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

CITIES, CULTURAL PRODUCTION & AFRO AESTHETICS: Mozambican / Canadian musician SAMITO performs at Ottawa’s National Art Centre


Sea Point and Lion’s Head, Cape Town, South Africa. Image by David Stanley.

The extended cultural influence of urban space in Africa.

My childhood experience of Africa was urban. Inside photo albums wrapped in 70s textiles, I flipped through the photographs of my parent’s honeymoon in South Africa and saw images of cities and ports. 

Gratefully, my adult experience of Africa wasn’t confined between a front and back cover. This time I was riding the waves of the Mediterranean towards an ancient metropolis. I arrived at the opposite end of the continent as my mother and father. From the sea the city of Tangiers stretched out before my eyes. Breathtakingly beautiful, it contained within its borders stories of commerce, trade, and cultural admixture – African, Moorish, Spanish, and French. This Moroccan city was flourishing a thousand years before the cities built by European settlers in Canada. Another trip to Africa would have me arrive by air to Nairobi with its nightclubs, bank machines and matatus. I left travelling overland by bus to the port of Mombasa, on the Swahili coast, where hundreds of years of African, Arab, Portuguese and even Chinese cultural influence made an impact on all my senses; from there I made my way to other cities – Harare, Gaborone and Johannesburg. When I recall Africa I recall urban spaces. The cities I encountered reminded me of the ones back home where people from different cultures come then go about the business of life, all the while creating new cultural expressions.

“February 1998 ceramic tile panel designed by Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté (b. 1953) and produced by the Viúva Lamego tile factory. Trained at Bamako and Havana, Cuba, Konaté lives and works in Bamako. He was one of the 11 prominent international artists who were commissioned to produce works of art for the Oriente metro station, Lisbon, where this panel is installed.” Image by Bosc Anjou

Samito is an African born artist with the experience of living his life in port cities. From his birthplace of Maputo, Mozambique, then onto Cape Town, South Africa, he now calls the port of Montréal home. I was interested in his reflections on living in places where pluralism, within the urban setting, is the social structure and how that influences one’s artistic practice and culture production.

In our rush to celebrate diversity sometimes we discount how discombobulating the experience can be when you are the minority within the larger cultural context you inhabit. “My 11 years of living in Montreal has pushed me to think about my past identity and new identity, pushing me into a fragile place. As an immigrant you have [to face] a wall of judgement before you are accepted.” Samito goes on to express that as an artist arriving from somewhere else, people superimpose their (mis)conceptions on you as well as on your work. “Because of that I went into a profound reflection regarding who I was and who I became with immigration. I realized I was in a tangled place. Music allowed me to shape some things that reflect my present space. On one side, you want to talk about your culture and everything you have observed in life, including your past, but you still want to communicate to people in this space, now.”

For five years Samito has been working on an album that will be released Spring 2016. “When I started working on my record I went through a lot of questioning, [you realize] that when you are too ‘African’ people don’t like you. It can change you in profound ways. I started censoring myself. How do I want people to see me? This can help shape the narrative but it can make you less effective. It was a really difficult thing for me. It was part of the shaping of my own artistic persona – figuring out who I am in Canada – how I present myself as a Black man from Africa while still having an impact on how people perceive Africa.”

To negotiate, with a certain amount of grace and artistic integrity, between the roles of cultural producer versus cultural ambassador is the existential knot that newcomers have to unravel. You must keep your wits about you as your senses acutely feel the current city that surrounds you, breathing it in even if the air becomes acrid with xenophobia. If you are mindful you can apply an artist’s alchemy to the experience – producing something beautiful and solid from the confusion. With his music, Samito does just that.

During a vacation back home, Samito worked with three women from the Northern region of Mozambique whose articulate sound – Tufo, a traditional dance and music style thought to be of Arab origin – shifted aspects of his music. “It took two or three years to reflect on what I wanted.” The soundtrack of the multicultural Cape Town that he experienced while living there in his twenties is also crafted into his music. He was influenced by Shangaan electro beats. This style of music originated in the townships of South Africa and was produced by the mixing of traditional Shangaan music from Limpopo with 21st Century digital technology. The mixture, as it seems to happen with everything technology touches, stimulated the speed. Traditional Shangaan music was part of Samito’s auditory memories of childhood. The music was imported into the city of Maputo by Mozambican miners who would go to South Africa for employment. In the diversity of the city of Montréal, Samito heard new sounds that were added to his repertoire. The result is what he shares with us now, in his latest single Tiku La Hina.

