Culture  Year in Review

Highlights from Culture 2017-2018

Centering Black Narratives and Histories

The 2017 Montreal International Black Film Festival’s theme was Speak up/Exprime-toi, featuring characters and communities who took a stand, and working to “illuminate a cultural heritage that is often silenced during the struggle against injustice.” Films featured included Kalushi: the Story of Solomon Mahlangu and Black Lives Matter, both set in South Africa. Kalushi explores police brutality and state violence after Solomon, a revolutionary voice, is punished to death by hanging for another Black man’s crime while corruption runs freely through the police force. Black Lives Matter explores how South Africa’s resources are exploited by the powerful elite, stripping the majority of the nation’s population of power and the fruits of their labor (“Showcasing characters that speak up,” Ginika Ume-Onyido, October 16).

The Daily interviewed the cast of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, a choreopoem that tells the stories of seven Black women who have faced oppression at different points in their lives. The conversation explored heartbreak, sisterhood, abortion, support, and emotion — all coalescing to tell honest stories of Black women. The performance depicted “the rainbow of emotions [Black women] are allowed to express,” reminding the audience that “Black women are rising and shining more than ever” (“Black women write history (again),” Gloria François, November 27).

On the first day of Black History Month, McGill’s Black Students Network (BSN) collaborated with CKUT for a 12 hour radio program called “Blacktalk.” The 2018 theme was Resistance, and conversations centered around embracing Black identity, the value of all-Black spaces, the complexities of the African Union, and the assumptions Black artists create. Blacktalk’s “primary aim was for Black folks to gather, discuss, and organize around different ideas related to Black liberation activism” (“Black voices galore, uncensored,” Ella Corkum, February 12).

Queer Storytelling

The Daily interviewed queer icon Eileen Myles about their latest publication, Afterglow, a memoir about life with their dog, Rosie. The expansive interview discussed the intricacy of memory and life, as Myles said experiencing their dog’s death allowed them to connect the spaces of childhood and adulthood, reimagining moments and memories. They emphasized the therapeutic nature of writing, which “is a performance of having, knowing and loving something and it’s a hit-and-miss process of making that thing come alive again” (“Blurring the boundaries of genre,” Panayot Gaidov, October 23).

Travis Alabanza’s first chapbook, Before I Step Outside [You Love Me] explores self-care practices for trans, racialized people that transcend individual experiences and work towards creating community. Their poetry also explores the violence of direct aggression as well as the harm allowed and perpetuated by silent bystanders, the seemingly infinite space of creating one’s own gender that contributes to senses of authenticity and loneliness, and sketching a trans-feminine future beyond binary, punitive, and categorizing systems, saying, “It is not enough to just be tolerated, I want to feel loved” (“On faggotry,” Arno Pedram, November 20).

Indigenous Resistance through Art

Emerging Wolastoqey artist Jeremy Dutcher, one of the 500 or so remaining speakers of the Wolastoqey (or Maliseet) language, performed at the Rialto Theatre. He told the audience that “when you lose a language, you don’t just lose the language. You lose a whole way of looking at the world.” Dutcher performed music from his debut album, Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, on which he transcribes Wolastoqey songs recorded by an ethnographer in the early 1900s, revitalizing the music and language of his people and adding personal flairs of jazz and piano-influenced sound (“Of language and song,” Kayla Holmes, September 25).

As part of First Voices Week, an Indigenous-led initiative to celebrate Indigenous voices around Tiotia:ke (Montreal), Cinema Politica Concordia screened six short films about communities on Turtle Island. The first film screened, Nuuca, elaborated on the relation of “violence committed against Indigenous women and the exploitation of land by resource extraction industries near the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota,” emphasizing that “just as the land is being used, these women are being used.” The Violation of a Civilization Without Secrets examines how Indigenous oral histories have historically been erased or discarded for not fitting the mold of Western epistemology and systems of evidence. Ohero-Kon: Under the Husk depicts the childhood friendship between Kaienkwinehtha and Kasennakohe, two women living in Akwesasne who partake in a four-year rite of passage ceremony in their community. These films by Indigenous creators represent their communities with power and agency (“Indigenous resistance on screen,” Arvaa Balsara, February 5).

Radical Jewishness

Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) hosted a Rosh HaShanah celebration attended by generations of Jewish activists, from students to older members of the community. Conversation about cooperation, community organizing, and personal growth abounded while guests enjoyed a variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes including stuffed cabbage, vegan brisket, assorted salads, and lokshen kugel. One of the evening’s main organizer’s, Hani Abramson, spoke about Rosh HaShanah as “a time for reflection and spiritual renewal. Many of us view our activism as a deeply spiritual activity informed by our connections to our Jewish identities. By fostering a Jewish space to celebrate Jewish custom and tradition that stands for justice in Palestine, we are defying decades of effort by the Zionist project to intrinsically marry Jewishness with the state of Israel” (“Apples, honey, and radical Jewishness,” Zachary Kleiner, October 2).

IJV also hosted a radical Jewish reading group called “Shabook Shalom.” The evening began by performing the Havdallah ritual followed by a critique of the second chapter of Theodor Herzl’s infamous Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), titled “The Jewish Question.” IJV began with this text as a starting point for discussing, critiquing, and condemning political Zionism. Intricately exploring the complexities of belonging, Jacob poses the questions: “What does it mean to be living in diaspora on colonised land? What is the meaning of a homeland after generations and generations of wandering? How can anti-colonialist and anti-Zionist Jewish stories and perspectives be a part of wider discourses surrounding transformative justice?” (“Shabook Shalom,” Tai Jacob, February 19).