OPENING TOMORROW @ SAW GALLERY: For NAC’s #CanadaScene #callresponse exhibit featuring #female #Indigenous #artists comes to #Ottawa

Image of #callresponse artist Laakkuluk Williamson-Bathory (www.grunt.ca).

FROM THE CURATORS:

CALL/
To support the work of Indigenous North American women and artists through local art commissions that incite dialogue and catalyze action between individuals, communities, territories and institutions. To stand together across sovereign territories as accomplices in awakened solidarity with all our relations both human and non.

/RESPONSE
To ground art in responsible action, value lived experience, and demonstrate ongoing commitment to accountability and community building. To respond to re/conciliation as a present day negotiation and the reconstruction of communities in the aftermath of colonial trauma.

#callresponse arrives in Ottawa this weekend as part of a 5 site North American tour and started by Grunt Gallery, Vancouver. A {Re}conciliation initiative of the Canada Council for the Arts, the focus of this project is about “strategically centering Indigenous women as vital presences across multiple platforms” and is a “multifaceted project that includes a touring exhibition, website, social-media platform, and catalogue.”

The artists – Christi Belcourt, Maria Hupfield, Ursula Johnson, Tania Willard and Laakkuluk Williamson-Bathory.

The responders – Isaac Murdoch, Esther Neff & IV Castellanos, Rosalie Favell, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Marcia Crosby and Tanya Tagaq.

Curated by Tarah Hogue in collaboration with Maria Hupfield and Tania Willard the SAW exhibition is also part of the National Arts Centre’s Canada Scene programming.

From the NAC: 

Beginning with a series of local art commissions by Indigenous women and artists whose home communities span the country, the project is geographically expansive yet brought together in the physical space of the gallery and the virtual space of the Internet. Envisioning the initial commissions as a call to action, each artist has invited a guest to respond to their work. The resulting works are exhibited together alongside a series of engaging public performances and events. (read more…)

#callresponse opens Sunday, June 18 from 5 – 9 pm. For more information visit the Facebook Event Page.

Participate in the conversation using the hashtag #callresponse.

Check out one of the artists – Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory – on CBC Arts!

FINAL WEEKEND: #TheGhomeshiEffect closes Saturday @ The Gladstone Theatre #Ottawa

 Image: Andrew Alexander. Provided by The Ghomeshi Effect.

Sexual Assault Survivors, Lawyers, and Activists Speak Out Through The Ghomeshi Effect

WHEN: Friday, February 27 @ 7:30 pm & Saturday, February 28 @ 2:30 pm / 7:30 pm
WHERE: The Gladstone Theatre, 910 Gladstone Avenue, Ottawa
TICKETS: $17.47/$28.09/$31.63 Purchase Here

So many of us felt impacted when the news broke about CBC Q host Jian Ghomeshi. It brought up a lot of mixed emotions for me. When I heard and read the descriptions of his behaviour, they were all too familiar. As the trial started then proceeded many of us felt raw as we witnessed how the proceedings went down. Social media became the public commons where we could work out what was happening and perhaps contribute to some kind of change in policy. The conversation continues with productions like The Ghomeshi Effect.

Words from the Team: 

The Ghomeshi Effect’s script uses transcriptions of interviews Jessica Ruano (Director) conducted with local Ottawa residents about their lived experiences in dealing with sexual violence and the justice system. The interviews range from confessional first-person accounts to expert analyses of how the law is constructed to handle these cases.

“Through this process we found that many people have become disillusioned by the court system and do not always see it as the best means for seeking justice,” says Ruano. “In this play we explore why this is and discuss potential alternatives.”

Bringing these stories to life is a broad group of multidisciplinary and bilingual performers: Leah Archambault, Marc-André Charette, Gabrielle Lalonde, Annie Lefebvre, Emmanuel Simon, and Mekdes Teshome. Setting the scene are lighting designer Benoît Brunet-Poirier, sound designer Martin Dawagne, and Métis mixed-media artist Mique Michelle, who will be creating a graffiti-inspired floor design for the stage.

“Ever since we began this project we have known that this conversation was bigger than us,” says Griffin. “Whenever we talk to people about the play, there’s always someone who has a story to share or an opinion to contribute. This performance is about our community and we made a point of including a diverse group of individuals and stories in the script, and opening up the conversation to our audiences.”

Important supplemental programming

Along with the play, there has been auxiliary programming to provide more opportunities for reflection and dialogue. The opening night included a keynote address by Glen Canning, the father of Rehtaeh Parsons, the young girl who took her life in 2013 after she was sexually assaulted and then bullied online. Glen has become an activist against rape culture and how it most often re-victimizes survivors as they move through the ‘justice’ system. He speaks about “youth, consent and the way mixed messages about definitions of rape affected Rehtaeh’s case.”

“Beginning these conversations with our kids when they are teenagers is essential,” says Canning, “because in so many cases we are willing to believe anything about women in order to excuse anything about a man.”

This night was also in partnership with MANifest Change “a program to engage men in the prevention of violence run by the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women(OCTEVAW).

Last Saturday, a fundraiser was held with local pop-band The PepTides.

