Category Archives: Uncategorized

Refugee Shorts


The United Kingdom has just finished celebrating Refugee Week from June 16th to 22nd. Here in Bradford, there were a variety of events from a heated Question Time-style panel discussion to a walk highlighting the monthly journey that destitute refused asylum seekers make to sign on with the court. The University of Bradford Union’s Amnesty International and Student Action for Refugees societies collaborated to create a series of short films to contribute to the Week. As a member of both societies, I was lucky enough to play a part in making the project happen. We tried to make each film in a different tone and style to appeal to a different type of audience.

The first film in the series, Refugees 101, is a set of facts counteracting several major misconceptions which abound in the United Kingdom as well as outlining some of the major challenges facing asylum seekers here.

Street Talk has a more light-hearted feel, a quiz challenging the audience to question how much they really know about asylum seekers as they play along with the Bradford locals.

Out Into The Rain is my personal favourite because it was largely guided by the subject of the film. From when she sat down, it seemed clear that she knew exactly what she wanted to tell the world.

In Someone Else’s Skin was the film with which I had the least involvement, a situation that was probably for the better because the result was far more metaphorical than my literal mind could have created. It explores the labels and stigma stuck on asylum seekers and refugees.

“Refugee Shorts” premiered on Monday June 17th, and we hope that the films will continue to be viewed and affect people long into the future.

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Meet the 2013 OneLove Mentors

The OneLove  Mentorship Program is in full swing this summer! 20 youth are acquiring skills in photography, improv, spoken word, and painting, to share with you at the OneLove Festival. This year’s OneLove show is themed around “Identity.” Participants will be using their creativity to engage audiences in issues of racism, gender inequality, homophobia, and more! Their inspiring work is being mentored by some of our favorite local artists! Meet them at the festival on August 21st and 22nd at the Cultch. In the meantime, learn more about them here!

Graham Myers ~ Improv


Graham Myers is the Owner and Artistic Director of Second Storey Theatre and a founding member of table23 Comedy established in 1999. He has been performing and teaching improv professionally since 1998. Graham has had the great pleasure of working with the likes of Unexpected Productions, The Upfront Theatre, Vancouver Theatresports, Instant Theatre Company, C is For Comedy, Urban Improv, Impromaniacs, Yuk Yuk’s, Canadian Improv Games and Lafflines. He has also been a part of the Vancouver International Improv Festival, The Seattle Festival of Improv, as well as the Edmonton Fringe Festival. He loves to perform and hopes to do so until he’s so wrinkly that he is mistaken for a human prune. Graham will putting his years of improv teaching to good use as he tailors the performance art of improv to incorporate and expose issues related to identity.

For more information on Graham and Second Story Theatre, check out their website!

Rachel Gamboa ~ Photography

rachel1-smallFreelance by title, but an expert in the dance, fashion and editorial photography field, our photography mentor, Rachel Gamboa, will be guiding the youth group through this program and helping with preparation and presentation at the OneLove Festival. Based off the experience level and preferences of the youth group, Rachel will be facilitating workshops that will help the youth build and develop their photographic skills, knowledge of the industry and portfolio building for the group with the intention of preparing the youth with the skills and confidence necessary to continue pursuing their photography passions. In addition, Rachel will support the group in conceptualizing and preparing for the final presentation to be unveiled at OneLove.

To learn more about Rachel follow her on twitter!

Stephanie Gagne ~ Painting

steph1Stephanie Gagne has been an active participant in Vancouver’s annual OneLove festival since 2010. Her dedicated passion towards art drives her to explore new mediums in the fine arts. She currently attends Emily Carr University. This year she will be concentrating on acrylic painting for the OneLove painting program. Stephanie’s teaching method allows the youth mentees to enhance their technique and conceptual skills. She is open to all traditional, abstract and experimental approaches. Youth menthes will learn how to use color, prepare canvases, learn about various tools and materials as well as how they can be used to support the thematic aspects of their paintings.This four month program fosters personal expression and development.

Kim Possible ~ Spoken Word


Kim is  a local visual and spoken word artist, performer, and activist, residing in the East Vancouver area. Arts and activism is her personal passion and can  usually be found in all her creative works. She graduated with a degree in Visual Arts and Art History from the University of British Columbia in 2011 and since then, has been involved in arts-based work within the social justice community. Kim has years of experience working with children and youth, and recently completed training in anti-oppression facilitation through the City of Vancouver’s CitizenU program.

