Kindness like water

Ancestors,

 

to m.s ramaswamy, my great grandfather who translated thamizh poems into english, whose copies of anna karenina, war and peace i’ve inherited:

periya thatha, your poems are friends i run into from other lives, when will we meet again?

 

 

Descendants,

 

kindness as the means and end. relentless kindness. an unhurried kindness. a kindness that is unconcerned with performance. kindness like water. kindness as breath, as movement, as the stillness in which you gather your songs.

 

 

my name is kayal vizhi. i’m a poet, currently based in toronto. my stories time travel, occupy many geographies, question the validity of borders and are ultimately, borderless. nothing i write will be as beautiful as thamizh and this is a solace.

i’m currently working on a collection of poems that are also essays about family and solitude. i’m reading james salter’s light years – a gorgeous, luminous novel. i’m excited to read anything by durga chew-bose.

Follow Kayal on instagram. 

 

Photo credit:  Sarah Manlapaz Suresh

I want to know

To those who came before—

 

I used to look for myself in timelines and dog-eared photos, tried to trace my body through maps that spanned the world. I want to know how you were all wildfires below monsoon clouds, flickering flames in tropical rains; how one single steady breath sparks the light in all of us.

 

To those who follow—

 

From where I stand, the path behind me unwinds and winds and winds more than my eyes can hold. The path forward is just as dimpled and trodden because we travel with others, because routes intersect to weave tapestries, because we traverse in pairs and navigate waterways with crews. I am sure in my journey there will be slips and falls, tumbles and tender missteps. Do with it what you will. Never feel as though you are obligated to take the same path. Hold your ancestors and heroes as accountable as you would your friends – after all, they’re one in the same.

 

 

Natasha Ramoutar is an Indo-Guyanese writer, academic, and storyteller from Scarborough, the eastern suburb of Toronto. She completed her Honours Bachelor of Arts in English & French at the University of Toronto Scarborough, and is currently pursuing a Master of Professional Communication at Ryerson University. Her professional and academic background is in literature, film, and communication. Both her critical and creative writing explore popular culture, diaspora, physical movement, and representation.

Follow her creative journey on instagram and twitter.

 

Natasha is currently…

working on her manuscript, tentatively titled Bittersweet, which explores cross-cultural and intergenerational communication, diaspora and transnational migration, and the concept of homeland. It examines her relationship to Guyana, India, and Canada with Scarborough omnipresent as a framing device, along with aspects of my identity as a woman, a person of colour, and a first generation Canadian.

She is grateful to have access to the work of so many impactful writers. Some of her current inspirations include: nayyirah waheed, Anne-Marie Turza, Tanya Talaga, Gaiutra Bahadur, and Dionne Brand. Most recently, She has also found a home within David Chariandy’s lyrical, precise novel Brother,  and forever moved by the work of these emerging writers: Adrian De Leon, Leanne Toshiko Simpson, Téa Mutonji, Oubah Osman, and Chelsea La Vecchia.

Photo credit: Matthew Narea

Did you celebrate?

Iethihsothó:kon, ancestors , nyàwenkowa, big thanks for all your sacrifices, resilience and enduring presence within the night sky, horizon, water, land, spirit guides, our songs, dances, languages, stories, foods, medicines, teachings and the unseen and unknown. I know you best during my dreaming; in my waking it is upon your shoulders I stand. Nyàwenkowa~

  1. Iethihsothó:kon, what was Pre-colonial Turtle Island really like? Describe for me, the abundance, contentment, and wonder.
  2. Iethihsothó:kon, why did you welcome the European Settlers? Why did some of y’all not follow the prophecies? Who sold us out, and why?
  3. Iethihsothó:kon, we are still here, doing our best to manifest your promise, your dreams, but shit is getting unbearable. Real talk…what is the way forward for our people? Most of us are done with the negotiating, reconciliating and debating. I’m done with this notion of White Ally-ship. What’s the end game here? The 8th Fire  Prophecy, is that gonna work out for us or not?
  4. Iethihsothó:kon, since receiving my spirit name,                                             Enml’ga’t Saqama’sgw (The Woman Who Walks Through The Light), I’ve been doing my best to manifest my purpose and follow my path, what three things would you advise me to do in this lifetime to keep my passion for my purpose burning bright, before I become an ancestor?
  5. Iethihsothó:kon, what are your thoughts on the evolution of Bannock?
  6. Iethihsothó:kon, what is the most sacred place on Turtle Island where reconnecting with you, my ancestors, would be a healing and spiritually enlightening experience?
  7. Iethihsothó:kon, can you please send actual Thunderbirds to vanquish all these Black Snake Corporate Capitalist Terrorists (Burn dem)
  8. Iethihsothó:kon, did you celebrate when the Bison started coming home?