“It has always been part of our mandate as a band and members of the community to promote equality and human rights. The stories in the script hit close to home and there was no doubt that we wanted to be part of this important conversation,” says band member Scottie Irving.

This is the final weekend for The Ghomeshi Effect at The Gladstone Theatre but there will be one final performance at The Shenkman Centre on Thursday, February 2.

Tickets for this weekend can be purchased here. More info on The Shenkman Centre performance here.

Follow along with The Ghomeshi Effect on their website www.theghomehsieffect.com, on Facebook and twitter @GhomeshiEffect as well as hashtag #TheGhomeshiEffect.

WORLD PREMIERE: “Life Reflected” at the National Arts Centre Ottawa

More important and inspiring programming by the NAC

This winter, as part of  the National Arts Centre’s programming for Art and ReconciliationI Lost My Talk premiered. This incredible and poignant performance included the beautiful choreography of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre‘s Santee Smith and stunning visual design by Montreal’s Normal. Tomorrow evening I Lost My Talk will be part of three other orchestral works premiering as part of Life Reflected. The National Art Centre Orchestra’s Director Alexander Shelley “brought together four remarkable Canadian composers to collaborate with Donna Feore to create an immersive symphonic experience celebrating youth, promise and courage, revealed in the compelling and diverse portraits of four women.”

Tomorrow’s performance will include:

ALICE MUNRO – Dear Life with music composed by Zosha Di Castri
“Dear Life” by Alice Munro, is a reflection on memory, childhood and the formative stages of life. The NAC Orchestra’s Dear Life was composed by Zosha Di Castri.”

AMANDA TODD – My Name is Amanda Todd with music composed by Jocelyn Morlock
My Name is Amanda Todd tells the story of a vibrant 15-year-old who, after suffering for years from cyber abuse, spoke out against harassment and bullying on YouTube. Music composed for the NAC Orchestra by Jocelyn Morlock. 

ROBERTA BONDAR – Bondarsphere with music composed by Nicole Lizée
Dr. Roberta Bondar’s remarkable expertise as an astronaut, physician, scientific researcher, and photographer have been interpreted in Bondarsphere by Nicole Lizée for the NAC Orchestra through soundtrack and video.

RITA JOE – I Lost My Talk with music composed by John Estacio
“I Lost My Talk” – by Mi’kmaw elder and poet Rita Joe, C.M. expresses her experience at Residential School. The NAC Orchestra’s I Lost My Talk was composed by John Estacio.

Read more about Life Reflected & purchase tickets available here.

Image from National Art Centre website

WHAT ARE THE ACTIONS THAT SAY WE STAND FOR PEACE?: Standing in Solidarity with Palestinians on Eid

Woman in hijab with head scarf around hijab that reads Decolonization and holding Canadian Flag that says Free Palestine. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

On my way to an Asinabka event on Saturday I saw the woman in this picture. Since I write a lot on the effects of colonization, past and present, I asked if I could take her photograph for an article I will be writing on Palestine. She was on her way to an event in solidarity with Palestinians on Parliament Hill. She felt it was important to show support. She agreed to let me take her picture but asked that she not be identified by name. So I will call her خديجة Khadija, the name of the wife of The Prophet Muhammad’s (Peace be Upon Him).

Many people don’t realize the powerful story of how Islam began. The prophet was married to a successful business woman in Mecca. It is said that Khadija was 20 years his senior. When her young husband began to have visions that he didn’t understand and that were unsettling to him she told him to talk to the Jewish and Christian spiritual leaders she knew in order to find answers and solace.

Through the support of a strong female and the spiritual counsel of people who came from different faiths another religion was born.

The woman I met on Sunday shared with me as much as she could of her story before our buses arrived. Her ethnicity is different from the country she was born in because her family left due to a civil war. She has now left that country because of civil unrest there and has applied for refugee status in Canada. This is why she didn’t want to be identified.

She said that when she decided to wear the hijab it stopped short her career back home as a teacher. Although not living in France she was teaching at a French school. They would no longer let her teach if she was going to cover her head. The day she put her daughter into school in Canada she arrived to find the teacher was wearing the hijab. “This is when I knew this country was my country.” And then she broke down.

There were no words she could say at that moment to express the power of what she was feeling. The feeling of elation that comes with knowing you are safe but also knowing you have left a country and others behind, but a country that wasn’t your family’s motherland and your parents, siblings and friends are forever scattered. There is deep sadness that comes with this kind of dislocation and it can run through the generations. She was also anxious because her hearing for her refugee status was coming up.

As she lost her words and the tears started falling down her face I grabbed her and hugged her hard. Two women, don’t know each other from Adam. We stood there hugging on the crazy busy bus platform of Mackenzie King Bridge. We didn’t talk. We stayed silent and then as I got on the bus I hugged her tight one more time and said I would think of her on the first day of Eid, the day of her hearing.

That is how we build peace.

She could have been Jewish or Atheist. She was a professional but she could have been a prostitute. It wouldn’t have mattered. For me she was another woman who is being strong despite also being afraid and she was in need of some Sister Support!

