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

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

Were We?

Ancestors,

 

 

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?

 

Descendants,

 

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.

I DANCE

to reconnect,

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 

How?

Ancestors,

 

Which scars are my own and which are those of my ancestors?

Which ache in my heart is from my time on this earth and which is the echo of an ache of my kin?

Which conversation with creator is me speaking and which conversation is me reciting spiritual poetry etched into my bones by the words of my foremothers?

And to the strength…that, too, has been passed down to me.

 

DSC_8073 Colour Print

 

Descendants,

I would like you to know that it is ok to feel like you don’t fit in.

It is ok to be different from anything you see around you.

You can find community inside and outside of humanity.

Nature is your community, also.

You share space with every little green thing on this earth.

Talk to them.

Listen.

 

 

My name is Alysha Brilla. I was born Alysha Mohamed. I was born to parents of very different ethnic/cultural/religious backgrounds and I do believe that has largely shaped who I am as a person. I’m an artist; specifically drawn to the frequency of music and sound. Rhythm has carried me through periods of depression and existential questioning in my life, so I write songs with the intention of offering hope to others. My mother’s background is of European/Canadian settler history and my father immigrated to Canada from Tanzania. My father’s family is of mainly Gujarati-Indian heritage, but were in Tanzania for 200+ years and we know one of my ancestors was Indigenously African. There is a hybridized spirituality I carry with me.

Visit Alysha’s website here.

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