TIME FOR RADICAL CHANGE: Where to begin?

A line of penguins running off an iceberg plunging into the water.
Chinstrap penguins. South Sandwich Islands. 2009.  © Sebastião Salgado. Courtesy of Amazonas images.

Start with art.

More than several times a day my heartbreaks as I watch what comes through my Facebook feed, like today as more information regarding the children of Syria killed by chemical weapons punctuated a moment. In these Orwellian times when we discover that Big Brother is indeed watching the wonder of the internet and social media is that we are watching too. We participate in bearing witness.

The other stunning quality of social media is that for every story that crushes me and makes me weep there are double, even triple, stories of action and resistance that offer hope and inspiration.

For example, my feed also includes what’s happening right now at Canada’s major cultural institutions and auxiliary events and projects surrounding these exhibits.  We have amazing curatorial teams that have produced shows that challenge the Chinese Government’s position on Human Rights, Canada’s policies on Aboriginal issues and the Economy of Oil, and global attitudes regarding the Environment.

My concern – do we walk away from these shows changed at a deep core level? Do we return to our daily lives radically motivated to stop being part of the problem and act in service of social justice and environmental causes? Will we change our level of comfort for the sake of stopping someone else’s pain or the loss of natural resources?

I pray that all the illumination will indeed cause a spiritual shift towards a tipping point that will alter the world. I want to see civilizations that are socially and environmentally just because today as children’s lives are ended by chemical warfare in Syria in this country Aboriginal women are being sold into the sex trade and the land along with the women is being violated.

It’s time to get radical folks.

What we experience in these exhibits can be our entry points into living with intention.

RECOMMENDED SHOWS THAT WILL CHANGE PERSPECTIVES:

Sakahàn @ The National Gallery, Ottawa on until Sept 2

Indigenous and Urban @ The Museum of Civilization on until Sept 2

Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis @ The ROM, Toronto on until Sept 2

Edward Burtynsky: Oil @ Museum of Nature, Ottawa on until Sept 2

Decolonize Me @ Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor on until Sept 15

Edward Burtynsky: The Landscape The We Change @ The McMichael, Kleinburg on until Sept 29

Ai Weiwei: According to What @ The AGO, Toronto on until Oct 27

& BIG FYI

Ghost Dance: Activism. Resitance. Art. @ Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto opening Sept 18 thru to Dec 15

“For centuries, colonialism has been the cause of suffering, oppression and violence perpetuated against Indigenous people in Canada and many other countries. But attributing the rise of resistance, activism and the associated art to colonialism itself is disingenuous. The destructive ideologies inherent in colonialism are manifest by the interactions of people. The events caused by these interactions change people and their societies. Indigenous art is not predicated on “colonialism,” but on the events that it causes…Ghost Dance examines the role of the artist as activist, as chronicler and as provocateur in the ongoing struggle for Indigenous rights and self-empowerment.” Steve Loft, more on RIC’s website

Series of ads for exhibits at Canada's major cultural institutions.

“THE PEOPLE ARE DETERMINED TO PROTECT THE PINES”: Remembering Oka / Kanehsatake

Kanehsatake 270 Years of Resistance by Alanis Obomsawin, National Film Board of Canada

“They know very well what they are fighting for and its probably worth much [more] than nine holes in the ground.”

Just over a month ago the Turkish people came out to demonstrate in Taksim Square in Istanbul. The ignition – the desire to save trees. In an overdeveloped but ancient city, Gezi Park is one of the few green spaces left and the plan to rob the citizens of this enduring place for want of a modern mall was the final strike of the match.

In seeing the footage of the masses that showed up in Istanbul, I fantasized about the same size of a crowd gathering to protect the trees and the sacred natural spaces we have left here in Canada a land once so abundant with natural beauty but now being sliced through and whittled down.

Today is the anniversary of the blaze that started here in the town of Oka and Kanesatake community in Quebec. A developer’s desire to conform the land into a golf course was the fuel for a blaze that burned regarding human rights.

For the want of trees a population was ignited into action to deal with the deeper discontents.

The trees in Gezi Park were / are symbolic of the deeper discontent of the Turkish people with regards to their government.  Most people would be in agreement that the Turkish people, in their desire to save the trees, acted poetically in their fight for justice.

Was Oka any different?

END NOTE: Some of the land desired for development was a burial ground for the Mohawk people of that community. For over 400 years an Armenian cemetery was located in that area of Gezi Park. After the Armenian Genocide the cemetery was razed.

CANADA’S GREATEST EXPORT: Artist Jennifer Awad & Reflections on Healing

Last night and tonight at the Arta Gallery in the Distillery District there is an exhibit and silent auction of work by artist Jennifer Awad. The money raised goes $1 for $1 to be distributed amongst families that have been impacted by the violence in Afghanistan including the families of the Canadian troops killed in Afghanistan.

Last night’s words and short screening of a clip of “Freedom Fighter” made for subject matter that is hard to swallow but as Jennifer spoke as to her reasons why she painted this collection of work she shared a reflection that Mixed Bag Mag keeps hearing from others. Jennifer feels that Canada offers a place where people can come to heal. Mixed Bag Mag agrees! With a society that is open to new voices and new ideas we can progress towards deep transformation.

And this just may be our best export –  the ‘Canadian attitude’ that goes beyond “tolerance” to actual celebration of each other’s stories, layered histories, and multiple motherlands!

ARTA GALLERY Tonight @ 7:30 pm
The Distillery District
55 Mill Street #102
M5A 3C4

Honourable Mention! Thanks to Twin Fish catering for providing THE BEST SPRING ROLLS & Sabine Ndalambe for being a smooth operator on guitar!

Follow Jennifer on twitter @jenniferawad
More information on One Free World on their website www.onefreeworldinternational.org
Follow “Freedom Fighter” Majed El Shafie on facebook  and twitter @MajedElShafie

WANT TO HELP? You can make a donation to One Free World here!







Photography by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.