Hugging is how we stay human.

Being present to hear a stranger’s story is how we begin to shift the energy of oppression.

#EidMubarak

CHILDREN WHO ARE SAFE & SOUND: Independent Jewish Voices holds Vigil in Ottawa for the Children Killed in Gaza

Woman in hijab with head scarf around hijab that reads Stop the Genocide and holding Canadian Flag that says Free Palestine. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

WHEN ART DEALS WITH THE DISTASTEFUL: Kara Walker at the Domino Sugar Factory

Creative Time presents “A Subtlety” in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

I make a scattered dash to get to the Kara Walker exhibit in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Hot day, with an intense late-spring / almost-summer sun blasting me and the pavement I am pounding. I get lost then located. I turn the corner to see the longest lineup I have seen for art in sometime.

Kara Walker. A big sign makes it clear this is an event!

“At the behest of Creative Time Kara E. Walker has confected:

A Subtlety

or the Marvelous Sugar Baby
an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant”

 

Once inside the Domino Sugar compound there is a long march into the factory where another blast of heat hits you. This time it’s combined with a sweet smell.

The immediate feeling is of being overwhelmed. The scene is fantastic! Honey coloured light dappling a cement floor textured by the wear and tear of once busy workers. More texture on the rusted out walls that offer a palette of cobalt blues and deep muscovado browns. Beyond the crowds, at the far end of the factory, this gorgeous, towering, powder-white statue rises up – intense with her omnipresent stare.

But then your eyes adjust to the dim warehouse light and your nose notices that the once inviting smell has turned into a toxic sweetness. The scent becomes more rank as you move closer to the sugar sphinx. It mixes with dust and hot human sweat. It doesn’t smell good and the scene that at first seemed stunning loses its charm as you notice you are surrounded by statues of small children, barefooted and barely clothed, standing so they reach slightly above the level of your heart. They each hold a gathering basket. Although they are fixed in their location they seem to multiply and move because as groups of sightseers wander off another child emerges through the dusty light.

It is these children that become the most haunting part of this installation. Constructed from resin and covered in molasses, their bodies leak onto the concrete floor leaving a puddle of black gummy moisture that traps your feet. The dark slick reflects back the faces of the meandering masses that approach the bodies like they are curios.

They are fascinating. Their technical production makes them close to life-like despite the fact that their heads loom too large on their spindly frames. Some even seem to smile but you can’t be sure if it is the case because their face may have shifted as the molasses melts.



The crowd bends to see them face to face, the crowd comes close to touching, but only the little ones, without socialized inhibition, reach out. As they do their parents snap photos, telling them to hold still and smile.

What becomes even more curious then the sugar statues is how the crowd reacts. Met with the visual reminder of the slave trade people pose with the sugar babies flashing a tourist’s grin.

When confronted with the sweetness of life gone sour what should be our appropriate response?

I wonder why they smile in a scene that, if you pause for a moment to think of the reasons Kara Walker’s sugar mammy and molasses children have been constructed in this space, is distressing. At the edge of the East River, for over 150 years, the Domino Sugar building was used as a processing plant for the imported cane that came to America from the colonies. Blood sugar –  a term used to demonstrate how the sugar trade was bound to the slave trade yet the crowds want to be memorialized with the look of pleasure on their face.

It’s not that the crowds seem unsympathetic to the histories Kara references. Racially mixed (albeit predominately white), I am sure the majority are aware of what they are witnessing.

So how do we commemorate our experiences with art that is meant to be challenging? As we ram head on into the digital (sur)realities of the 21st Century have we stopped to think about our decorum when we bear witness to problematic subject matter? Have we been educated on how to be critical; have we considered how to be respectful?

Historically cameras were restricted in art spaces but now, often, they are allowed. With a population that is snap happy and needing to share they were there what does this mean for the way we now interact with art?

Are we in the actual moment or does the camera mitigate us from needing to be fully present in those times when we are confronted with difficult realities, realities that may even challenge our lifestyle choices?

We are primed from a small age how to interact with a camera. Like the parents instructing their curious kids, we are told to ‘smile’. Should there be times when we ask ourselves, is our documentation appropriate? Could there be a better way for us to use this ubiquitous technology we have access to?

Upon entering the exhibit a sign reads “Please do not touch the artwork but do share pictures on social media” and the hashtag #KaraWalkerDomino supplied.

As I write, the trending content for this tag is Jay-Z, Beyoncé and their baby daughter Blue. They have been spotted on a Father’s Day outing to the Brooklyn location.

Besides Beyoncé (and the occasional off-colour comment alluding to the Sphinx’s sexualized nudity), the tweets are mostly of people expressing how impressed they are by the artist’s work but the opportunity for a more expansive discussion, even if only in 140 characters is missed.

People seem willing to participate in the spectacle but are they willing to participate in active change?

This sweet stuff is serious stuff.

Kara Walker’s work is not just a memorial to a past travesty. Everyone’s sweet tooth is still sucking bodies into modern slavery and bonded labour. The syrup that drips from the statues of the children is like a living organism that marks the space in real time. The legacy of the sugar trade is in our present moment.  When the Domino Sugar Factory is finally demolished, clearing way for condos, what will have changed?

