It's a chilly day in late October, and I'm standing outside Sara's apartment building in West Broadway, five minutes early for our interview. I kill the extra time playing "How would I take a picture of you?" in the courtyard -- a game which mostly consists of walking around objects without my camera, paying attention to light, and changing levels. At 11:32, I ring the buzzer.
Upstairs, Sara's apartment is bright, tidy, and warm. Her cat circles us as we sit down on the couch in front of the faux fire place; he's eager to make friends. We'll be chatting for a few minutes, and suddenly I'll realize he's directly behind my head, gently nosing my hair. We laugh, and Sara good-naturedly shoos him away -- I'm allergic. We continue talking about feminism and Sara's work while a sunbeam crawls across the couch, and the cat tries his luck once again.Read More
I don’t know how to explain what happened to me.
I first heard about Tonkiri when I interviewed Sarah Anne Johnson back in June about her work on festivals and mind-altering substances. After our interview, we continued chatting more generally about the benefits of altering consciousness. She began to tell me about her experiences with ayahuasca at Tonkiri, a learning and wellness centre near Sandilands Provincial Park, using ayahuasca ceremony to heal, learn, and inspire. When we parted ways, she promised me the contact information of the ayahuasca shaman who runs Tonkiri, Jim Sanders, warning me that if I wanted to write an article about Tonkiri, Jim would likely ask me to participate in a ceremony. I knew nothing about ayahuasca, but I was intrigued.
A few months later, I’m headed east on Highway 1 towards Tonkiri, riding with two people Jim asked me to pick up in the city. I still don’t know much about ayahuasca, having decided not to do any online research before the trip. I wanted to just let myself have the experience. But my curiosity gets the better of me in the car. My passengers respond to my questions by telling me a bit about the structure of the ceremony, but when I ask what it’s like to be on ayahuasca — what they call drinking the medicine — they tell me it’s hard to describe. It’s not like anything else, and everyone has their own experience with the medicine. By the time we get to Tonkiri, I’m nervous about what to expect.
We unload the car and Jim greets us as we walk toward the ceremony lodge. I’m introduced to a small group of people whose names I forget almost immediately. I’m happy to see that Sarah’s here. She and Jim’s helpers get me set up in the lodge where I’ll be sleeping for the night after the ceremony. I spend a bit of time orienting myself, relearning names, and chatting with people before ceremony starts.
After ceremony, I spent time talking with Sarah and Jim about how someone could possibly write about the experience of ayahuasca. As Sarah aptly put it to me, “How do you communicate your reverence?” And the truth is, I don’t know how or if I should write about it. My experience was profoundly personal: something just for me. And yet, I went out to Tonkiri with the purpose of writing about it. That sense of guilt, of owing my readers and Jim something in exchange for the experience of being out there, was something I thought through a lot during the ceremony.
Here’s what I will say about it to satisfy your natural human curiosity. Yes, I got mind-meltingly, life-altering high, but it was more than that. I was able to think about my life and the world and the barriers I’d constructed for myself about writing this article in a way that felt productive. The experience changed me for the better.
The day after the ceremony, Jim and I make time to talk more. We’re sitting in one of his favourite spots in the woods around Tonkiri with the wind rustling through the trees. I’m not quite myself yet, still reeling from the ceremony, but I feel ready for our conversation. Ayahuasca helped me sort out the questions I want to ask, and how I want to ask them.Read More
At seven, Matea Radic and her parents left their home in Sarajevo, fleeing the Yugoslav Wars. She and her mother boarded the last bus out of the city before the siege began in 1992, and her father escaped two years later to join them in Winnipeg.
Today, October 26th, Matea’s show 7 opens at the Graffiti Gallery. Her series of paintings and drawings examine “the effects displacement had on [her] as a child and a person.” As Matea talks about her memories of life before the war, grenades, the family that stayed behind, it’s clear this pain, decades old, is still fresh. That’s the funny thing about trauma; it can break the surface before you even know it’s there, won’t subside until it’s ready. It keeps its own time.
I chat and snap photos with Matea as she works on the focal piece of the show: a large mural where a four-legged black beast Matea calls a hole maker looms over an abundance of food, plants, animals, and household objects. The image, like each of the pieces in Matea’s show, is playful, childlike, and nightmarish.Read More
It’s the middle of September, and I’m bundling together a few warm layers, my windbreaker and tent, and my fuzziest sleeping socks to attend the Harvest Moon Festival. After a long ride through the rolling hills of the Pembina Valley, I throw down my heavy bags and begin to set up my tent in the field behind the Clearwater Memorial Hall. It’s drizzling, and it’s not about to stop. The rainy weekend has me huddled next to roaring outdoor fires, sipping whiskey out of thermoses passed along by friends, taking cover in the dry arena and community centre, and dancing my socks off in a throng of other warm bodies.