To view Kim’s work please visit her website!

ArtQuake @ TEDxKidsBC

October 20th 2012, Jannika Nyberg and Tahia Ahmed took to the stage of the OmniMax theatre to deliver their speech “Piecing it Together” for TEDxKidsBC’s fall conference : Connect.Inspire.Act.
The pair are still reeling from the excitement! With over 400 audience members ranging from age five to fifty- five, the energy in the big domed room was overwhelming. The talk, focused on the importance of creativity in shaping and re-building communities to be thriving spaces all folks can feel empowered by. This talk was followed by back to back workshops on community development through creative empowerment aimed at children and their families.


Speak Your Colours

Running on midnight oil when not really having anything to do in particular is something I’ve been doing more and more to start/complete some form of artwork. I’m not sure why, but when the world is quiet and I’ve consumed enough soda, coffee, milk tea, <insert unhealthy, energizing beverage here>, maybe even enough of it to replace my blood, I end up becoming both frantic and comfortable. The paints slide better, the pencil scribbles mesh together to form a whole picture, the poetry I write is almost effortless.

But sometimes, I don’t get any of the above- just an inability to sleep, a restlessness that won’t get off my back and an endless number of questions that haunt me until I finally do manage to get the Sandman to land some of his magic dust on me. However, good things can rise from the ashes, and from these unfortunate situations, I managed to collect some questions that are actually really important.

Jen E. blog

One of the grand questions that have been running with me lately is:

Do I, as an artist, have a responsibility to speak up and defend my ideas?

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Coming to the table

It all starts with an onion.

Tears begin to well in my mother’s eyes as she prepares what is most commonly the first ingredient in every dish made in our family’s kitchen.

After the oil, it is the first ingredient to be added to the hot skillet. It is the foundation for soups, sauces and almost everything else I can think of.

This first step has been engrained in my mind since I was a little girl. The onion comes first, my mum would tell me. I grew up cooking with my mum guiding my culinary education.

I owe my great love for food and the creation of it to her- it is because of her insistence on having me participate in the process of preparing a meal that I am now a proud food education advocate.

This passing down of culinary knowledge is what keeps tradition alive. The ways in which we prepare meals plays a major role in how we define cultures.

The art of creating a meal requires some educating.


So what happens when parents stop educating their children on the art of preparing meals?

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Dirty Hands

I was cleaning off my brushes and palettes, (AKA old plastic Chinese food containers ho ho,) the night after the ArtQuake OneLove show on Friday– and I found myself just… staring.

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OneLove 2012: In retrospect

Time flies by. It was only a few months ago ArtQuake was searching for passionate, creative youth to join our OneLove youth committee. Six months and one fantastic night of live performing and visual arts later, the One Love youth program finally came to a close.

The Committee, made up of six enthusiastic youth, received workshops and training in marketing, budgeting, fundraising and other skills related to project management. ArtQuake brought in facilitators from all over Vancouver to provide the resources necessary for the committee to acquire the necessary skills to feel confident applying their new skill set to organizing what would be the fourth annual OneLove show.

And so the adventure began, equipped with the knowledge and tools to plan ArtQuake’s annual summer show, the team set off to turn their ideas into action. With guidance from the ArtQuake staff, each individual youth took on their own respective roles and responsibilities, utilizing their own personal strengths to contribute to team’s collective goal to mount Onelove successfully.

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PeaceJam, Education, and Values

Last weekend the University of Bradford hosted the annual PeaceJam UK Conference, a conference in which a Nobel Peace Laureate joins students aged thirteen through nineteen for a weekend of talks, workshops, and community service. In addition, at every conference, youth make a commitment to advance the Global Call to Action, and at subsequent conferences, present the projects that they have worked on to fulfill this commitment. This year, the guest laureate was Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, the human rights defender and sculptor, and the conference theme was “Breaking the cycle of violence.”

For the second year in a row, I was a conference mentor meaning that throughout the weekend, my mentor partner and I led sessions of discussion, reflection, and teambuilding with our “family group,” a group of ten youth. Our family group had challenging discussions about the justifiability of violence, which flowed into a dialogue about the death penalty; we also spent a session seeing who could make the tallest free-standing tower out of paper and tape. It was great watching the group bond, and hopefully, they learned something from each other’s perspectives.