Social media exposes where we are at culturally. The evidence left behind by hashtags demonstrates that there is much work to be done around how best to digest what we should find distasteful.

Inside our pockets are powerful tools. Technology has given us the means to not only discuss our reactions beyond our immediate circle but also archive them for a future population of new users. We each have the capacity to participate in building extensive and transformational legacies around the art that impacts us.

When the molasses evaporates and powdery dust swept away what remains?

Hopefully an expansive documentation of how people were deeply moved by the work and a record of thoughtful interactions in 140 characters or less.

#KaraWalkerDomino

#ModernSlavery

 #Sugar

“A Subtlety” is presented by Creative Time.

 “Over the past four decades, Creative Time has commissioned and presented ambitious public art projects with thousands of artists throughout New York City, across the country, around the world—and now even in outer space. Our work is guided by three core values: art matters, artists’ voices are important in shaping society, and public spaces are places for creative and free expression.” Read more on Creative Time

The exhibition continues through until July 6, 2014.

Hours:
Fridays 4–8pm
Saturdays 12–6pm
Sundays 12–6pm.

& FYI – be prepared for a long line up!


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RECOMMENDED READING ON KARA WALKER AT THE DOMINO SUGAR FACTORY:

EDWIDGE DANTICAT: The Price of Sugar

“Midway through Candide, Voltaire’s famously naive protagonist enters Dutch-controlled 18th-century Suriname, where he encounters “a negro stretched upon the ground, with only one moiety of his clothes, that is, of his blue linen drawers; the poor man had lost his left leg and his right hand.”

“Good God!” exclaims Candide, who proceeds to ask the man why he’s in such terrible shape.

“When we work at the sugar-canes,” the man answers, “and the mill snatches hold of a finger, they cut off the hand; and when we attempt to run away, they cut off the leg; both cases have happened to me. This is the price at which you eat sugar in Europe.”

We still eat sugar at a similar price.

And not just in Europe, but all over the world.”

Read more of Edwidge’s essay…

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SHAILJA PATEL: Unpour

“White sugar has always been for rich people. White sugar has always been guest sugar, company sugar, sugar for public display. Parlor sugar…

…It takes bones to get sugar white. Thousands of pounds of cow bones burned to bone char are used to bleach sugar in processing plants. My Hindu parents, for whom beef was the ultimate taboo, did not know this when they proudly displayed white sugar lumps in their silver sugar bowl…

…Some of us take our sweet dirty. Extracted. Not poured.”

Read more of Shailja Patel’s Unpour…

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JAMILAH KING: The Overwhelming Whiteness of Black Art

“The overwhelming whiteness of viewers isn’t unique to Walker’s exhibit. There are more than 17,500 museums in the United States that are visited by 850 million people annually, the vast majority of whom are white. Art, particularly when it’s commissioned and it’s covered in important publications like the New York Times, is often seen as the exclusive domain of white folks. Museums, dating back to their modern origins in the 18th century, were usually built by wealthy white patrons and enjoyed by middle and upper class European families. In the American context, they served a specific purpose for opening up and exploring a new continent, according to Ford Bell, head of the American Alliance of Museums who was quoted by NPR in 2008. People of color — their customs, their cultures and, in the infamous case of Sara Baartman, their bodies —  were usually the object of those white gazes. But in recent years, as the country’s demographics have shifted in favor of a so-called majority-minority, the art world has made great strides in featuring the work of artists of color. It’s hard to imagine any work by an artist like Walker or Carrie Mae Weems, at the Guggenheim 50 years ago.”

Read more of Jamilah King’s article…

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CAIT MUNRO: Kara Walker’s Sugar Sphinx Spawns Offensive Instagram Photos

“…Meant to serve as a commentary on the sugar cane trade, and a cultural critique of slavery and perceptions of black women throughout history, the work is part Sphinx, part racist Mammy stereotype, and is coated in sugar. It features exaggerated features including breasts, a bottom, and a vagina. As Walker told artnet News, “Nudity is a thing, apparently, that people have a problem with; not slavery, or racism, but female bodies, or bottoms.”

And sadly, she is correct. While few appear to have responded to the work with charges of indecency, some visitors have been unable to stop themselves from mocking and sexualizing the work, uploading photos pretending to cup its breasts or tongue its buttocks. This gross behavior has, understandably, struck a nerve with feminists and racial equality activists alike. Yesha Callahan of The Root writes, “History has shown us time and time again how a black woman’s body was (and sometimes still is) objectified. From the days of the slave trade to even having black butts on display in music videos, the black woman’s body seems to easily garner laughs and mockery, even if it’s made out of sugar.”

Read more of Cait Munro’s article…

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RESOURCES ON MODERN SLAVERY AND HOW TO CREATE CHANGE:

Walk Free

Not For Sale Campaign

Made In The Free World

Do you know your Slavery Footprint?
Find out by taking The Made in the Free World Survey


Images of Kara Walker “A Subtlety” installation by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

DIVERSITY? IT’S A BIT OF A MIXED BAG: When There is a Multiplicity of Voices How Do We Hear What’s Being Said?