Samito bestows upon his adopted city his own brand of Afro aesthetics – guiding principles that recognize the continent of Africa and the African Diaspora’s influence on the culture of cities, both historically and in the contemporary context. Samito’s cultural production is his contribution to the urban. This contribution, in it’s own way, will go on to change the rhythm of the city – not just in Montréal, but in all the cities Samito has called home in the past and the ones he will arrive at in the future.

Samito will play this coming Thursday, February 25 at the National Arts Centre on the 4th Stage, part of Black History Month.

Tickets can be purchased here & Trinity Life Rush Student Tickets here.

FOLLOW SAMITO:

twitter @Samitotv

Instagram @Samitotv

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www.samito.tv

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.

 

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.

 

HUFF: Ottawa’s National Art Centre’s Commitment To Healing A Culture Through The Arts

two young men on the left sit with two woman on the right for a panel discussion on a stage
Left to right: Actor / Writer Cliff Cardinal, youth worker Rob Chief, co-creator of huff Elizabeth Kantor and Sarah Garton Stanley, Associate Artistic Directory of English Theatre at the NAC.

Bravo to the National Arts Centre / Centre National Des Arts Ottawa for creating safe spaces for tough conversations.

As the Q & A (Talk Back) session wrapped up after NAC’s Tuesday night performance of huff Sarah Garton Stanley (Associate Artistic Directory of English Theatre at the NAC) passionately declared “We are so proud of having this piece and it’s a piece we want everyone to see!”

If you don’t know about huff it’s a play by Cliff Cardinal that explores what he believes is the most taboo subculture existing in Canada – Aboriginal children who are addicted to solvents. And because of the subject matter the play is understandably intense and difficult to watch. Cliff’s strategy of immediately making the audience complicit as witnesses pulls people in so they can’t back out despite the uncomfortableness. It’s the right tactic because now Canadians can no longer say they aren’t aware of issues facing First Nations children. This country’s shame is ever present in the media and as witnesses we have a moral obligation to be part of the process that will lift this intergenerational burden off these children.

Local Métis artist and tour guide Jaime Koebel (www.indigenouswalks.com) was so moved by the play seeing it once wasn’t enough. She has now seen it three times in order to absorb what Cliff accomplished with this piece. She says:

“Cardinal’s ability to take on 16 characters in a one hour time span mirrors the intensity of the content within the show itself and provides a peephole’s view of life on a reserve soaked in destitution. Despite the heaviness of the subject matter, the fact that Cardinal is presenting this play at all is a testament to the resiliency of the fastest growing population in Canada.”

When a gentleman in the audience asked “Is there any way of knowing that we are progressing in the treatment of Aboriginals” panelist Rob Chief, a youth worker, answered “Cliff is here [performing the play] and you are here [watching].” Perhaps for all the steps forward that seem to follow with several steps back, slowly but surely, there is an illumination that leads out of the darkness and artists are leading the way!

A friend who accompanied me was impressed by all the interconnecting issues that were touched on beyond the issue of addiction – the educational system on the reserves, poverty as well as incest. “The parts on incest were hard to watch but these are the things we should be talking about because it is the first step to collectively contribute to the solution.”

She feels that “having these stories on stage is a good starting point to build connections between First Nations people and Canadians around the issues” and she “appreciated that all of the people on the panel mentioned that this is all of our history.” She reflects that “by watching a play like huff and talking about these stories we create the on-going dialogue that needs to happen.”

An experience that leaves you with action steps as to how you can help.

Another strategy Cliff and co-creator Elizabeth Kantor deployed was to have resources on hand for each person in the audience to leave with. These resources give lists of organizations, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, that provide services around these issues. They also gives online links you can visit to read up and become more informed.