 

To all my Onkwehonwe I want you to know that although you are the seeds of the next 7 generation you are more than your roots. If you’re reading this it means my resiliency manifested into legacy and that is the greatest contribution any Onkwehonwe can invest in during their lifetime. Speak Light. Speak Life. Speak words into existence. Keep our stories alive. Say our names. Live Onkwehonwe’ neha, remember our stories make us whole and we are connected to all things, and this way there can be no separation between us, even we are apart. We begin as story~live as story~and exist as stories in the after, because our stories never end, they always begin again.

 

Mahlikah Awe:ri Enml’ga’t Saqama’sgw The Woman Who Walks In The Light is an award winning drum talk-poetic rapologist, community warrior, Haudenosaunee Mohawk/Mi’kmaw, Wolf Clan, social change artist, based in Tkaronto, with First Nations ancestry from Kahnawá:ke Q.C. and Bear River, N.S. ; African Diasporic blood lines on Turtle Island dating back to the Atlantic Slave Trade and Black Loyalists in Canada since the 1700’s, as well as, Afro-Caribbean roots from the Bahamas and European roots from Ireland.

 

Mahlikah is currently…

 a facilitator for Louder Than A Bomb Toronto and will be opening the finals on May 12th at Daniels Spectrum. She is continuing to deliver workshops as part of the NAC 10 Learning Days with the AGO and Indigenous Education Centre for the remainder of the school term. She is participating in three recording projects at the moment, working with Red Slam on their second full length LP and a House EP; contributing poetry to Brick Books Publishing who has asked Indigenous Waves, Jenny Blackbird to curate stories and poems from Indigenous writers; and is featuring in the Fonna Seidu, sisterhoodmedia.net project, sharing her experiences with mentorship, creative entrepreneurial pursuits, overcoming obstacles and leadership success. She is currently booking performances and key notes for summer 2018 and arts education workshops for the 2018-2019 school year. To book Mahlikah, click here.

You can find her & Red Slam Collective on Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube & Twitter.

Photo Credit: Red Works and Nadya Kwandibens

How can I learn?

Ancestors,
 
Thank you for your guidance. For making yourselves known – through the stories shared by elders, through the memories you left behind – the music and the photographs… For the way the wind sounds some days, when its whispers seem to call out your name. Thank you for your sacrifices. Thank you for your love and courage. My question for you now? How can I learn to keep my connection to you open?  How can I best honour your lives?  How can I best honour my own?
 

 

Descendants,
 
All you came here to do is recognise the beauty of who you are. All you get to take with you when you leave, is your ability to love. And oh yeah… we’re all in this together.

 

 

Andrea Thompson has performed her poetry across the country for over twenty years. In 2005, her CD One was nominated for a Canadian Urban Music Award. She is the author of the novel Over Our Heads and co-editor of Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speak Out. Thompson teaches creative writing through Brock University, the Ontario College of Art and Design University and the University of Toronto. 
Learn more about Andrea here. 
 
Andrea is currently  doing a lot of research…
I’m writing about the history of spoken word – specifically the influence of Black American art and literature – from slavery to today.  My own paternal family history traces back to the plantations of the old south, so celebrating that creative lineage is something I’m passionate about. I have just completed a CD that explores this history (with music by Evren Oz), due to be released in a few months.
I’m also gearing up to teach a five week Spoken Word Workshop through Continuing Studies at OCADU. The course runs Saturday afternoons, starting May 26th, and is open to everyone. OCAD U – Continuing Studies
Photo credit: Kristi McDougall
 

 

Tell Me

Ancestors,

 