Middle Eastern woman holding a book and laughing

Multiculturalism – one side of many multiple stories.

In a single day, as I cover events, I may spend time in one space that is about design thinking then another that is about curation. I may go from an event on government policy to one on social innovation. Sometimes these spaces may be more straight than queer or more queer than straight. They are religious, agnostic, humanist, and sometimes self-helpish.

They might be Arab or Anishinaabeg spaces and the rituals, protocols and ceremonies change.

It’s a rich way to exist. It’s also complicated.

Because no matter if it is about profession, spirituality or cultural / sexual identity wherever I go everyone is trying to figure out who the hell they are and what the heck does it all mean when you put it into the context of communities that mingle and merge but often overlook the deeper complexities of diversity – most importantly the distinction between Immigrant and Indigenous narratives in Canada.

The narrative of ‘Multiculturalism’ makes invisible the story of the First Peoples. I would argue that was part of the plan. By placing ‘Canada the Good’ on the marquee with a storyline ‘Celebration of a Cultural Mosaic’ the light required to illuminate the systematic oppression of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada instead casts a long shadow.

Initiatives like The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada have now turned the spotlight onto that darkness but as the hearings come to a close, with so much being said, how do we move forward and ensure all the voices speaking are getting heard?

We listen – actively, deeply and with a commitment to sit with the uncomfortableness that comes when you bear witness to someone else’s pain.

The legacy of colonization is a culture built on the instability of over-consumption and hyper-consumerism that thrives on distraction. If that isn’t addressed, living in a world with a multiplicity of voices is going to be problematic because the process of engaged listening is at odds with a society that functions by keeping people in a detached state of insecurity and need.

The government may change but most likely it won’t. In the meantime we can recognize that people aren’t pie charts. We can colour code demographics and cover souls with blanket statements but then we will lose the emotional prosperity that comes when human beings learn how sit and be still with each other despite the surrounding noise.

Middle Easter with short hiar and glasses smiles and talks

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The images in this post are from this past weekend’s events in Ottawa – The Book Launch of Min Fami at Octopus Books and Niigaan in Conversation at Carleton University. The quotes on the images of each woman demonstrate how many thoughtful people I encounter on any given day. It’s what makes me believe that a new space can be created regardless of systems in place that often seem beyond our control. To all the women I had the opportunity to listen to this weekend – Chi Miigwetch / شكرا.

Watch The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Event on the archived livestream.

Find out more about the Native Youth Sexual Health Network here.

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Middle Easter woman smiing as she talks into a microphone
Middle Easter woman smiing as she talks into a microphone
Middle Aged Aboriginal Women with young boy in the middle between them

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MIN FAMI: Arab Feminist Reflections on Identity, Space and Resistance

Cover of book that says Min Fami in English and Arabic“Min Fami: Arab Feminist Reflections on Identity, Space, and Resistance is an anthology that cradles the thoughts of Arab feminists, articulated through personal critical narratives, academic essays, poetry, short stories, and visual art. It is a meeting space where discussions on home(land), exile, feminism, borders, gender and sexual identity, solidarity, language, creative resistance, and (de)colonization are shared, confronted, and subverted. In a world that has increasingly found monolithic and one-dimensional ways of representing Arab womyn, this anthology comes as an alternate space in which we connect on the basis of our shared identities, despite physical, theoretical, and metaphorical distances, to celebrate our multiple voices, honour our ancestry, and build community on our own terms, and in our own voices.”

Purchase Min Fami at Octopus Books.

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IIGAAN’s Oshkadis Chineekaneech: The Youth Will Lead

Flower logo saying Niigaan in Conversation

Niigaan is an Anishinaabemowin word for leading into the future. Oshkadis Chineekaneech Is the Anishinaabemowin phrase that translates The Youth Will Lead.

“Niigaan: In conversation is an opportunity for settler Canadians to hear and respond to what Indigenous Peoples have been saying: Canada has not committed itself to addressing the colonial relationship it still has with indigenous peoples. Canada is in denial about that relationship. It is fair to say that most Canadians believe that kind of relationship no longer exists. We are trying to tell you that that is wrong.

The results of our work will be another step towards the continual positive development of the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and non-native Canadians. The main end result will be to provide an engaging and focused space to encourage discussion, learn our collective history and to move forward to the future.”

Learn more about Niigaan and their upcoming events on their website, Facebook page and on twitter @Niigaan_IC.

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WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES: The Good Men of Toronto Take to the Streets

“Because gender based violence is not just a woman’s issue.”

Around the world we are seeing men step it up with initiatives that bring awareness to violence against women. Recently, in Bangalore, India, men took to wearing skirts to open up dialogue around sexual assault.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/15/bangalore-men-skirts-protest-rape-india_n_2481990.html#slide=1989118“Why does wearing a skirt make a difference? It’s a satirical take on the issue to draw attention to the absurd idea that what a woman wears invites sexual assault. Wear that skirt as a symbol of your support to a woman’s right to wear what she wants, be who she is, exercise her rights, and be safe in her city. Nothing shows more solidarity with women than breaking barriers and boundaries of “his” and hers”. More info…

Close up image of men's feet while wearing high heels with business suits

In Toronto we have the White Ribbon Campaign and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes where Toronto men get out to walk a block in heels.