This was the most effective part of the performance – the “Talk Back” and provision of educational and support tools. So often we leave a performance (or film or lecture) dealing with heavy topics stunned by what we have just discovered but also lost as to how we can grapple with it. To create an experience that goes beyond just a performance to ensure the audience walks away with action steps as well as support is a strategy I hope to see more of.

quote by Cliff Cardinal

I love that the NAC understands the important role they play in fostering these types of safe spaces! Sarah provided the audience with name after name of Aboriginal artists who “shine a path by either entering into the academy [to teach arts education with a different perspective] or not entering but teaching in their own way.” These are the cultural provocateurs who will lead this country to a renewed place.

So the future is hopeful but only if we all reach into our deepest empathetic places. I had some trouble with the play’s ending and final message that the help the main character needed lay just beyond in the spirit world because the help needed in these desperate times lies in the here and now. We need to make intentional decisions around moments when we are intimately faced with another person’s pain to that turn the experience into action.

When asked by an audience member “What do you think can be done?” Cliff addressed us all by saying “In this room you each know people who have influence, perhaps you yourself have influence. Give your time. Write a cheque. I know you can come up with something! I don’t have the answers but I know you have the solution!”

huff runs until Saturday. Performances are as follows:

Thursday 8 pm
Friday 8 pm
Saturday 2 pm & 8 pm

Tickets can be purchased here.

FYI – Live Rush tickets are available. $12 for Students!

For the Resource PDF for huff click here.

young man speaking on stage while sitting

Above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

KICKSTART THE MONTH OF MAY: Contact Opens, Jane’s Walks’ Weekend & the NAC Features “huff”

How one woman changed a community then went on to change the world.

So much of the way we think and act around neighbourhood, community and city building in the 21st Century is because of the ideas of a single woman – Jane Jacobs. If you need an example of how one human being can have huge impact, Jane is that inspiring person who walked her talk and went on to inspire an international movement. Her ideas of what a community should be resonated with many because it articulated what people already knew to be true as to why certain spaces become thriving communities.

Every year, to honour Jane’s legacy, cities world-wide hosts walks that allow people to discover some brilliant nuance of the place where they live that they may never have discovered otherwise. All of this is possible due to the thousands of volunteers who get out into their community and share their knowledge during Jane’s Walks.

I just discovered the above video highlighting a great walk I participated in a few years back. This walk, that featured the work of Toronto’s many street artists, had us meandering through the downtown core via the back alleys where a technicolour world awaited us. The tour was given by Jason of the Tour Guys, an organization in Toronto that specializes in giving offbeat tours of one of North America’s most interesting cities.

Women who are Indigenizing city spaces.

This year, in both Toronto and Ottawa, walks will be given that highlight the history of Indigenous Peoples.

Toronto’s Jane’s Walks’ lineup includes The Steps of Old Lake Iroquois.

“This walk will explore historic land use along Davenport Rd and the lands along the ridge while providing excellent views of the city. How did First Nations people get around? Who were some of the early movers and shakers? What was the origin of Wychwood Park?”

In Ottawa there is a newly launched initiative, Indigenous Walks, and IW’s tour guide, local Metis artist and educator Jaime Koebel, will be sharing her knowledge and passion for Indigenous history on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm each day. Jaime uses the experience of sight-seeing the beautiful monuments in the Capital city to allow people to experience the history of Ottawa, as well as the history of Canada, by walking in the shoes (or moccasins) of an Indigenous person. The tour starts at the Human Rights Monument at City Hall. More info can be found here. 

And speaking of Indigenizing public spaces, artist Dana Claxton’s (Lakota) “Indian Candy” is part of CONTACT, Toronto’s annual festival celebrating the art of photography.

Each year CONTACT commissions work to be put up on billboards around the downtown core, activating what is normally a space reserved for spreading  a message of commerce to instead spread messages on social issues.

Dana’s work  “interrogates the presentation of Indigenous iconography through the digital archive in Indian Candy.

