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Recap: Working It Out Together – Rene Meshake, Healing Arts

Episode 8 of Working It Out Together, featuring Artist and Musician Rene Meshake, explores how creative arts are being used by those most severely affected by colonization to channel anger and decolonize the self.

Waneek Horn-Miller introduces this episode. “Arts are important; it’s our voice, something  you create from your spirit somewhere deep inside of you.  Art is an important way to express pain sometimes, and trauma sometimes, and these things have to come out.”

Arts and artistic expression were suppressed during what Rene Meshake refers to as the colonial period.  It is Rene’s belief that during this period the people lost their heart. Without heart there could be no art and no truth.  It was during his time in residential school that Mr. Meshake’s was denied his freedom of expression. This denial of his true being, compounded by the abuse he suffered, served to forge self hatred that manifested in alcohol and substance abuse. Suicide seemed his only option. Ironically, it was the recognition of colonized  Aanishnaabmowin into mainstream culture that connected with Rene’s artistic side and led him away from his destructive path.  Rene then began to channel his creativity and opened up a world of possibilities in a healthy way.

Currently, Rene is a respected elder who mentors Indigenous youth In Guelph, Ontario. He shares his experiences and his artwork in the hopes that youth today can embrace their own artist selves rather than choosing  abusive lifestyles.

Isaac Murdock, a traditional Aanishnaabe storyteller,  returns this week to explain the importance of art to Indigenous life. He highlights the importance of pictographs, regalia, and basketry; artwork was a part of identity. Furthermore, art, dance, and singing were all about the spiritual connection to the land. Then, at the time of initial contact, “colonialism was really hard on our symbolism. The church and the government people requested that all of the bundles, all of the baskets, everything with the symbols needed to be piled onto the ground and they would set them on fire.”

Following the closure of the residential school system, young people began to express themselves in very powerful ways. Murdock elaborates: “Those that came out of residential school knew that the spirit of the land had to be expressed through their work. So that even though it was suppressed and even though it was made to believe to be bad, people overcame those feelings because it was their way to show the world who they were, who their people were, and what they stood for.”

This was a beautifully crafted episode filled with many touching moments all demonstrating the power of art and its inherent ability to heal. It is also fascinating to learn how Indigenous art is evolving today. Rather than the static concept mainstream is so familiar with, we witness here today’s modern Indigenity. Murdock sums this up nicely: “Art is a ceremony, of creating pieces that are actually healing people and making people stronger. It goes out into the universe and it is connecting with everything. It is always the artists and the musicians that make the greatest change. There is a medicine and a code in there, a blueprint with how to walk with mother earth.”

AMI’s Four Senses to return for fourth season

From a media release:

Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) announced today that its cooking show with an accessibility twist, Four Senses, is returning for a fourth season and will begin production this fall.

Four Senses is a unique cooking show produced for AMI-tv by Varner Productions Limited that unites blind and sighted chefs in the kitchen. Hosts Christine Ha and Carl Heinrich are back for season four to share new recipes and experiences with a fresh group of celebrity guests. Each 30-minute show will also include nutrition guidelines for optimal eye health and accessibility tips and tools for independence in the kitchen.

Special guests this year include celebrities from the culinary world and beyond such as interior design gurus Colin and Justin, fashion icon Jeanne Beker, comedian and television star Luba Goy, and many more.  Each guest will share one of their favourite recipes with Christine and Carl, help the hosts prepare two additional dishes and share what inspires their own love of cooking.

Again this season Christine and Carl will be on the road shooting in field segments that highlight Canada’s diverse culinary landscape. Christine will explore Ontario, visiting a cranberry farm in Bala, learning about sustainable trout in Collingwood, and paying a visit to Lake Joe – the CNIB’s camp for individuals living with vision loss. Carl will be on a Nova Scotia road trip visiting Lunenburg, Wolfville, Digby, and Dartmouth. Along the way he’ll check out the Digby Days Scallop Festival, visit the oldest farmers market in Nova Scotia and learn more about the province’s growing wine and craft beer scene.

In keeping with AMI’s mandate of making accessible media for all Canadians, Four Senses features integrated description, where hosts and guests describe their surroundings and actions for audience members who are blind or partially sighted, as well as closed captioning for those with hearing loss.

Season four of Four Senses will air on AMI-tv in January, 2017.

Working It Out Together: Heather White – Rebel with a Cause

Episode 7 of Working It Out Together examines the common literary trope so prevalent in mainstream arts: the Indian Princess/Pocahontas, and the harm that has come to Indigenous women due to the pervasiveness of that stereotype in society today. For centuries the “Indian Princess” has been recognized as an erotic thing, a sexual dream or ideal that exists only for the European white male. The process of colonization reshaped strong beautiful women into the hyper-sexualized noble savage, only to be dominated by all men. Today we witness the harm this archetype has perpetuated with the aid of such movements as “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women”.

This week features the story of Heather White, one of the lead actresses on the popular award winning television show  Mohawk Girls, created and directed by Tracey Deer. However, White is also a High School language arts teacher at Kahnawa:ke Survival School. It is here that she cultivates a safe environment for her students to discuss and challenge how media shapes their concepts of women and beauty. “As actors, our job is constantly to tell the story through someone else’s vision, but as a teacher that is where I get to be myself.”