This year’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes takes place on Thursday, September 26 from 12 – 2 pm starting at Dundas Square on Yonge Street. Thanks to all the fabulous men of Toronto who participated last year. WE LOVE YOU!!!! And thanks to all the fabulous men of Toronto participating this year as your efforts help create change and safe spaces for all people no matter their sexual orientation and gender identification.

Men in suits walking in the middle of street with heels on

There is an old saying…

“You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” That’s why we’re asking you to put on a pair of high heels and join the White Ribbon Campaign to Walk A Mile in Her Shoes®. On Thursday September 26th, 2013 we’re all going to help end violence against women and girls, one man-sized step at a time.”

Register here

Donate Here

See you there!
Street map of Toronto around Dundas Square, Yonge Street.
Men in high heel shoes holding banner saying Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

WORTH CAMPAIGNING FOR: Sexuality, Gender-Bending, the Freedom to Be Who You Are…

Two female dancers dressed up in front of old garage in back alley

& The Freedom to WAACK wherever you want! Check WAACK REVOLT’s Indiegogo Campaign!

It was a late night tweet from one of Toronto’s finest MP Kristyn Wong Tam that put MIXED BAG MAG onto this exuberant project – WAACK REVOLT A Dance Film.

Watching the video I was sold on the fact that this team has tons of talent.

Female Dancer posing in front of garage door

Female dancer posing in front of garage door
Waack Revolt’s Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di (above) and Emily Law aka Em Fatale (left).

Already familiar with dancer Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di (MIXED BAG MAG almost had her as part of the MASHUP STYLE shoot – next time Diana 😉 ) and Emily Law aka Em Fatale from the incredible Toronto dance troupe Kaha:wi (check out MIXED BAG MAG’s post on Kaha:wi’s The Honouring) it seemed an easy decision to get on board to help spread the word!

MIXED BAG MAG’s interview with WAACK’s Director / Writer Sonia Hong was in a word ‘soulful’. At a time where there is ubiquitous imagery representing a too-cool-for-school vibe we often mask our deeper human qualities like vulnerability and the yearning we all have for connectedness behind that chill exterior. I appreciated that Sonia was an open book and ready to share her history as to how she became a film artist who focuses on LGBTQ issues.

Bullied for not fitting in, somewhere along the way and at a young age, Sonia reached in to that spiritual place that we all have inside to find her source. From hiding her light to shining bright, Sonia had done such a remarkable turnaround with her confidence that a teacher who noticed shared this with her then asked her to be the valedictorian at her Grade 8 Graduation.

She built on that confidence and started to attend theatre summer schools where she said improv helped her try on new characters, play around with identity, and continue to grow more comfortable in her skin.

She also spent time working at Legal Aid alongside her mother. “If I hadn’t of gone to film school I would have gone to school for social work.” A keen sense of social justice, she takes her role as an artist seriously developing projects that can help kids struggling with their identity and place in the world.

Two young females sitting at a desk look at each otherWriter / Director Sonia Hong (right) with Producer Allia McLeod (left).

“Community building and creating an inclusive community is what I have always been really passionate about. I want to help young people feel empowered and to know from an early age that it’s ok to be yourself.”

Somewhere in the interview we got to speaking about girl culture – for me coming of age with Madonna and Sonia coming of age with the Spice Girls. Whether we agree with it or not, pop culture is what meets kids where they are at. As a female, Madonna taught me that my sexuality was for me alone to own and to be aware of it and my decisions around it but not without having fun – Express Yourself!; for Sonia the Spice Girls belted out the message that  she understood to mean be yourself in the most bombastic way you dare – Zig A Zig Ah!

Our musical tastes have matured (I think?!) but for both of us the concern is that in today’s hyper-sexualized Britney-Miley-Nicki world sexuality now is only about an act of ‘performance’ for another’s gaze (mostly young girls for the validation of males) and something is getting lost in the delivery along with the chance for youth to develop a strong sense of self.

WAACK REVOLT takes all that on and promises to be sexy short with a definite message regarding understanding, owning and standing up for your sexuality. Commissioned by the Reel Asian International Film Festival as a collaboration between dancers and filmmakers, WAACK REVOLT will be premiering at this year’s festival.

Two female dancers posing in front of old garage doors in alley.

This cheeky love story, WAACK REVOLT. A DANCE FILM, sets the stage for a playful journey that opens during an audition in 1940s Hollywood. It is here that our two lovers first meet and begin their love affair with one another – which centers around their shared passion for “Waacking”. Outraged by their “Waacking” dance style, a visual metaphor for their unconventional love and identity, the public exclaim that they aren’t permitted to “Waack” in public, and must keep it behind closed doors.

In response, the couple escapes to different iconic time periods, sliding and interchanging between genders, ultimately blurring the lines entirely as they “Waack” their way to a full, vivid expression of themselves and their love.”