Working from found images of the “Wild West” sourced online, the artist focuses on those connected to Sitting Bull, the iconic tribal leader who led a resistance against government policies in the United States. As a descendant of Sitting Bull’s band who came to Canada, Claxton simultaneously mines her own personal family history and the legacy of racism. Her diverse range of images present aspects of Indigeneity in a new light; from the buffalo, which represents spirituality for Lakota people and was a main source of sustenance until their near annihilation, to signed souvenir cards from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. As a whole, Indian Candy uncovers truths and performs as a provisional archive of Aboriginal imagery seen through the lens of colonialism.” 

For the month of May you will be able to see Dana’s billboards along Dundas St. West. For more information on the exhibit as well as a map click here.

Also part of CONTACT, some of MIXED BAG MAG’s favourite people, projects and art spaces!

THE POWER PLANT WITH
WEDGE CURATORIAL

Pictures from Paradise: A Survey of Contemporary Caribbean Photography
More info…
Opening Party Tomorrow!


THE GLADSTONE HOTEL WITH MANIFESTO
40 Years of Hip Hop Photography
More info…
Opening Party Tonight! 


MOCCA WITH MERYL MCMASTER:

Material Self: Performing the Other Within
More info…
Opening Party Tonight! 

And another favourite MIXED BAG MAG space for the arts, this time in Ottawa, is The National Arts Centre. This week “huff” has opened at the NAC and runs through until May 10. This provocative work has left everyone I know who has experienced it, changed. It’s not a piece of theatre that is easily digestible but despite the heavy subject matter, substance abuse among First Nations’ youth, people seem to walk away feeling that the experience of being uncomfortable witnessing Cliff Cardinal’s one man show was a positive one that includes a message of hope!

For more information on ‘huff’ visit the National Arts Centre website.

FYI – $12 Student Rush Tickets available here!

 

For more information on the Scotiabank CONTACT Festival visit their website,

For more information on Jane’s Walks visit the Toronto and Ottawa full schedule links below:

Jane’s Walk’s Toronto Schedule

 

 

Jane’s Walk Ottawa Schedule

 

FYI-  Be a part of the Samba Launch Party Procession Tonight at 6 pm. MIXED BAG MAG’ fave Zahra Ebrahim of archiTEXT will be one of the procession leaders of this walk that is all about PLAY! Details here.

WISHING EVERYONE A WEEKEND WHERE YOU LEARN SOMETHING NEW & HAVE FUN!

All above images of Jane’s Walk 2011 (Graffiti Tour & Samba Procession) by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

 

INUIT IN OTTAWA: Foodland Security, A Taste of The (Edible) Arctic & How To Do Away With Cultural Prejudice While Having Fun!

Antique image of Inuit family, mother, little child and father with traditional clothing Iñupiat family from Noatak, Alaska by Edward Curtis, 1929. Creative Commons. 

Systems Thinking as the Solution. 

The recent #Sealfies hashtag campaign that has trended in response to Ellen Degeneres’ call to arms against the seal hunt demonstrates how out of touch the dominant culture is when it comes to making an informed evaluation regarding people’s (often necessary) lifestyle choices. When communities live off the land they must apply a sophisticated ‘systems thinking‘ approach in the way they engage with the spaces they inhabit because the systems – seasonal, migratory, biological and social – interact and are relational to each other. Disregarding them could result in a community perishing.

The Western approach tends to ignore the systems. It’s why we have developed a taste for out-of-season strawberries on demand and been lulled into thinking ‘Vegan Leather’ is an environmentally sound option. Advertising is the ‘smoke and mirrors’ that makes us feel good about our consumer choices.

While Ellen, one on hand, galvanizes her audience against animal cruelty, on the other hand, she is one of the faces of Cover Girl Cosmetics, owned by Procter and Gamble. Enough said.

As the saying goes ‘don’t fix what ain’t broken’.

On March 18 in Ottawa local members of the Inuit community staged a demonstration with a stylish twist – a fashion show. The cat walk was the steps of Parliament Hill and the show raised awareness about all the ways seals are utilized in Inuit culture – from food, to fuel, to clothing. Even the bones get used as tools, children’s games and art. When it comes to the life-cycle assessment of the products that are derived from the seal the Inuit perfected the cradle-to-grave approach thousands of years ago.



Above images by Barry Pottle as well as image below left.  