For many, Harvest Moon means what it meant to me, camping out in Clearwater with friends, listening to live music, maybe eating a fried perogy sold right on the dance floor. But the festival is just one branch of a much larger organization. The Harvest Moon Society also connects local farmers to urban communities through the Local Food Initiative, offers sustainability and agriculture workshops during the festival and throughout the year, coordinates programming for youth, and hosts students from the University of Manitoba all through the Harvest Moon Learning Centre. In part, the festival serves as a fundraiser for these activities.
Outgoing president of the Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative, Lisa Clouston, explains that the Initiative connects “Manitoba farmers to eaters in urban Manitoba who want to support local food producers.” Currently, they’re working with over a dozen local farms to source products like pastured chicken, pork, goat, lamb and beef, raw honey, grains, and organic vegetables.Read More
A handful of massive murals went up around downtown last week as part of the Wall-to-Wall Mural & Culture Festival thrown by Synonym Art Consultation. More specifically, along the north side of the New West Hotel and across a grassy vacant lot on the south side of the Medi-care Pharmacy on Main Street, four technicolour animals now stare each other in the eyes.
The piece is the work of artists Jessica Canard, Siyee Man, Joseph Pilapil, Pat Lazo, and Gabrielle Funk, and draws its inspiration form the four weeks they spent teaching street art to the young people of Studio 393, a youth-led arts studio for emerging artists by Graffiti Art Programming Inc.
The street-art workshops were balanced by activism workshops, where the teens “had discussions on the issues they were passionate about. We were just teaching them style; the content of the art they made was based on what they wanted to do. From that, we got the idea for the need to be unified together and to live positively,” says Siyee.
Gabrielle adds, “We’ve all been building up the inspiration and prepping for this since mid-July. We started meeting to talk about the ideas in August. It’s been a really integrated, long, multi-faceted process.”
Last Friday, I had the chance to sit down with Gabrielle, Siyee, and Pat to chat more about their work on the mural. They’ve been putting in long, hard days, with different artists coming in at different hours. I catch them on a quick break before they have to head off to grab the lunch provided to artists and volunteers.Read More
On Saturday, September 30th, from 7pm-2am, Black Space Winnipeg will be putting on their second instalment of Nuit Noire in partnership with aceartinc., located on the second floor of 290 McDermot Avenue. Nuit Noire was founded out of “the need to diversify ... [and highlight] community voices,” and this year’s Nuit Noire, entitled Illuminate Our Voices, showcases Afrocentric visual and performance art.
This past week, I sat down with Nuit Noire artists Edmund Machona and dione c. haynes to discuss their perspectives and development as spoken-word performers.Read More
I’ve just taken up a perch at the bar when rap artist and activist Vigdís Ósk Howser walks through the door. She’s on time, and I’m a bit relieved. Reykjavík’s Culture Night just wrapped, and she’s been partying most of the weekend. Earlier in the day, she overslept and missed our first meeting. I’m not particularly mad about it because Cafe Vinyl, the spot she originally suggested for our interview, is a cool place and the first good coffee I’ve drank in Reykjavík. Besides, I’ve been there. Sober-self overestimates hunger-over-self’s ability to get out of bed and through the door in the morning.
Now, we’re sitting in Prikið, billed as Iceland’s oldest bar, and home to breakfasting tourists in the mornings, locals dancing on the bar during punk shows at night, and even the occasional screening of an experimental film. Vigdís is a regular. She carries a card that gets her — and luckily me — a discount. In scenes from Vigdís’ latest music video, “Reyndo Bara,” you can spot Prikið’s hanging pot lights swinging around her head. One of the servers comes over for a quick chat in Icelandic during the course of our interview, stealing a few fries from our plate as she leaves.
Vigdís and I are fast friends. Our interview ends with a hug and a standing offer to swing by Vesturbæjarlaug the next day, the public swimming pool where she works part time. Instead, I spend most of the next afternoon somewhat guiltily lying around my hotel room, then spending my last krónas on a glass of red wine at a swanky French restaurant, but I figure Vigdís understands.Read More
I’ve nursed a bit of a mom-prejudice.
I got married at twenty one. Nobody stopped me from doing such a wreckless, ill-advised thing because I have an iron will, and I was raised Mennonite. But the thing a lot of people took issue with was the decision my partner and I made not to have children. You can only hear so many aunts tell you, “You’ll change your mind when you’re older,” or sit through so many conversations about the colour and consistency of the shit belonging to a tiny human you did not give birth to, or see the disappointed eyes of complete strangers after you give them the answer they didn’t want to hear to a question they shouldn’t have asked anyway. I used to dream up complex answers about a bomb going off in my uterus.
Two things pulled me out of that prejudice. I’m not going to pretend I’m over it entirely; the language and tone of the paragraph you just read gives me away anyway, but I’m coming around. The first thing was aging nine years and realizing I could stop defining myself against other people. The second was reading the perspectives of moms like Andrea Mclaren. Andrea’s been posting images and words about her daughter Willa to Instagram for more than four years now, and the way she depicts her daughter and her experience of motherhood lets me glimpse a realm I had never considered before. On June 17th, Willa pops up on my Instagram feed standing among rocks, water, and brush, holding a pair of daisies in front of her eyes. Below, Andrea writes,