Female dancer posing in front of garage door

Female dancer posing in front of garage doorUsing dance to challenge traditional gender roles and stereotypes.

The artistic medium of dance has given Sonia the perfect vehicle to investigate gender as it refers to sexuality.

Sonia goes deep into the exploration of how gestures sub-consciously communicate the assertion of power or an act of oppression and she explains that when they are thinking about the choreography they don’t want the dancer playing the male role to come across as a predator or the dancer embodying the female character as not without movements that communicate empowerment.

“I am really exiting about gender-bending with the actual choreography as music and dance are very gendered.”

Waack itself is a form of dance that evolved during the disco era and much like Voguing was embraced and developed by communities on the fringe of the mainstream as a way to own power around race, class and sexual orientation.

“To me, as a 12 yr old girl, the Spice Girls’ “Zig A Zig Ah” could mean anything you wanted it to much like this style of dance.  You should be able to be yourself anywhere and you should be able to WAACK wherever you want.”

Support WAACK REVOLT by donating to their campaign to raise the money to cover production and post production costs here.

Follow along on Twitter @WaackRevolt and Facebook.

WAACK ON INDIEGOGO!

Two female dancers posing in back alley lanewayAll above images provided by Sonia Hong of Waack Revolt A Dance Film.

DANCERS
Emily Law aka Em Fatale

Professional dancer and founding member of the Toronto house dance crew Warehouse Jacks. Emily has been nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore award and a Gemini for her work with Kaha:wi Dance Theatre.

Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di
Multi-disciplinary artist, who has appeared on several progams including MuchMusic’s “RapCity”, and CBC Music’s “How to Dance to Classical Music”.  Diana is a member of b current’s prestigious rAiz’n ensemble – home to some of Canada’s most successful performing artists, playwrights and producers.

MUSIC
Maylee Todd

A dynamic and multi-faceted artist, based in Toronto, Maylee’s music combines organic and electronic forms, including elements of boogie, bossa, space funk, psychedelia and soul. She’s shared the stage with the likes of Janelle Monae, Lee Fields, Aloe Blacc, Little Dragon, and The Budos Band. SOCAN has recently nominated her for the coveted songwriting prize. Get into the ‘Waack Revolt. A Dance Film.” groove with some of her funky tunes. www.mayleetodd.com

CREW
Sonia Hong (Director / Writer)
Allia McLeod (Producer)
Glyde Barbey (Associate Producer)
Celeste Diamos (Editor)

 

 

 

WRITTEN ON THE BODY/ POLITICS OF POETRY: Iranian Artists & the Power of Script Pt 1

Cover of magazine with woman in chador, the barrel of a gun pointing out beside her right ear and Farsi script written over her face.

Establishing the Vocabulary of the Visuals

When Iranian artist Shirin Neshat’s photography first started appearing the language, whether you understood Farsi or not, was explosive.

The images mixed violence, tenderness, and sensuality in a way I had never encountered before. I was used to seeing women valued in art as an aesthetic but not as a stage upon which a woman could perform an act of defiance by literally writing the script of her own point of view upon the body.

This was 1990s and the voices of women artists, especially of non-Western origin, were still muffled under the (wet) blanket of Modernity’s traditions in the way we were to experience art, talk about art as well as conduct the business of art.

Above image from Islamic Arts Magazine article on Shirin Neshat.

“I feel a strong parallel between the writings of contemporary Iranian poets and my images, which visualize the metaphors that are so important in the text.” ~ Shirin Neshat in World Art Magazine, 1996

no one is thinking about the flowers
no one is thinking about the fish
no one wants to believe
the garden is dying
that the garden’s heart is swollen under the sun
that the garden
is slowly forgetting its green moments
~ Forugh Farrokhzād

Above image from Islamic Arts Magazine article on Shirin Neshat.

For me, the contemporary art I was studying in university and experiencing in galleries felt foreign and unrecognizable – not so much to my eyes but to my soul. In the experience of Shirin’s work I found a homeland. It was the gestures – the female hands and lips. It was the look in the eyes staring from one female to another. This time a woman’s gaze was directing the compositional outcome.

Photograph on page of magazine with woman holding a gun between her feet and Farsi script written on the bottom of them.

Since that time there has been an outburst of women in art. Internationally the work of women is some of the most exciting work to be encountered. The art is layered with explorative technique and quick cleverness as well as being emotionally charged.

But the commentary provided in the work is not exclusive to the female mind. Much of the work being produced is about the experience of being human.

Sona Safaei-Sooreh’s installation Alphabet and Border, currently showing at York Quay Gallery (Harbourfront Centre) as part of curator Sanaz Mazinani‘s The  Third Space Exhibit uses a video of English text converging with Farsi script to get the audience to consider the contemporary condition of ever collapsing boundaries.

Sona Safaei-Sooreh installation “Alphabet and Border”. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Border is a video installation in which Farsi and English texts move towards a corner of a room and disappear on the borderline of two walls. It is about arbitrariness of rules and regulations, the sense of in-between-ness, duality and ambivalence that one experiences in a transcultural situation.

