Remembering Practice & Policy (30 to 40 years ago), in the Media Arts in the UK and Canada, looks back three to four decades in Canadian and British media art history, within production workshops and festival presentations with Indigenous Peoples and People of Color. For example, looking back at Canadian cultural activism then and now in media arts, including the Invisible Colors festival from 1988, the New Initiatives in Film for Women of Color and First Nations Women in the early 1990’s, supported by the National Film Board of Canada, and the Canada Council for the Arts. In this panel, media artists Midi Onodera, Marjorie Beaucage, Sylvia Hamilton, Zainub Verjee will join Leila Sujir on this discussion of “Superwomen: Taking Off” as they have previously named themselves during the CFMDC winter 2021 virtual conversation series, “Super Women: Conversations with the Real Action Figures.” The 2021 online conversation will also be available on the CFMDC website during the presentation of this new panel discussion.
Joining the conversation from the UK, are photo-based artists Roshini Kempadoo (Westminster/Autograph member), Sunil Gupta (University for Creative Arts/Autograph, OVA and INIVA member), along with Charan Singh (Kingston University), to discuss photography as a deeply problematic form that visualized the colonial subject with a contradictory contribution as a liberatory and transformative visualization tool for global south cultures. Gupta and Kempadoo contributed to the formation of Autograph, the Association of Black Photographers and the Institute of International Visual Arts (INIVA) in the UK (1980s onwards), and continue to visualize the colonial aftermath that lives on in Britain, Canada, India and the Caribbean.
The panel will include two online screenings: Chilean Canadian filmmaker, Maria Teresa Larraín’s “Shadow Girl” (a poetic journey that explores art, vision, privilege/poverty, dis/ability), and Guyana born Canadian filmmaker Michelle Mohabeer’s “Queer Coolie-Tudes” (an essay documentary that explores diverse lives and histories from Indo-Caribbean diasporas in Canada), which will be screened online at CFMDC.tv.
Hosted by 4th Space and the CFMDC https://www.cfmdc.org
Film Screenings (scheduled screenings – Canada and UK time)
Bios and talk descriptions:
Midi Onodera is an award-winning filmmaker and media artist who has been making films and videos for 35+ years. In 2017, Midi received the Governor General’s Award for Visual and Media Arts. Her work is laced with markers of her experiences as a feminist, lesbian, Japanese-Canadian woman. She has produced over 25 independent shorts, ranging from 16mm film to digital video to toy camera formats. Her film The Displaced View (1988) was nominated for Best Documentary at the Gemini Awards. Skin Deep (1995), her theatrical feature, screened internationally at festivals including the Rotterdam International Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. Since 2006 she has made over 500 Vidoodles (defined as bite-sized 30 second to 2 minute video doodles). Each year since 2009 she presents an annual video project addressing themes of language, media, politics and everyday life.
Leila Sujir, PI for the Connections grant, (Associate Professor, Studio Arts, Concordia University) has over thirty years of experience as a video installation artist exploring issues of immigration, migration, nation, and culture with exploration of archival documents. She uses a mix of fiction, fantasy and documentary with stereoscopic 3D technology and audiovisual collage techniques. With expertise in leading partnerships and collaborations, she will guide the process, facilitating communication and collaboration between partners and team members, as well as ensuring that the Connection goals and outcomes are achieved, while providing an open space for dialogue, vast opportunities for project development, and artistic interdisciplinary exploration for emerging scholars, students, researchers, community and team members.
SuperWomen: Taking Off and The Breadth Of was a month-long, online symposium that investigated and responded to the living archive of the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC). Highlighted during this month-long program was the video series, SuperWomen: Conversations with the Real Action Figures. This was a collection of interviews with seven astounding women who have an extensive history of working in film and video in Canada. Interviews featured: Marjorie Beaucage, Christene Browne, Sylvia D. Hamilton, Maria Teresa Larrain, Michelle Mohabeer, Leila Sujir, and Zainub Verjee in conversation with Midi Onodera. Leila Sujir and Midi Onodera will propose spaces and territories for community activism, possibilities with digital technologies and media forms and create a space for intergenerational dialogue. These “superwomen” want to reach out to the next generations, around community activism and the possibilities that digital technologies and media forms provide, to create intergenerational dialogue.