One statement from Adolfo’s opening speech, which stuck with me is that we need to think deeply about what we want to achieve through education. We can train our children to become professionals, he said, to become great engineers and architects, but if that’s all we focus on, they run the risk of becoming robots—unthinking cogs in oppressive systems. He said that education should also be about thinking critically about values.

In my opinion, many problematic forms of thinking are reinforced in our education system. One major example is some people’s tendency of trying to place everything in fixed absolute categories. While we may need categories in order to understand the infinite complexity of our world, there is no reason why we should not apply them with an eye for nuance and an understanding of the fluidity of categorical borders. The more I look into any particular subject, the more seemingly fundamental boundaries blur. While I can laugh at my friends’ over-categorisation when it comes to, for example, which foods qualify as “breakfast food” and which ones qualify as “dinner food,” it becomes far more serious when categories are applied to be people, whether it be through race, gender, religion or preferred sports teams. This is why it’s troubling that—particularly at an early age—much of my schooling revolved around memorising categories and their apparently “absolute” characteristics. It’s funny the amount of times we learned “absolute” rules, when we were younger, which we had to unlearn as we get older because there was more nuance to them than we were originally taught.

Another example is the tendency to claim universality from one’s personal experience. Obviously we can only think and theorise from what we perceive, learn, and “know.” This isn’t a problem in itself; the problem comes when people assume that their inevitably subjective conclusions can automatically be applied to everyone else without taking the time to listen to them. With this in mind, I wonder why I remember teachers in the Humanities emphasising the “ability” to draw links between subject matter and our own lives. Why do we need to find relevance to our own lives in order to understand and empathise with others?

At PeaceJam, youth experienced a different form of education. One workshop that I attended focused on the relationships that connect us. Other activities, from the campaign for an Arms Trade Treaty with Amnesty International to planting potatoes with the Permaculture project, from the art with Umbrellas for Peace to the session with Peace FC [who in a completely unrelated note won the Tolstoy Cup 2-1 on Sunday], had a similar focus. I think that our education system could certainly benefit from more focus on thinking, discussing and listening about how we interact with each other and our world.

In reference to my previous post about art’s ability to communicate other people’s lives, this new photography book released by LSE (of Saif Gaddafi fame) provides a hugely insightful peak into another time and place.

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Be A Part of the Solution

“[Friend] likes the Most Beautiful Teenager Contest’s photo.”

Wait, what?  I stared at my computer screen, puzzled.  I curiously clicked on the Facebook page.  Within seconds, a page dedicated to discovering the “most beautiful teen” on Facebook unfolded before my eyes.  I scrolled through the page, noting the pictures, the ‘likes,’ and most of all, the comments.  I was shocked.  While some teenagers obviously entered this contest with the intention of winning, others entered the contest to be accepted or validated as “beautiful” to hundreds of thousands of people they don’t know.  And guess what?  Instead of these self-conscious teens being told they are “hot” or “gorgeous,” they are reminded of their insecurities, called hurtful names, and are quickly embarrassed– all through the click of a button.  Unfortunately, it’s that easy.  One person posts a negative comment, and it snowballs.  These comments results in the teen feeling  further self-doubt.  Imagine a person looking in the mirror after being told that they are ugly, or gross.  Suddenly, self-confidence plummets, and any imagined flaws become obvious.

Other self-esteem and self-image damaging competitions are all over the internet, including the dangerous “Am I Ugly?” trend on YouTube.  In these videos, people (usually, preteen girls) ask for the public’s opinion on how they look.  They ask, “Honestly, am I pretty or ugly?”   These videos leave a child vulnerable to bullying, and these videos allow millions of strangers to give opinions and brutal feedback to a child.  It’s frightening.

This is why we need to reassure youth that beauty is not measured in the number of ‘likes’ a photo gets.  We need to remind them that true beauty is not measured with a ruler.  Yet, we’re so quick to compliment a child on a cute dress or adorable hair.  As a result, some children grow up thinking about appearance first and inner beauty secondary.  We must remind ourselves and remind young people that it is inner beauty that ultimately shines through.  Inner beauty is all about values and character.  We must help youth discover what makes them feel beautiful in a healthy way, such as playing a sport or painting a picture.  Teach them something new, like how to cook a meal.  Take the time to listen to them.  Make them smile.  Build their confidence. When a young person is empowered, opportunities become endless.

