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.
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.
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!
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,
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.
Photo by Warren Cleland.
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.
I have thought and thought and I don’t know if I have any questions for you. I know your words were stolen, your stories and bodies turned into sites of shame. I wouldn’t want to burden you with questions you might not want to answer, or memories you may not want to recount. So I guess I have no questions to ask of you. I only have gratitude for you. Because of you, I’m here. Because of you, my daughter is here. Because of you, we still have a small patch of land to call home, a place we can speak our languages and hold our ceremonies together to make our nations strong.
Maybe I do have a question or two after all.
How can I make you most proud?
How can I best show my appreciation for all that you’ve done?
You are worth all the struggles I’ve had to endure and will have to endure in my life.
You are worth it all.
Alicia Elliott is a Tuscarora writer living in Brantford, Ontario. Her writing has been published by The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, The Walrus, Macleans, Globe and Mail and many others. Her essay “A Mind Spread Out on the Ground” won Gold at the National Magazine Awards this past May and has been selected to be published in Best Canadian Essays 2017. She has most recently been named the 2017-2018 Geoffrey and Margaret Andrew Fellow at UBC.
Follow her on twitter @WordsandGuitar.
Miriam, Mary, Maryam, how will my garden grow?
Mata Sindhu, were we always dancers?
How did you find and capture joy?
Peek-a-Boo!! ~ Do you see me now beloveds?
I learn over and over again that tuning into spontaneous expression
is the key to presence and showing up to our life.
People often ask me why I dance.
to get out of my head
to commune with the sacred
to feel my power
to bliss out
to be with my pain
to process my emotions
to express what I can’t in words
I Dance to Celebrate,
I Dance to Create.
Why Do You Dance?
and….Tag – You`re it!
A daughter of the Indus River and the Sindhu people, Kanwal Rahim often weaves dance, storytelling and humour into all her artistic expressions. Her poetry and dance reflects her nomadic and hyphenated upbringing in Pakistan, Egypt, UAE and Canada. Drawing on her diverse experiences in performing arts, she continues to explore new body wisdom practices and healing traditions to deepen awareness and connection, with a focus on honouring the integrity of the body. Kanwal has graced many stages in Toronto and is currently working on her first collection of poetry and songs.
Follow her on instagram here.
Photo: Amber Ellis ~ Creating Light Photography
This is an updated question to the one I invariably asked—“What does that even
MEAN?”—when I was growing up and my mother periodically reminded me to
“remember who I was”.
You get to choose who you will become.
I am still learning this.
Born and raised in Calcutta, India, Ayesha Chatterjee has lived in England, the USA and Germany and now calls Toronto home. Her publisher, Bayeux Arts, has just released her second poetry collection, Bottles and Bones, available from the Bayeux website, Knife Fork Book & other bookstores throughout North America.
Follow her on twitter here.
Photo: Katja Ganesh Photography