Marjorie Beaucage is a Two-Spirit Metis Auntie, filmmaker, art-ivist and educator, a land protector and a water protector. Born in Vassar, Manitoba, to a large Metis family, Marjorie’s life’s work has been about creating social change, working to give people the tools for creating possibilities and right relations. Whether in the classroom, community, campsite or the arts, Marjorie’s goal has been to pass on the stories, knowledge and skills that will make a difference for the future. For Marjorie, story is medicine. As a Two-Spirit Metis Elder, Marjorie Beacage takes on the tough topics that need to be discussed. Her work is focused on giving voice to, and creating safe cultural spaces for, traditionally silenced or excluded groups. Marjorie Beaucage is known on the local, regional and national levels as an Elder who speaks truth to power, and who holds space for difference
as long as the rivers flow… In the Summer 2021, Marjorie Beaucage is doing a 1900 km Water Walk to protect the Saskatchewan River, starting at the headwaters (Saskatchewan Crossing) near the Columbia Icefields in the Rocky Mountains to Lake Winnipeg. Her presentation addresses that it is written in the treaties…. yet many of our waters are in danger and many communities do not have drinking water. Walks to protect the water are what women have been doing for many years. In summer 2021, I am walking for the Saskatchewan River and documenting my journey. Water is Life and I want to share her voice. She has been a Grandmother for Walking With Our Sisters; the Elder for OUT Saskatoon; and the Elder-In-Residence for the University of Saskatchewan Student Union. She has also been called on for national research initiatives that focus on Indigenous women living with HIV, Indigenous Harm Reduction, Indigenous youth who experience sexual and gender-based violence, and post-traumatic stress. In all of these, Marjorie returns to story as medicine, to art as medicine. Marjorie says of her work, “creation is a powerful thing; whether you’re making a baby or a loaf of bread or a movie, it comes from the same place. To get people to tap into that energy that creates possibilities, so they don’t get stuck in this craziness that we’re in, is transformative.”
Sylvia Hamilton is a Nova Scotian filmmaker, writer and artist raised in Beechville, a community established in Nova Scotia, by free Black Refugee-Survivors from the War of 1812. Her films include Black Mother Black Daughter, Speak It: From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia, Portia White: Think On Me and The Little Black School House, among others. Broadcast in Canada and screened at festivals at home and abroad, they are widely used in schools and universities. And I Alone Escaped to Tell You was short-listed for a 2015 League of Canadian Poets Award and was a finalist for the Nova Scotia Masterworks Award. Excavation/Here We Are Here, her multi-media installation, has been shown at galleries and museums in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. She recently retired as Roger’s Chair in Communications at the University of King’s College in Halifax and was named an Inglis Professor.
Who holds the camera? Who holds the microphone? These are two essential questions we always have to ask when thinking about telling women’s stories in their own voices, from their own points of view. Much of my work has revolved around finding ways to provide women and girls with the tools of production. From my work with New Initiatives in Film, to my work with the Women in Media Foundation, my goal was to find ways, strategies to make this happen. In 1990 I co-created New Initiatives in Film (NIF), a program within the National Film Board’s Studio D, to provide filmmaking opportunities for women of colour and Indigenous women filmmakers. I held board and committee positions in a variety of local and national organizations including the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) and the Canada Council’s Racial Equity Committee. I received the Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media in 2019.
Zainub Verjee has over four decades built a formidable reputation as an artist, writer, critic, cultural administrator and public intellectual in Canada and internationally. Deeply engaged with the UK’s British Black Arts, Third Cinema and the post-Bandung decolonization, Tactical Video Movement, Zainub Verjee has been embedded in the early years of Vancouver’s photo-conceptualism movement as well as history of women’s labour in British Columbia. She co-founded the critically acclaimed In Visible Colours: An International Film/Video Festival & Symposium for Third World Women and Women of Colour (1989), a widely and critically recognized as a foundational film festival in Canada. As a result, she received the National Film Board Fellowship in 1992 as part of New Initiatives in Film for women of colour and aboriginal women.As an internationalist, her work in video distribution/programming, curatorship, policy and administration has been consistent and contiguous with what might be termed a critical transversal aesthetic.