My question is to my Poh Poh, my maternal grandmother who was also a writer. It is often said in my family that she was born too soon. She came from a privileged family in Hong Kong and was afforded an education. Poh Poh was literate. She married when she was 15 and birthed 9 children. I don’t think she was a great mother from what I can gather from my mother, and I don’t know if she even wanted to be a mother. She smoked and wore Cheongsams every day. My mother tells me that she was scandalous as a young woman, wearing “transparent” flapper dresses when modesty was the vogue for wealthy women at the time. Before WW2, she wrote. I have no idea how this happened, but she wrote under a pseudonym and had a column in several syndicates. She wrote stories told in sequence that were updated weekly. They were love stories, set in Shanghai mostly. I don’t know anything about them, but I tried to find them on research trips to Hong Kong. I can’t read Chinese, and so I had a friend who went to the archives to assist me. Her pen name was Purple Pear. Sadly, we found that all the papers were destroyed when Japan occupied Hong Kong during the war. After it was over, another writer, a man, continued the column under her name. All that remains are his stories, and she is erased from the record. 

My Poh Poh raised me from 1 month old until I was 5 and immigrated to Canada. I remember her telling me marvellous stories although my mom says it was actually just the one story that she told me over and over again. She eventually did immigrate to Canada, and I remember long nights in her bedroom, filing her nails while she smoked her menthol cigarettes. I loved her very much. 

Poh Poh had Parkinson’s Disease towards the end. It was a long and cruel death that robbed her body a little bit at a time until she could not move at all, and even her voice was taken. At one of her hospital visits, she pointed at me to the nurse and said in Cantonese, “this one is mine”. I am hers. I am still hers. 

My question to her is this: Poh Poh, what was your happiest moment? Tell me a moment of immense joy, so I can carry it in my body, cherish it, celebrate it for you every day. 

 

 

Descendants,

I am here. I was here. There were more that came before too. You are never alone.

 

 

 

Carrianne Leung immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada at age 5. Her first novel,The Wondrous Woo (Inanna Publications), was a finalist for the 2014 City of Toronto Book Award. Her collection of linked stories THAT TIME I LOVED YOU (HarperCollins Canada) will be released March 2018.

Connect with her on her website,  tweet her your thoughts, and find her on instagram

 

Carrianne is currently preparing for her book launch…

Her book of linked stories, “That Time I Loved You” will be coming out at the end of March. The launch will be held at the Lula Lounge on March 28th at 7 PM

Photo by Sarah Couture McPhail

I ask you…

Ancestors,

 

Thank you. I have immense gratitude that goes beyond words for all you have done. I ask you to please continue to guide our hopes, dreams, struggles, and coping so that we all can move toward the lives you envisioned for us.

With as much love as I can muster,

Sedina

 

 

Descendants,

 

Be emboldened to act, to dream, to play, to be courageous in who you are, without apology.

Always look to the past for lessons, while envisioning a better future.

 

 

 

Sedina Fiati is a performer, producer, creator and activist for stage and screen. She proudly identifies as black and femme and was born in Tkaronto to a Trinidadian mother and Ghanaian father. Her name means a gift from God in Ewe and she hopes to be that to the world. Sedina has a BFA in Music Theatre from the University of Windsor and has worked on a variety of projects ranging from cabaret, Shakespeare, devised work, multidisciplinary work and short films. Sedina is currently 2nd VP of Canadian Actors Equity Association council and Managing Producer at The Storefront Theatre.

 

Sedina is currently…

Creating, producing and acting in a web series called Last Dance. As the Managing Producer of The Storefront Theatre, working on After Wrestling upcoming at Factory and the Feminist Fuck It Festival. Stay tuned for upcoming news on social justice workshop series for the live performance community. I am inspired right now by the next generation who are questioning old paradigms and standing up for social justice in every sphere. I am also working on finding time for fun self care and seeing my friends and family more often.

To stay updated on Sedina’s work, follow along on twitter and instagram.

Photo by Warren Cleland. 

A New Year, A New Set of Questions

We are behind the scenes, developing a wonderful lineup of creative, inspiring humans who will share their questions with us this year.

In the meantime, feel to contemplate and reflect upon one or more of these questions as we settle in to 2018:

What will I do this year to remind myself that I have the support of my ancestors and traditions behind me? 

What unhealthy ideas/ beliefs/ways of being  have been unintentionally passed down to me?  What do I need to do to let them go?

If my ancestors could speak to me now, what would they remind me to do/be? Is that advice in line with what I want to do and who I want to be? Why or why not? 

Come back often.

Stay a while.

You’re home.