The American (& unfortunately Canadian way) is to service one system – the economy – at the expense of all others. We see this represented in the food that has become symbolic of North America’s culture – burgers, bagels and pizza. This is a culture represented by food that is fast, cheap and easy and often processed using factory farmed meat and GMO wheat. It’s all about the dough. And we can’t seem to get enough.

“Avoid Cultural Prejudice”.

Signs held up at the protest promoted seals as a food source that is local, sustainable, and not genetically modified. Westernized foods need to be flown into the region from the south resulting in inflated prices that make healthy eating inaccessible. People are quite literally starving while fossil fuels pollute in the process of distribution.

Food that is fresh, healthy and whole is deeply satisfying because along with the nutritional value it offers emotional sustenance. When Inuk artist Barry Pottle set out to document Inuit food production for his project Foodland Security he also documented people’s responses to ‘country food’ from the North and the way it makes them feel. For Urban Inuit living in the south it connects them back to memories of family, friends and home.

“Country food means maintaining the good health that I was brought up with from birth. It means that I get to eat the freshest and purest forms of vitamins, minerals, and nutrition. If I don’t eat it, I get weak and sick.”

“The satisfaction of eating country foods cannot be described. There is a spiritual and cultural charge that comes from eating country food – especially caribou.”

“Appreciation is always expressed to the hunter who harvested the catch, and to God when receiving country food, while eating, and after.”

Needless slaughtering by those living outside of the community for the sale of skins on the global market is a tragedy that should be addressed, as it perpetuates the devastation of the very ecosystems that nurture an environment where the seal can thrive. It also supports a larger system that strips Indigenous peoples of their right to self-determination. Living off the land is very different than taking without being thoughtful of the gifts nature has provided.

Approaches like Ellen’s tend to take the patronizing know-it-all stance without much actual investment in the community she is negatively impacting with her words. Another approach would be to get a sense of the culture! Starting today, Thursday, April 3 until April 7 the Edible Arctic Festival is on at the Museum of Nature and on Monday Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami is hosting the gala Taste of the Arctic at the National Arts Centre.

Click here for the full Edible Arctic Schedule and here for details on Edible Arctic After Hours Party this coming Saturday night.

Barry Pottle’s Foodland Security photographs will be displayed at the Museum of Nature for the duration of Edible Arctic Festival.

For more information in Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s A Taste of the Arctic click here.

black stroke

Sanitizing the Kill.

Sign Change.org’s petition against Procter & Gamble’s animal testing here. Animal cruelty in the beauty and hygiene industries is executed behind the closed doors of the laboratory. This technique sanitizes the kill. We think it’s not happening because we can’t see it but everyday billions of dollars are poured into industries that are intentionally and needlessly causing long term suffering to animals. IF we are speaking of systems, this one is archaic and everyday we support it with our dollars.

Cited from Change.org:

You’re funding and supporting animal testing every time you purchase one of these brands owned by P&G.

Cosmetics: Anna Sui, CoverGirl, Dolce Gabbana, Max Factor, Olay
Deodorants: Old Spice, Secret, Sure
Hair Care: A Touch of Sun, Aussie, Clairol, Fekkai, Head & Shoulders, Herbal Essences, Hydrience, Infusium 23, Lasting Color, Loving Care, Men’s Choice, Natural Instincts, Nice ‘n Easy, Pantene, Pert, Physique, Rejoice, Sebastian Professional, Ultress, Vidal Sassoon, Wella
Fragrances & cosmetics: Anna Sui, Baldessarini, Boss/Hugo Boss, Bruno Banani, Christina Aguilera, Dolce Gabbana, Dunhill, Escada, Giorgio of Beverly Hills, Ghost, Gucci, Helmut Lang, Herve Leger, Lacoste, Naomi Campbell, Old Spice, Puma, Valentino
Laundry and Cleaning: Ace, Ariel, Bold, Bounce, Cascade, Cheer, Comet, Dawn, Downy, Dreft, Dryel, Era, Febreze, Gain, Ivory, Ivory Snow, Joy, Mr. Clean, Swiffer, Tide
Oral Care: Crest, Fixodent, Gleem, Oral B, Scope, Whitestrips
Sanitary Products: Always, Prilosec OTC, Tampax
Shaving Products: Bran, Fusion, Gillette, MACH3, Prestobarba/Blue, Venus
Skin Care: Clairol, Clearstick, CoverGirl, DDF, Fekkai, Gillette, Max Factor, Noxzema, Ohm, Olay, SK-II
Soap: Camay, Ivory, Safeguard, Zest
Companion Animal Products: California Natural, Evo, Eukanuba, Healthwise, Iams (www.iamskills.com & www.iamscruelty.com), Innova, Karma, Mother Nature, Natura Pet Products
Food and Beverage: Folgers, Home Cafe, Millstone Coffee, Pringles, Torengoes
Paper Products: Bounty, Charmin, Puffs
Diapers and Baby Care: Luvs, Pampers
Batteries & Electrical Goods: Braun, Duracell, Gilette
Drugs & Health aids: Actonel, Align, DayQuil, Fibersure, Metamucil, NyQuil, Pepto-Bismol, PUR water filtration system, Sinex, Thermacare, Vicks