In Visible Colours: At the axis of Third World Decolonization, Feminism and Video Activism With the emergence of Video as an important medium, the women artist, especially of colour, found a new agency in making interventions into established canon. Engaging with the Feminist media distribution history and the network of feminist counter-publics, this presentation embeds the imperative of In Visibile Colours amidst Third World decolonization and defining role of women in building of national cinema cultures. The presentation will discuss and throw light on the marginalization of voices in the early history of video activism.
Sunil Gupta (Professorial Fellow- Fine art and Photography- at The University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, and Visiting Lecturer at Kingston University, London) is an artist, academic researcher and curator who has been involved with independent photography as a critical practice for many years focusing on race, migration and queer issues. He was an active participant in the ‘Black Arts’ movement in the UK in the 1980s and a co-founder (1990) of Autograph-Association of Black Photographers, London, and a holder of one of the three founding curatorial franchises of INIVA in London.
Roshini Kempadoo (Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media [CREAM] PhD programme Director, University of Westminster) and a photographer and media artist who interprets, analyzes and re-imagines historical experiences and memories as women’s visual narratives within the focus of migration, and active in the ‘Black Arts’ movement in the UK in the 1980s and instrumental to the founding of Autograph Association of Black Photographers, London.
Critical Decades to Come: Imaging Future Lives International photographers Sunil Gupta and Roshini Kempadoo contributed to the formation of Autograph the Association of Black Photographers and Iniva in the UK (1980s onwards), continue to visualise the colonial aftermath that lives on in Britain, Canada, India and the Caribbean. Gupta and Kempadoo also contribute to a network of practitioners working in India and the Caribbean around critical questions of historic, current discrimination, extractivism and violence. This contribution explores early photography work done by Gupta and Kempadoo that helped generate cultural debates around photography’s role in visualising racialised injustices and helped expose deep and significant differences inherent in debates about the politics of blackness. Here we simultaneously recognise photography as a deeply problematic form that visualised the colonial subject with a contradictory contribution as a liberatory and transformative visualisation tool for global south cultures. Our inter-generational conversation (Charan Singh and Nadia Huggins (tbc.) will reflect on some of the visual strategies and cultural activism we developed whilst drawing on current photographic work in order to imagine a progressive future.
Charan Singh (PhD graduate student, Royal College of Art, London UK) lives and works in New Delhi and London and is a PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art. His practice is informed by his involvement with HIV/AIDS activism and queer politics in his ‘pre-English language’ life. He uses photography, text and video to explore the importance of storytelling and translation of queer experiences. His video work “They Called it Love, But Was it Love?” was commissioned by Visual Aids (New York) 2020. The Third Gender, Pforzheim 2021. His recent show titled “Sunil Gupta and Charan Singh” was held at Brixton Library in February 2020. Other exhibitions “Dissent and Desire” has been seen at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kochi, India 2018, at the Contemporary Art Museum Houston, (catalogue) 2018, and at SepiaEye, NY 2017. He was awarded Magnum/Photo London Award 2016, FIAR residency (NY 2017). His portrait series “Kothis, Hijras, Giriyas and Others” was featured in The Photoworks Annual (UK) in 2017.
Going Sideways: learning to leap My practice has been documenting the lives of working class, effeminate queer males in Delhi, who came of age in the early 1990s just as HIV/AIDS arrived in India known as Kothis, and Hijras; a queer sub-culture. Since then, these communities have rarely been seen outside an HIV/AIDS context and have been reduced to mere survival stories. Therefore, in my presentation, I will be focusing on refusal as a political gesture to grand narrative institutionalized forms of oppression, and by deploying storytelling as a tool for resistance. It will also mark that these identities are blurred, and that they are complicit in caste and class struggles. My use of images and stories as symbolic gestures point towards the fragmented nature of queerness, a discourse which has been overtaken by neo-colonial narratives.
