Saturday, November 22, 2008

Arstcape Wychwood Barns Gala opening

The gala opening and fundraising for Artscape Wychwood Barns last Saturday was an amazing example of how hard work and dogged determination can make the vision of a community come to fruition. I had been to the first fundraising many years ago, when the Streetcar Barns were just that, unused old buildings languishing, an eyesore, but the idea of making it a creative centre for artists had germinated and caught the spirit of the community. Seeing the results last week was such an uplifting moment.

When we entered the renovated building through the main hall with its high ceilings and large warehouse-style exposed parts, my friend Maryse and I were overwhelmed by the buzz of over four hundred people already milling around, drinking, and tasting appetizers from restaurants in the neighbourhood. Artists displaying their work in the studios, musicians, and performers infused a rich and inspiring atmosphere to the event. I met artists, writers, filmmakers, architects, dancers, environment advocates from the community and they all shared their positive feelings about this creative hub.

Mayor Miller gave a speech which you can view on this blog

The Wychwood Barns will not only focus on art, but will also have a weekly organic food market. It also plans to be environmentally friendly. More info here

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dawn at the farm

It is truly magical waking up early and watching the fog lift up, the rising sun weaving through with its transparent glow. Mist has an ethereal quality that fires up the romantic imagination. But here, I feel deep loneliness, yet total communion with this random, filigreed pattern of bare trees.

"Et le paysage à moitié construit à moitié démoli
à moitié réveillé à moitié endormi
s'effondre dans la guerre le malheur et l'oubli
et puis il recommence une fois la guerre finie
il se rebâtit lui-même dans l'ombre

Extrait du poème Le Paysage Changeur par Jacques Prévert

And the landscape half-built half-spoiled
half-awake half-asleep
crumbles in battles tragedy oblivion
and then it starts again when the war is done
it rebuilds itself in the shadow

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Venus d'Ailleurs ... From so far ...

Last week, I reconnected with Mauritius through two documentaries on African and Indian migration to the island. They are part of a series of four (the one on French and Chinese migration still in progress) titled Venus d'Ailleurs ... From so Far ..., produced by David Constantin and Alain Gordon-Gentil, a prolific man who has written nine books, and won a prize at the Cannes Festival for a short film he produced on Gandhi.

Gordon-Gentil was in Toronto to present his documentaries. The first one I saw on October 22nd at Alliance Française de Toronto was about how Africans came to Mauritius, a poignant account of their plight when they were sold as slaves to work on sugarcane plantations owned by French colonizers. The other presentation on October 23rd at Bai'tul mosque in Maple was about the migration of Indians hired to work on sugarcane fields in Mauritius after slavery was abolished. The documentaries put us into the heart of the people through evocative writing, music, dramatic shots, interviews, and pertinent historical information. They stir compassion for the struggles and difficult living conditions of Africans and Indians who first arrived in Mauritius. At both events, guests were very moved, some to tears. For me, it was a journey that awakened long-dormant attachments to the rich, multicultural aspects of a country I left a long time ago.

It was also my first time in a mosque and I was touched by the atmosphere of tolerance it fostered in hosting the screening, welcoming guests of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, even treating us to a buffet dinner. After the presentation, Gordon-Gentil mingled with the crowd to answer their questions. His easy-going personality, unbound enthusiasm about his work, and interest in people made it a pleasant and inspiring evening for all.

I'd like to thank my good friend Paul Comarmond, Secretary General of IOCP (International Organization of Creole People). He made possible Gordon-Gentil’s presentations in Toronto by including it in Creole Month, an event he helped establish to recognize the importance of Creole in the world.