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Click here to read about how the economics of fashion has created a system of production that is polluting waters around the world but doing irreparable damage to China.

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THIS WEEK IN OTTAWA: Omushkegowuk Walkers, Joseph Boyden, Soup Ottawa, The Jerry Cans + Saali, New Sun Conference & Meshkwadoon

MONDAY: Omushkegowuk Walkers Arrive!

We can feel the seasons changing! We welcome the spring and the Omushkegowuk Walkers from Attawapiskat First Nation to Parliament Hill today. If you missed being part of the welcoming party you can support them by attending the Potluck Farewell Feast at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church (across from the Supreme Court) at 5 pm on Wednesday evening. If you can provide food for this event please visit the Reclaiming our steps, past, present and future – Ottawa  Facebook Event Page for contact details.

You can also support the Omushkegowuk Walkers by making a donation.



Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence & the welcoming group in Ottawa.

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TUESDAY: Joseph Boyden, Wab Kinew & Waubgeshig Rice for CBC’s Canada Reads

Tuesday night authour Joseph Boyden will be doing a reading at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health as part of the CBC’s Canada Reads 2014. This event is SOLD OUT but the good news it will be Livestreamed. Click here for broadcasting details and here for the livestream.

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WEDNESDAY: Soup Ottawa

Wednesday is Soup Ottawa.

Soup Ottawa is a recurring micro-grant participatory dinner event. For a $10 entrance fee you get soup and a vote for the pitch that moves your the most! Everyone’s $10 goes into the pot for the lucky winner to put towards their initiative. This time round the presenters are: Indigenous Walking Tours, Youth Can Slam, BeadWorks, Death Cafe, TACTICS Theatre Co-op and Beyond Dawn.

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THURSDAY: YAO

This Thursday and every Thursday the National Gallery of Canada is FREE after 5 pm  and so is the Museum of Civilization just over the bridge in Gatineau. Nice way to get out of the cold and get inspired!

Also this Thursday is YAO at the National Arts Centre

“A multitalented artist, poet, passionate advocate for the quest for knowledge through literature and music, YAO is comparable to a modern-day troubadour.

Although his music is characterized by a sweet mix of Slam poetry, Jazz and Blues, his eclectic approach and escapades in various musical genre gives it a rich, unique and very pleasant sound.Read more…

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FRIDAY: THE JERRY CANS + SAALI

Friday is The Jerry Cans & Saali at Zaphod Beeblebrox, 27 York Street.

“The Jerry Cans will take you on a stroll through Iqaluit, Nunavut with their unique mix of Inuktitut country swing, throat singing, reggae, and blues, sharing a glimpse of life in Nunavut while challenging misrepresentation of the great white north. Nunavuttitut! Nunavut Style!”

More details on the Facebook Event Page.

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SATURDAY: New Sun Conference with A Tribe Called Red & More…

Saturday is the New Sun Conference at Carlton U (9 am – 4:30 pm Room 5050, 5th Floor, Minto Centre). A Tribe Called Red will be giving a performance. Other speakers include artist Meryl McMaster, Sandra Laronde (Director of Indigenous Arts at the Banff Centre & Artistic Director of Red Sky Dance / Theatre Company), children’s authour Michael Kusugak, and Jean LaRose (CEO of Aboriginal Peoples Television Network).