Maria Teresa Larraín, is a Chilean born filmmaker, who studied Law and Drama in her native land. In 1976, Larraín immigrated to Canada where she worked as a legal assistant and a community worker with immigrant women and refugees, and also studied Radio and Television Arts at the Ryerson University in Toronto. She graduated from that program in 1984 and has since worked as an independent filmmaker both in Chile and in Canada. Larraín has been invited to participate in several professional development programs including the Documentary Edit and Story Lab and the Documentary and Composers Lab of the Sundance Institute in Utah and the Alan King’s Documentary Studio and the Canadian Film Centre Scriptwriters Lab in Toronto. Her last documentary “Besieged Land”/ “El Juicio de Pascual Pichún” was at various international film festivals in Latin America, Canada and the United States, and her films “Dolores” and “Looking for Findley” have been broadcasted in Bravo! and Telelatino in Toronto. Today, Larraín is taking Disability Studies at Ryerson University no and is also developing two new projects: an itinerant exhibition of Shadow Girl, which will take place in Chile, Canada and Costa Rica, and a Transmedia Project directed by and for people with disabilities.
SHADOW GIRL is the extraordinary story of a filmmaker struggling with the prospect of losing her vision. While editing her last film in Toronto, Chilean-born filmmaker María Teresa Larraín suddenly begins to go blind. After she’s denied disability benefits by the Canadian government, she returns home to Chile. There, inspired by the resilience and wisdom of the blind street vendors she meets, María Teresa confronts her fears and steps courageously into her new life while reclaiming her dignity and her voice as an artist. This powerful and poetic film raises complex questions about art and “vision,” able and dis-abled, and poverty and privilege.
Michelle Mohabeer was born in Guyana/South American and lives in Toronto, she is a multi award-winning filmmaker/media artist, film scholar, academic and writer who earned her PhD from the University of Toronto in (2006). She was recognized as “best female filmmaker 2020” by the Berlin Underground Film Festival for her second creative feature documentary, Queer Coolie-tudes (2019), which was awarded Direction Excellence from Docs Without Borders and won the “Intersect Award” from the 15th Caribbean Tales International Film Festival. Queer Coolie-tudes had its Canadian premiere at the 28th Inside Out Film Festival and its European premier in the media library collection of the 50th Visions du Reel in Switzerland and theatrically at the International Queer and Migrant Film Festival in Amsterdam. Prior films include the feature essay documentary, Blu In You (2008), the Inside Out commissioned short film Echoes (2003), the Canada Council/Making Scenes Ottawa commissioned Tracing Soul (2000), her MFA experimental narrative, Child-Play (1996), TWO/DOH (1996), Coconut/Cane & Cutlass (1994), and the commissioned Five Feminist Minutes short, EXPOSURE (1990) which was produced by the National Film Board of Canada (former-studio D women’s unit). Mohabeer’s films have exhibited worldwide at over 300 festivals, conferences, and galleries, and collected by over 60 University libraries across the U.S, Canada, and in the Caribbean. Her films have been profiled or written about in Film Fatales: Independent Women Directors, The Romance of Transgression in Canada, North of Everything, The Bent Lens, Queering Canada: A Collection of Essays, and the article, “Putting the Cool in Coolie: Disidentification, Desire and Dissent in the work of filmmaker, Michelle Mohabeer” in The Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, among others. Dr. Mohabeer teaches at York University in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and in the Department of Communications at Glendon campus. Future projects include: a feature documentary, and she is the contributing editor of a critical anthology, Reframing the Nation: Indigenous, Racialized & Queer BIPOC Canadian Independent Women Filmmakers 1990-2020.
Queer Coolie-Tudes, Canada/Guyana / 1:27:00 / 2019 / sound / colour / English Queer Coolie-tudes is a creative essay documentary and queer ethnography which traces the intergenerational lives, histories, identities, familial relations and sexualities of a diverse range of subjects (academics, artists, and activists) from the Indo-Caribbean diaspora in Canada. Some are mixed race, including: dougla (Indian-African mixture), callaloo (creole mixtures)), genderqueer, disabled, aids activist, and perform drag identity
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