Art, Empathy, and Kony

Before I was brought on board, some of my fellow ArtQuake bloggers wrote about what draws them to art. These posts sparked self-reflection on my own relationship with art. I’ve come to the conclusion that what  draws me most to art is its ability to communicate other people’s lives, perspectives and emotions. A photograph can capture a moment, a sculpture can symbolize strength and defiance, and a poem can grant entrance to the vulnerable thoughts of a mourning grandson. Thus, I was particularly drawn to displays in the National Media Museum’s recent exhibition of the work of Daniel Meadows, who describes himself not as a photographer but as a documentarist and a storyteller. Powerful art evokes empathy and human connection.

* A sample of Daniel Meadow’s storytelling through photographs.

This reflection on art and empathy was recently brought back to my mind with the meteoric spread of the KONY 2012 film. I have never seen anything spread across Facebook like this has, and I’ve been astounded by how this has resonated across ALL demographics of my Facebook friends (age, interests, gender, race, geographic location etc.)—which I believe has a relatively wide scope. If nothing else, that’s an impressive accomplishment.

I was even more baffled, when I actually watched the film and felt none of the emotional attachment that I expected. Perhaps it’s because my internet connection’s been shaky and so I had to watch it in five minute intervals (leaving plenty of time to digest what was actually being said) or maybe it’s because the video’s many flaws are apparent in many of the other issues that I think about both in my studies and in my own time or maybe I’ve just turned into a cold-hearted cynic, but I could not understand why this video was spreading like wildfire, while so many other advocacy videos—including, if my memory isn’t misleading me, previous Invisible Children productions—have not.

Now this is not going to turn into another critique of the campaign because that has been done quite well already by people who are far more educated about Kony and the LRA than I am. Instead, I am interested in why this 30-minute video, despite its many flaws,  defied the rule that only short videos go viral, and resonated enough with millions of people that they were inclined to share it with others.

                                                                                        * Co-Founder of Invisible Children, and film-maker of Kony 2012 uses his son’s perspective on “what a bad man looks like to convey the message of his power to the world*

In his blogpost about the phenomenon, Ethan Zuckerman attributes the video’s spread to the oversimplification of narratives:

“This narrative is so powerful because ‘certain stories resonate more, and thus are more effective at influencing action, when they assign the cause of the problems to ‘the deliberate actions of identifiable individuals’, when they include ‘bodily harm to vulnerable individuals, especially when there is a short and clear causal chain assigning responsibility’; when they suggest a simple solution; and when they can latch on to pre-existing narratives.’

Sound familiar? The Kony story resonates because it’s the story of an identifiable individual doing bodily harm to children. It’s a story with a simple solution, and it plays into existing narratives about the ungovernability of Africa, the power of US military and the need to bring hidden conflict to light.”

Upon re-watching the film, a couple more elements stood out to me: the inflated sense of power attributed to social media particularly through imagery from the Arab Awakening, the immediate sense of urgency created by a big flashing deadline, and the sense of integrated intellectual and moral authority conveyed through Luis Moreno Ocampo and the filmmaker’s son respectively.

My mother forwarded me this other perspective from Kevin Allocca, Youtube’s trends manager. Allocca identifies three main elements that make videos go viral: tastemakers, participation and unexpectedness. KONY 2012 brilliantly uses one element, an appeal to participation, to go after the second element, the tastemakers. As for unexpectedness,  from what I seem to glean from reading articles and comments on the internet, it certainly seems that those who are pushing KONY 2012 the hardest are those who didn’t know who the LRA was before watching the film.

This feeds back to Zuckerman’s argument. Both Zuckerman’s observations and my own identified elements would seem to convey that widespread support can only be gained through engaging otherwise uninterested people with an oversimplified and misleading message. But is that all there is to it? It seems to me like KONY 12 is adhering to my ideal of what art should be—a source of human empathy—by twisting itself to appeal to the flawed mindsets of many of its viewers. Could a more nuanced film ever have the same impact?  Rather than adjusting to appeal to viewers, can a film gain the same widespread circulation by forcing viewers to adjust to it? I’d like to think so; however, despite considerable reflection, this blogpost is more about questions than answers. I don’t know the answers. This is why I would like to open it up to you. What made KONY 2012 spread quicker and more widespread than any previous video campaign? And can this be harnessed in a more constructive manner?

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