The borderline is a narrow vertical line between two walls: the joint. The place two walls meet.  This very “thin line” changes the direction of one’s eye, all of a sudden similar to geopolitical borders in between countries. One step back or forth one is occupied with different laws and orders.”

This beautiful short by Elnaz Maassoumian treats text in a different way less about its abstraction and more about the poetics of its meaning as interpreted by the viewer.

Untitled from Elnaz Maassoumian on Vimeo.

From literal translation of text back over to abstraction Elnaz’ piece featured in The Third Space exhibit is about the “Poetics of Space”.

Image from curator Sanaz Mazinani‘s Facebook page.

“I am interested in Gaston Bachelard’s idea from The Poetics of Space. Bachelard talks about different kinds of spaces: nests, shells, corners…These spaces are approached both from their physical and metaphorical aspects: they offer refuge and constitute ‘doors for the imagination’.  I am interested in the potentials of space. By this I mean the exploration of the possible uses that a space offers. I am approaching this through the reconfiguration of a given space to accommodate specific needs which can change over time. For these purposes, flexible, malleable materials constitute ideal means. They can be easily retooled or reshape to conform given purposes. They also open rich possibilities for redefinition of the relation between private-public; in-out; isolation-connection; visible-invisible.”   More images on Elnaz’s website

To gain more insight into Shirin’s powerful imagery, both in the still and moving image, MIXED BAG MAG recommends Tirgan Festival at Harbourfront Centre this coming weekend. Shirin will be giving talks on her body of work and there will be screenings of both her feature film Women Without Men as well as her shorts. All events are FREE!

FRIDAY, JULY 19
7 pm – Correlations of Visual Arts & Cinema Q & A with Shoja Azari, Shirin Neshat, Babak Payami @ Lakeside Terrace, Harbourfront Centre

9 pm – Collection of Short Films by Shirin Neshat @ Studio Theatre Harbourfront Centre


SATURDAY, JULY 20

1 pm – Women Without Men Screening with Q & A @ Studio Theatre Harbourfront Centre

9:30 pm – Women Without Men Screening with Q & A

ONGOING

The Third Space Exhibit is ongoing until September 15 at Harbourfront Centre.

Work by Gita Hashemi. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

DOVE REAL BEAUTY SKETCHES CAMPAIGN: Where the Stats At?

quote saying only four percent of women worldwide consider themselves beautiful

The real truth about “The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report”.

This 4% stat wasn’t adding up for me when I first encountered it. I was immediately suspicious.

As someone who doesn’t hover in spaces where dominant culture reigns supreme and as someone who has photographed women of all cultural backgrounds for 20+ years I know the situation of women’s self-esteem isn’t as dire as Dove would make it seem. I circulate in communities where I encounter many women who are comfortable in their skin and who find things like injecting ass fat into their cheeks for the sake of beauty the butt of a joke (most definitely pun intended!).

I am not denying that in Western culture there is a long entrenched tradition of socially sanctioned self-deprecation and body shame. And I know that it can translate across cultures. But 96% of ALL women around the globe can’t see that they are uniquely beautiful?

I am also someone who has had a career in branding and marketing making my BS radar quite acute.

So I got to digging.

I found what I was looking for on Dove’s web page titled Surprising-Self-Esteem-Statistics.

Surprising indeed.

Map of the world flipped asking the question can data be neutral? the delivery can change the way we see our world.

So here is the breakdown. I think the visual of the list illustrates the overarching cultural narrative being presented as fact.

The world according to Dove.

North America:
United States
Canada

Europe:
The Netherlands
Portugal
UK
France
Italy
Germany
Russia
Poland
Romania
Spain

South America:
Brazil
Argentina

Central America:
Mexico

Middle East:
Saudi Arabia
Turkey

Asia:
China
Japan

Southern Asia:
India

Along with the many countries absent from the above listed areas, the parts of the world missing in Dove’s study:

The Continent of Africa

The Caribbean

Central Asia

Australasia

The Oceania Region

The Islands of the Indian Ocean

In other words, from Dove’s #RealBeauty perspective, it is mostly North American and European women who speak as the majority for  female voices worldwide.

So I guess worldwide doesn’t mean the ENTIRE world.

#RealConvenient

As the real truth may just be too inconvenient for their marketing strategy. 

And I have a funny feeling that the women that were interviewed in the countries listed above were probably selected from the large urban centres where they have more access to the internet as well as exposure to the Western marketing machine. I also wonder were the women interviewed in Saudi Arabia actually Saudi or were they American women living in an international compound?

#JustSaying

Dove does not disclose the ethnic demographics of its studies and in countries like Canada and The United States the population from where you draw your research can greatly change the results.

#Indigenous #Lesbian #Urban #Bi #Rural #Transgender #Immigrant

#Question the source.

Quote saying Dove's perspective: North American and European women speak for the majority of female voices worldwide. So I guess worldwide doesn't mean the ENTIRE world. Who knew?

MIXED BAG MAG recommends Women For Women International – a women’s initiative doing real work on nurturing women’s self-esteem and self-worth in countries impacted by war.