THE MIX IN TORONTO THIS WEEK: Ichimaru, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Fatoumata Diawara, Jon Blak & Jean-Luc Godard

Black grafitti wall with faces outlined in white Corner of Richmond & John St. Toronto. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Are we in a new time and place?

In a Ali Baba franchise off Richmond Street in Toronto I sat with two friends eating falafel. It was time for the sunset call to prayer. The voice of an imam sang Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim out from the owner’s laptop.

One friend was explaining Métis history to the other friend originally from Paris. Mon ami parisien paused. With a growing look of elation on his face he declared how beautiful this moment was – the Arabic praise to Allah here in Toronto, traditional Anishinaabe territory, on a busy urban street while speaking of the Métis, a word that is rooted in the French for ‘mix’.

It was a beautiful moment that we, in this hyper-hybrid context of Canada in the 21st Century, can easily take for granted. But these conversations are powerful because they are the wards that support us moving forward towards deep and empathetic inclusivity. The power of storytelling!

And what is happening this week in the Toronto culture scene is storytelling from a multiplicity of viewpoints using various artistic mediums.

It’s going to be a great week!

Portrait of Geisha in black and white

From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru opens today at the Textile Museum, tomorrow evening is Anishinaabe writer / activist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson launch of “Islands of Decolonial Love”, Saturday Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara will be performing at Koerner Hall and “Home: Photographs of Jon Blak” opens at The Gladstone Hotel. Finally the French connection – the films of Jean-Luc Godard are being featured at TIFF this week until mid-February.

(left image of Geisha Ichimaru provided by the Textile Museum)


From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru

“The fascinating life of Ichimaru (1906-1997), one of the most famous geishas of the 20th century due to her exceptional singing voice, is told through this collection of her magnificent kimonos and other personal effects. In the 1930s, Ichimaru left geishahood to pursue an illustrious career as a full-time recording artist, but even as a diva, she continued to perform in full geisha regalia.” Read more…

Runs through to May 25, 2014
Hours Daily 11 am – 5 pm
Wednesdays 11 am – 8 pm
$15 General Admission
Pay What You Can Wednesdays from 5 – 8 pm

Woman speaking and holding beaded wampum belt with other panelists
Leanne Simpson speaking on a panel at Niigaan Gala. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

The Catalyst Café featuring Leanne Simpson, Tara Williamson, Sean Conway & Nick Ferrio

“Leanne teamed up with Indigenous musicians including Tara Williamson, Nick Ferrio, Sean Conway, Sarah Decarlo, Melody McKiver, Cris Derksen & A Tribe Called Red, to record writings from her book Islands of Decolonial Love as a spoken word/musical performance.

Renowned writer and activist Leanne Simpson vividly explores the lives of contemporary Indigenous Peoples and communities, especially those of her own Nishnaabeg nation in her debut collection of short stories in Islands of Decolonial Love.” Read more…

Thursday January 30
8-10pm @ The Music Gallery, Toronto’s Centre For Creative Music
197 John St.
Doors Open @ 7pm
$15 | $10 students Purchase Tickets Here

Image of female singer in African and western style outfitFatourmata Diawara performing at Luminato 2012. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Fatoumata Diawara with Bassekou Kouyate

“Named by TIME magazine in late 2012 as one of the next 10 artists poised for stardom, Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara originally moved to France to study acting, and appeared in several films before picking up the guitar and writing her own songs. “Enchanting and blissful. Her well-crafted songs are often light and breezy, but her soulful voice brings a bluesy depth and potency that can stop you in your tracks.” Read more…

Saturday, February 1
8 pm @ Koerner Hall
Purchase Tickets Here

HOME: Photographs by Jon Blak

“Home presents photographs by Jon Blak that explore Caribbean Canadian history, culture, art and music with a particular focus on youth culture. Toronto-based photographer Jon Blak works as an artist and educational outreach mentor. Much of his work addresses racism, stereotypes, and role-modelling for young people. Blak’s images reflect the changing contemporary cultural milieu in both Jamaica and Canada as he examines issues around class, race and cultural production to celebrate the impact of community. Home will include an interactive installation, and a short documentary film by Matthew Mulholland.” Read more…

Opening Saturday, February 1
10 pm – 1 am @ The Gladstone Hotel
Runs until February 28
12 – 5pm Daily 2nd Floor Gallery


Godard Forever: Part One

“The first part of our massive, two-season Jean-Luc Godard retrospective — spanning the French New Wave master’s “Golden Age” from his epochal debut Breathless to the apocalyptic nightmare of Weekend — comprises perhaps the most innovative, influential and revolutionary body of work in all of cinema.”More info & full schedule…

Runs until February 13 at TIFF Bell Lightbox on King St. W.


The CaribbeanTales Film Festival is “Canada’s one and only forum showcasing the best of Caribbean cinema from around the world.” (cited With an extensive background in the film industry founder Frances-Anne Solomon curated an interesting and relevant selection for the festival hosted at Harbourfront Centre, presently entering its fifth year.

With ubiquitous technology that allows for multi-platform and transmedia productions the storyteller can now connect to his or her audience through a plethora of portals. It pays for film festivals to take notice of this important shift. Including web series as part of the programming is paramount so Mixed Bag Mag was excited to see that the vision was there with CaribbeanTales.

Joyce & Herman: In Stereo, produced by Neunie Flicks, is part of an animated web series, In Stereo, that is edgy with a sweet side. Despite being cartoons the characters have dimension, feel real and are familiar. Joyce is the hhh-auntie-next-door and it’s all about the tea time talk!

With dry Brit wit and Island insight In Stereo is intelligent in the way that it exposes the deeper issues of class and race that lie just underneath the polite facades.

Another web series on the list was Santana – “innovative puppet film shorts that reflect the diversity of the Caribbean Diaspora.” (cited Santana seems like Trinidad’s answer to South Park, politically irreverent with characters that resolve their tensions with shot guns and rude back talk. The story lines are reduced to fuss n’ fight scenarios. Diversity yes – the puppets represent all shades of the Caribbean mix – but this series does little to push for change and perhaps that is not the point.

But as superficial as Santana is other screenings like Chinee Girl and Silent Music dig deep through the layers of stereotypes and silence.  Natalie Wei and Melissa Gomez are two amazing young female filmmakers that not only technically understand their craft, they understand the transformational power of narrative.

As the house lights came up on Saturday night after the screening of Silent Music, Frances-Anne Solomon’s reaction of being overcome with emotion and without words was an expression of the importance of CaribbeanTales. When she located her voice again she poignantly pointed out that it is films like Melissa Gomez’ that eloquently speak to the “healing power of storytelling.”

Mixed Bag Mag couldn’t agree more!

From left to right: Ryan Singh of “Mr. Crab”, Natalie Wei of “Chinee Girl”, Frances-Anne Solomon of CaribbeanTales, Melissa Gomez of “Silent Music”

Natalie Wei of “Chinee Girl” and Melissa Gomez of “Silent Music”

Photography by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.