And this event also includes an amazing lunch by Wawatay Catering. My mouth is already watering!

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SATURDAY & SUNDAY: Meshkwadoon

Meshkwadoon: Winter Celebration at Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health

“The Winter Village Storytelling Festival & Meshkwadoon is a celebration of the First Peoples’ winter culture through artistic and oral traditions of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis People…Alongside these wonderful presentations will be some of Ottawa’s finest vendors showcasing both Aboriginal and non- aboriginal arts and crafts.” Read more…

Part of Sunday’s lineup is a performance by madeskimo.

Saturday, March 1st, 10am – 5pm & Sunday, March 2nd, 11am – 5pm

Individual Day Pass $5
Family Day Pass $12
Individual Weekend Pass $8
Family Weekend Pass $20
Children under 3 Free

More details on the Meshkwadoon Facebook Event Page.

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All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

DIVINE TIMING: Celebrating Indigenous Solidarity with Niigaan on December 10

Woman standing with protestors and the parliament building in the background

When a plan comes together in spite of it all.

When the curators working with the National Gallery of Canada came together to plan Sakahàn, the largest exhibition of Indigenous work ever held, they couldn’t have known that right before the Spring ’13 opening there would be a political movement that would globally link people in solidarity with Indigenous movements around the world.

When Idle No More emerged as a force for change no one could have predicted how quickly social media would spread the news like wildfire – #IdleNoMore#INM, #CdnPoli, #SovSummer, #Oct7Proclaim, #ElsipogtogSolidarity.

And as the Harper Government amped up its campaign of greenbrain-washing this country, a reactionary plan came together quickly because the seeds of change were already being watered and nourished and were ready to bloom.

And blossom they did! The internet was the fertile ground beneath the virtual commons where everyone who wanted to participate could look, listen and learn.

I discovered I could be in two places at once, morally locating myself with like minds via livestreams, tweets and Facebook groups (like Walking With Our Sisters & The Journey of the Nishiyuu) even if I wasn’t able to show support in person.

I felt I had a kind of empowerment that I never had before. I could have a say in what was happening in Canada now and play an active part in envisioning what it can become in the future.

I also felt the grounding that hope gives when you know that there are so many people out there who are willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of protecting the land.

Data collection allows for metrics around keywords and hashtags but what cannot be fully quantified are the relationships that have been made because of people coming together around a cause. A system of roots has now spread across cyberspace.

And those roots don’t just exist online. A year after Idle No More started I find that it’s hard to imagine my life without the people I have met due to the divine timing of a political movement, an art exhibit, and computer technologies that allow us to find each other.

Throughout my journey this year I have encountered many who recognize that  something important is happening –  things have changed, the time is ripe.

The Anishinaabe prophecy of the 7th Fire speaks of an era when people of all races and faiths will unite in an effort to direct the evolution of humanity towards an existence that chooses spirituality over materialism.

I believe that no matter our background we can understand this to be true as well as appreciate the importance of the timing – we have to pick a path.

Logo that says Niigaan with flower decoration

An organization that works toward facilitation around moving forward with strengthened relations between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Canadians is Niigaan In Conversation. On March of this year, Niigaan held its first event to a packed out house! Sensing a need for constructive dialogue around Treaties as well as a welcoming space for Non-Indigenous people to learn about Canada’s troubled history Niigaan offered a much needed service in the months following the start of Idle No More.

The legacy of their hugely successful inaugural event lives on because of its accessibility online but the great news is if you want to have a chance to experience the energy of Niigaan in person this coming Tuesday December 10 in Ottawa, on unceded Algonquin Territory, Niigaan is offering us all a chance to celebrate a year of change, begin more new relationships and continue building a plan around solidarity.

