Cheryl L’Hirondelle: (artist, musician, installations, performer, new media advisor, essayist)
L’Hirondelle began with describing how there is a difference between the idea of “this fake land” and what we know to be Canada. We can understand Canada as being a reserve. L’Hirondelle was passionate about this idea of leaving a trace of something behind after her performances. Sage plants were used in the ceremonies and acted as both a souvenir for the ground and a symbol of new life (nature and unity are both strong values in the Cree community). She stressed the idea of an everlasting welcoming that is practiced; a feeling of safety (never knowing how long a guest may have travelled). I think this token story was an example of describing the radical inclusivity that is so common to the Cree community. As a nation that is referred to as a cultural mosaic, Canada’s national identity is constantly being questioned; it is an interesting comparison. I think a strong sense of community is crucial to the values of any state.
Amar Wala: (emerging filmmaker, from India, the film The Secret Trial 5 was his first feature film)
The film The Secret Trial 5 enables us to think critically about how those courses of events reflect on Canada’s values. No officer have the right to send a person to jail for 13 years on the basis of mere suspicion and not inform the person of the charges being laid against them. Canada’s reaction to this case was in Wala’s words, “…in the wake of 9/11.” In an age of paranoia and increasing legal extremes as precautions, racial profiling is a problem. This film shocked its viewers in a way that leads us to think critically about our awareness of legal and racial issues that are often “swept under the rug,” as Walla said. The fact that a security certificate only applies to immigrants is disgusting. Withholding the evidence against the person is absurd. I am aware that many legal actions take place behind closed doors; I do not think a person charged should be left in the dark. However immigration laws are currently under scrutiny, which could lead to some positive changes in the future.
Media can shape our opinions and in this case the story lead Canadians to believe the men in The Secret Trial 5 were guilty at first. It is easy to manipulate a story when there are limited facts to consider. The tragic events of 9/11 caused many governments to crack down on immigration laws, policies, and legal safety precautions. The men arrested were dehumanized in the developing news reports, which ultimately made it incredibly difficult for them to ever consider regaining their reputations. As a person behind bars, one is rendered practically voiceless. The men arrested were forced to think critically about how they could make their case heard. One of the men used their bodies as a vehicle and as a voice. It is upsetting to think that the public sympathized only after one of the men participated in a hunger strike. It is interesting to consider the sides of the public versus the government.
Abdi Osman (documentary photographer, installation artist)
Osman wants to challenge how to ‘blackness’ is represented. He allows his subjects to create their own pose and this accentuates the authenticity of the photographs. He mentioned his fascination with photographing in doorways, as they represent both metaphorically and literally, the openings and closures in life. He connected this idea to being shut out or shut into a place ie. prison. Osman’s goal is for his photographs to encapsulate the fact that black lives matter not only in times of war and disagreement, but that they matter everyday. The importance of the black queer community can be represented in a medium that can be seen by the masses.
Walcott posed the question, “Where are we now?” I was left to wonder in which context he was referring. He quickly after mentioned cultural theorist Stuart Hall: “…in and against the state are those who feel they want social justice change.” Walcott outlined that there are always two sides to a story. Often referred to as “the West vs the rest.” We can infer that opposition can stir inside those on either side. Walcott said he thinks university spaces of art and activism promote the creation of new utopic desires and an understanding that what we have now is not good enough—how can we get somewhere that is better? Art can allow us to imagine a better day; I think it is a vehicle that we can use for change. What artists say reflects on the state and the state of our democracy. As people we are constantly learning and changing. Art acts as an outlet for us to think about what it means to be human and ultimately realize that it means to be adaptable. We change as we grow, it is important to know and accept that people can change. When considering aspects of our society that we think should be changed, we are prompted to challenge our country’s idea of ethics, traditional thoughts and opinions. I think as both citizens and/or activists we need to work together more cohesively.