For the past two months I’ve been working at Central Neighbourhood House, bringing the experiment of Art & Language to the Mandarin Women’s Group. Last week, Safia Hirsi, coordinator of the Women’s Program, granted me the opportunity to lead the ladies in an artistic project, as one of CNH’s entries for ‘One Billion Rising’ – the worldwide campaign for women’s social justice. I and my co-facilitator (I should say, the group’s regular facilitator from whom I inherited my bi-weekly art sessions), Sue Chin, conducted a reflection on the theme and afterwards introduced the event itself, to an excited reception. We ran out of time to discuss particular art ideas, though, and so will concoct a few with the group next time.
The additional chance to meet and coordinate with the other women’s groups that afternoon was a highly welcome and very stimulating bonus to the other work. While the Mandarin group dominates the room we have, boasting between 30-40 members on a good day, there were (at least when I met them) fewer participants in the other groups, and so at least four smaller cultural memberships fit (if snugly) into the same room. The mood was…how to put it… Giggly? It took very little time for these various brains to start storming once Safia and I had outlined the task. The first experience in my entire life of being translated into four (maybe five) languages at once!!! (Somali, Swahili, Bengali, and Tamil. I think I heard Arabic.)
Within seconds, it was almost unanimously decided that any art work should represent the different languages of those in the room through their respective scripts. With my vested interest in language this was a wonderfully synchronous occurrence! Some in the Muslim group were holding a discussion on the concrete ways the hijab acts as a marker of difference and source of discrimination. I could practically hear the ‘CLICK!’ sound, and soon the idea was to write personal messages in native script directly on hijab material. Given One Billion Rising’s massive planned gathering on April 28th at Yonge-Dundas Square which our Women’s Club members will be a part of, such portable and wearable art will add that much more to our visual presence!
My presentation to the group at large was only meant to take a few minutes and I had to skedaddle to another engagement, so while I didn’t have the fortune of speaking in too much depth with the other groups, as I left the building I could still make out the excited buzz. I’m curious to see how their ideas will have transformed when we hold our mass-art making party next week!
(Follow the story here: https://theyxchange.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-image-of-solidarity-cnh)
To find out more about the One Billion Rising event, check out the following links:
N.B.: The above logo is used as a visual shorthand for the event. I have no formal affiliation with One Billion Rising outside of my co-ordination of the artistic contribution of Central Neighbourhood House.