompted Nick to look at ways we disregard and denigrate. His first “soundsuit” was created by gathering discarded sticks and twigs, the things that surround us during our day that we ignore and allow to become invisible. The final product functioned as both apparel to be worn by a dancer during a performance and sculpture to be inserted into a gallery space. Whether still or animated by performers whose race and class are concealed inside the soundsuits, Nick’s work is meant to break open a space. They are impossible to ignore. As performers climb inside they have a chance to access the feeling of being connected with something seemingly foreign from their everyday but yet some of the materials that Nick utilizes, like Marie’s blankets, are humble ones that are familiar to all.

Again, the timing of this event is important. After months and months of the heaviness of how racial profiling is being executed – literally – by agents of power, we need to widen the discussion around race that has been split open by the murders of black men at the hands of the police. The problematics of race isn’t just an American issue. Here in Canada the erasure of Black bodies in cultural, academic and political institutions has the potential to fester and become a much deeper problem. We need to have the challenging conversations immediately and those conversations have to happen in places like the National Gallery of Canada, an institution where Black contribution to Canadian history and art has been close to absent. No time like the present.

I applaud the audacious spirit that Vicki has brought to the cultural table here in Ottawa and I look forward to participating in more of these types events that create a nexus for change by widening the circle of social influence.

You can follow the conversation at #artconvoAIE. More events will be coming up in 2015!

All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

RAPSODY: Urban Artists descend upon Ottawa once again & Timekode launches DJ Memetic’s “Rideau 2 Richmond”

THIS SATURDAY OTTAWA! R.A.P.S.Ody Returns!

On Saturday May 23, R.A.P.S.Ody, Ottawa’s only monthly urban arts cypher returns to The Flava Factory with its fourth edition. The show’s feature, international spoken word artist and Canadian rapper from the group Missing LinX, Just Jamaal The Poet, will be performing a rap set including shooting a LIVE RAPSODY MUSIC VIDEO.

WHEN: Saturday, May 23 Sign up at 6 pm & show starts at 7 pm
WHERE: The Flava Factory 1075 Wellington Street Ottawa
HOW MUCH: $10

The show begins with an open mic session followed by the popular two round $200 cypher battle. Artists looking to compete must arrive at 6:00 pm to register; while the open mic sign up is done in advance by emailing flypoetssociety@gmail.com.

For more info:
Like Fly Poets Society on Facebook
Follow on Twitter @flypoets
& check out performances on Fly Poets Society’s Youtube Channel.

Also this weekend…

Tomorrow night TIMEKODE launches “Rideau 2 Richmond” DJ Memetic’s new LP.

A spring warehouse affair. Thousands of square feet for your dancing pleasure! Soul moving soles.

w/ MEMETIC x TREVOR WALKER x ZATTAR
visuals: HARD SCIENCE
food: DETROIT SOUL FOOD

WHEN: Friday, May 22  doors open at 10 pm
WHERE: Maker Space North Bay 216-250 City Centre Ave (next to Gabba Hey)
HOW MUCH: $10

This is a licensed event with CASH bar. 19+ with ID.
Bar proceeds in support of CHUO 89.1 FM Community Radio.

More info on TIMEKODE’s website.