Celebrating Aboriginal Awareness Week and the Indigenous Writers Gathering at U of T

One of my favourite times of the school year is Aboriginal Awareness Week. It sort of feels like a holiday soiree happening between classes, when surprises, feasts and fun are around every corner at First Nations House. On Tuesday, I stepped into a soap stone carving workshop. A fellow classmate couldn’t hide her enthusiasm when she saw me. “This is SO much fun!” She said, rubbing the stone Inukshuk she was working on for the last hour. I was amazed to see what students and community members were creating out of soap stone. Can you spot a buffalo, bear and walrus?

That’s a caribou antler that will be made into a sculpture.

Although a lot of events have already happened (Indigenous activist Jessica Yee speaking about youth leadership, an Aboriginal Reiki workshop and Elder teachings) there is still a lot happening today and Friday. For budding writers, a lot of the events may be of particular interest to you. Also, as you scroll through the events, I recommend you listen to some Buffy Sainte Marie (if this was my personal blog, I would have written about her by now, guaranteed):

Thursday Feb 9

10:30 am – Journalism and the preservation of our stories in the electronic age with Waubgeshig Rice, Wab Kinew and Muskrat Magazine Publisher Rebeka Tabobongung. I’ve seen Waubgeshig Rice read from his novel, Midnight Sweatlodge and he has a booming and powerful voice that makes everything he reads and talks about sound alive. I’ve also watched Wab Kinew interview one of my idols, Buffy Sainte Marie and he can hold his own against the legendary singer and songwriter. Both Rice and Kinew work for CBC, so if you want to see some seasoned pros talk about Indigeneity issues and journalism, this promises to be a worthwhile event.

12:30 pm – Poetry and politics with Lee Maracle and Ryan Red Corn of the 1491s. I personally recommend attending this event as I’ve had the pleasure of being taught by Maracle at U of T. Maracle’s class was unforgettable because of her amazing storytelling ability. She’s a writer who can actually tell stories orally, not just on paper. I’ve gone to the International Festival of Authors on several occasions and have been horrified when I’ve heard internationally-acclaimed writers actually speak. If you want to be blown away, I recommend you check this event out.

Friday Feb 10 (I know you may not want to come to school on a Friday but I promise, it will be worth it)

10 am – Breakfast with the writers

12 pm –  Traditional storytelling and mythmaking with Daniel Heath Justice and Waubgeshig Rice. Justice is actually a professor of mine this year and I’ve noticed one of his strengths as a teacher is being able to make complicated huge ideas (such as traditional storytelling and mythmaking) a little less intimidating and accessible. I’m sure this will be a dynamic discussion for those interested in storytelling and oral tradition.

2 pm – Developing and utilizing writing groups with Bren Kolson and Lee Maracle. Creating a sense of community and a supportive place to work on your art is important. Students often talk about a lack of connection between one another at such a large institution like U of T, therefore a workshop that discusses the benefits of writing groups may inspire you to start up a small writing community and meet other individuals craving to connect.

4 pm – Writing for performance with the 1491’s Dallas Goldtooth and Ryan Red Corn and writer/performer AmberLee Kolson. I’m not entirely sure what to expect but my professor pumped the 1491s, a comedy sketch group “based in the wooded ghettos of Minnesota and buffalo grass of Oklahoma”.

Oh, wait. And the best part of these events is that they are all FREE! I hope you’ll be able to drop by First Nations House and check out the remaining events celebrating Aboriginal Awareness Week.













Let’s make something amazing! #joyatuoft

So, last Monday at around 10 a.m. after a very late night and a very early morning, my restless pursuit of coffee through the Bahen Centre was met with this:

YES. It was like MY DREAMS HAD COME TRUE: my very own foot-piano! Delighted, I tapped out a little “Gin and Juice” before texting a very good friend and promising him I would serenade him in a way unlike any other if he would immediately make his way to Bahen Centre. This month – in the middle of winter, as Singles’ Awareness Day looms on February 14th – the office of student life is on a massive campaign to get students talking about how we find joy on campus. For me, joy is in the things like this; it’s something we can create.

As a result, my dear lifeatuoft readers, I propose a challenge: this month, make something. Make something cool. Make a piano you can play with your feet. Or whatever. Make something that no one’s going to mark you on but it doesn’t matter because it’s awesome. In high school, I used to paint and play in a garage band and build things in the tech wing of my school. Coming to university, many of us forget our old hobbies. So, I’ve compiled a list to get you started. Some of these are semester-long commitments, while (for the low commitment folks among us) some are only one-time workshops, and none of them are more than $10:

There’s a part of me, deep down inside, that wants nothing more than to be a documentary film-maker. As luck would have it, the U of T Film Festival is the perfect place to blaze my trail to cinematic glory. Submissions are due March 2 at 5pm, with screenings and awards on March 22.

They’re taking over. Make yourself their master before it’s too late. Check out the University of Toronto Robotics Association to make all kinds of ridiculously awesome robots, some of which have even been featured on the Discovery Channel.

Open mic night at Hart House.
Make some noise! Poetry, comedy, improv jazz – whatever you do, come do it at Hart House. The next event is at 7:30 pm on February 16th, and it’s free. Bring friends!

Poetry workshops.
Some of you may remember that I blogged about one of the workshops with our Poet-in-the-Community, Ronna Bloom, in first semester. It was amazing, and that woman can make a poet out of anyone. Her next workshop – literally, “Writing your way out of a paper bag” – will be on March 2 at 12pm in the Hart House East Common Room. Free.

A masterclass in low-budget animation, $10 on March 20 at 6pm, Hart House. “Understanding the Illusion of Life” is a beginners’ workshop where we’ll learn how to make an animated film from brainstorm to final cut. Excited.

A very active and amazing campus group, the Hart House Camera Club is currently accepting submissions of photography for their annual exhibition. If you’re still looking to develop your prints, they’re offering a “Darkroom Days” event thus Sunday (February 12) at 2pm.

If you like to grow food, you can get involved with Dig In! Campus Agriculture, who are an amazing student-led group committed to growing sustainable food on campus. They even do beekeeping! If you’d like to get busy in the kitchen, I suggest you check out Hot Yam, a student-led group where you can cook (or just eat!) healthy, delicious creations on Wednesdays at the Centre for International Experience. It’s okay if you just want to show up and eat their stuff and then run away. That’s what I do, and it’s delicious.

Every Thursday at 11am in the Hart House Reading Room, come get crafty, for free. Next week: friendship bracelets. Or, study group bracelets, should you feel so inclined.

Life drawing.
The Victoria College Life-Drawing club meets Tuesdays at 8:30pm in EM108. You can join them to draw, OR you can even get semi-naked for them and watch all kinds of student artists draw your luscious body. Your choice.

Overall, I’m excited for all of the opportunities this month. With graduation and my future looming in the approaching not-so-distant future, a friend and I were chatting about what I intend to study in grad school. I listed a few of my ideas but told her that I couldn’t seem to decide which one, and her advice was to go out and create something in each discipline, and see which one felt right. In academic life, it can be easy to forget to stop abstracting and start creating, but maybe doing so is a great way for all of us to rediscover ourselves and see our interests in a new light.

Any other suggestions? Feel free to add them in the comments below!

In the meantime, show your classmates what you’ve been up to! Post your adventures to the Joy at U of T blog!