NIIGAAN: IN CONVERSATION WITH RED MAN LAUGHING
THE NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE
Ottawa
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
5 – 9 pm
$75 per ticket or $30 for students / underemployed
PURCHASE TICKET ON EVENTBRITE

Bring your cha-ching for the Silent Art Auction with works from Christi Belcourt, Sonny Assu, Jaime Koebel as well as Kelly-Ann Kruger, Mo McGreavy and Shady Hafez

Man singing while playing traditional Aboriginal drums
People holding hands and dancing in round dance in front of Parliament Buildings

Resources to More Indigenized Places in Cyberspace:

CBC’s 8th Fire Series & 8th Fire Dispatches

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s Website & Book “Lighting the 8th Fire”

Niigaan Website & Facebook Page

The National Gallery’s Sakàhan Website

Walking With Our Sisters Website & Facebook Group

Muskrat Magazine

Man singing with traditional Aboriginal drums Above images taken at the Solidarity for Elsipogtog Event on Parliament Hill. All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

IDENTITY CRISIS: When Two (or more) Worlds Collide with Akram Khan & Basma Alsharif

When Worlds Collide How Do You Return Back to Home?

Last Friday I experienced Akram Khan’s DESH at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Akram is one of Britain’s most exciting contemporary dancers / choreographers and like so many people in the 21st Century he is attempting to perform a balancing act between two (or more) worlds. There is the England of his own biography peppered with the history of the Bangladesh his parents left when they came from Dhaka to Wimbledon where Akram was born.

Once caught mimicking Michael Jackson dance moves, Akram (who also credits being inspired by the moves of Bruce Lee, Fred Astaire and Charlie Chaplin) was immediately put into Kathak classes – his parents attempt to keep him rhythmically attuned to the sub-continent rather than the beat of American pop culture.

Eventually though the mash-up masala that London was produced this phenomenon of a performer who brilliantly synthesizes Occident and Orient into the most moving experiences for his audiences. Akram has also worked with other Brits who have built their careers around the psychological space created by cultural hybridity – writer Hanif Kureishi (Sammie & Rosie Get Laid, My Beautiful Laundrette, The Buddha of Suburbia), internationally renowned artist Sir Anish Kapoor, and musician-composer-producer Nitin Sawhney who has worked with musical ‘fusion-aries’ like Natacha Atlas, Cheb Mami, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and most recently produced the score for Canadian director Deepha Mehta’s adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children – a poignant narrative on the agony and the ecstasy of hovering between many states of being.

“Contemporary dance can have more ambiguity which means it can also have many more stories”

DESH (which means homeland in Bangla) starts in a pre-Partition place then moves forward and backward through memories around the birth of modern day Bangladesh and the genesis of the dancer’s career in Great Britain.

When asked after his NAC performance if DESH is based on the biography of his and his father’s lives Akram replies “it was personal, but not so much to be about me but to be universal.” Akram and his team went to Bangladesh to gather stories they could link to his own and from that experience arose DESH. He went on to say that in contemporary dance there is more ambiguity in the delivery so the interpretation is able to hit closer to home for more people regardless of whether the audience has a historical connection to the story.

The miracle of multiplicity.

A day after viewing DESH I found myself at DOPPELGANGING: A Master Class held at Galerie SAW Gallery and facilitated by Kuwati-born Palestianian-American media artist Basma Alsharif. Basma’s Master Class was based on her struggles as an artist and human being to come to terms with her own shifting identity(s). She relates that when in America she would put on her American identity like a cloak. On the family’s yearly visits back to Palestine she would switch her psychological attire. She would flip flop back and forth with desire for the place she wasn’t physically in “living two lives separated from each other but existing at the same time.” She says she began to “perform” her identities “either defending an identity or denying it” and always trying to find a way to solidify all of herself(s).


The Story of Milk and Honey  قصة حليب و عسل

“I decided to explore the psychology of endless travel, isolation and escapism…I discovered a letter without an envelope or address”

The question she put to us –  is there a way to take this bifurcation of our beings and turn it into a position of strength?

I would argue that many already have.

At a time when we have a multiplicity of narratives these voices did not descend into dissonance, rather they have become a well articulated melody that many hear.

The ability of artists to translate the universality of experience is what helps us remember how to listen to each others words and respect our shared humanity.

We all understand a desire for home, for sovereignty of state, for peace of mind.

Cultural provocateurs, like Akram and Basma, offer us a road map to recover the treasure of deep empathy and a way back to “home”.