With her first hand experiences on Mohawk Girls, White is able to teach her students about the extensive work that goes into the manufacturing of media as art, be it television programming, magazines, posters, or film. In this way her students understand that it is “ok when they walk in the world that they walk into one that is real. That it is 100% ok for them to be who they are, to walk this world proud of who they are.”

Earlier this week White discussed with me how her new found celebrity has given her the the platform to make human connections: “It is a great opportunity to tell people ‘this is who I am, this what I do and this is what I think’. To be able to say all of the things that I wish were said to me when I was younger, I think that is the greatest thing for me. There were no trail blazers like me and I grew up not seeing it. I am only now starting to see different women.”

White’s father Sykes Powderface, also featured in this week’s episode, explains the traditional position of women in the community: “Women were the most respected individuals in the community. Without women, there are no more children. You must always take care of the women, that was the first order that was taught to us.”

Michele Audette, Indigenous women’s rights advocate, explains that women had their roles, that men and women knew exactly what they were supposed to do “for the community, for the family, and for them self.” With the men off hunting for months at a time, it was the women who were the leaders in the community. But when the Europeans began to settle “this all changed; spirituality became religion, they changed our language, and they changed our system of our society. ”

When speaking with White, she reflected on what Mohawk Girls is really about, and what it means to women who watch. “Mohawk Girls could have been anything, and that is the most satisfying part of it. But it is not just about us (Indigenous women). There are so many universal themes that bind us (all women) all together and that is a gift in itself.”



HGTV Canada greenlights two new original series

From a media release:

The blueprints are complete and the foundation has been poured for two new, original HGTV Canada series featuring returning and new talented hosts ready to showcase trendsetting projects. Home to Win builder Sebastian Clovis partners with the budget-savvy DIY designer Sabrina Smelko in Save My Reno. This energetic and imaginative pair helps cash-strapped homeowners transform their struggling spaces into spectacular reveals, with savings to spare. The action continues outdoors with Backyard Builds, a new series starring contractor Brian McCourt and designer Sarah Keenleyside as they produce one-of-a-kind designs in ordinary backyard spaces. Whether it’s a custom-made container guest suite sleeping four or a man cave complete with games area and home theatre, this visionary duo creates endless possibilities with a blank backyard. Casting is currently underway for both series at hgtv.ca/castingcall with productions slated to begin in August across the GTA.

In the upbeat new series Save My Reno (14×30), cash-conscious homeowners finally catch a break when Sebastian Clovis, the savvy contractor with contagious energy, and Sabrina Smelko, the resourceful DIY designer, toss out overpriced reno quotes and make dreams come true with a slashed budget and spectacular renovation. Sebastian and Sabrina save by putting homeowners to work and hunting for salvaged goods. Fresh off an appearance as a guest judge on an episode of W Network’s Game of Homes, Sabrina is a wiz at finding restored pieces at great prices while creating amazing designs and crafted items. Sebastian is the master at smart spends for breakout builds and custom surprises. Together, they give homeowners the reno they want on a budget they can afford. Produced by Great Pacific Television and developed in association with Corus Entertainment, Save My Reno is currently slated to premiere in Spring 2017.

When indoor space isn’t enough, Backyard Builds (8×30) showcases the endless opportunities outdoor areas can provide without breaking the bank. The series stars contractor and designer Brian McCourt and design expert Sarah Keenleyside who work with homeowners to maximize their backyard potential to create tailored, one-of-a-kind structures. Whether it’s a yoga studio, recording facility, whimsicle jungle gym, tiki bar, bowling alley or an al fresco dining area with a kitchen, this contractor and designer duo can extend any living space on a budget. Sarah is a bright, outgoing designer with a knack for creative projects. Brian completed his first home flip by 19 and can now take a project from demo through to construction and design. Together, they can design and construct any structure that a homeowner can imagine. Produced by Frantic Films and developed in association with Corus Entertainment, Backyard Builds is currently scheduled to premiere in Spring 2017.

Bristow Global Media announces production of Canada: The Story of Us

From a media release:

Leading global content creation company Bristow Global Media Inc. (BGM), announced today that production is underway on CBC’s recently announced docu-drama series CANADA: THE STORY OF US. Based on the internationally successful format created by Nutopia, the 10 X 60-minute series is shooting until July 22 and will air exclusively on CBC in 2017 as part of the national public broadcaster’s robust lineup of original programming commissioned to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.

The epic adventure history series tells the extraordinary tale of the people, places and events that shaped Canada, including the stories of Indigenous peoples and immigrants, pioneers and rule breakers, and scientists and entrepreneurs who forged a nation in a vast and harsh land. The series will combine fact-based drama with stunning CGI animation, and feature interviews with prominent Canadians.

John English, renowned Canadian historian and acclaimed author, and Gerald McMaster, curator, author, artist and Indigenous Studies educator, are the primary consultants on the series, with several notable Canadian scholars also providing historical expertise including Margaret MacMillan, Tim Cook and Rick Hill among others.

CANADA: THE STORY OF US is executive produced by Julie Bristow and Claire Adams with Marlo Miazga and Janice Tufford as co-executive producers for BGM as well as, Jane Root, Ben Goold and Phil Craig for Nutopia. The STORY OF US format has aired in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.