A dinner gathering, interactive performance and conversation, with guest readers Sarah Abu-Sharar and Zainab Amadahy, and food artists Salma Al-Atassi, Claude Awad, Azar Masoumi, women of Regent Park Catering Collective, Johl Ringuette (Nishdish), and Nicole Tanguay
When Sayyida Salme bint Said (a.k.a. Emily Said Ruete, 1844-1924) published her memoirs in German in 1886, Germany was only fifteen years old and Canada was nineteen. A daughter of the king of Zanzibar and Oman with a Circassian woman, Salme had left Zanzibar of her own volition at age nineteen following a love affair with a German merchant with whom she later married and had three children. She wrote her memoirs so that her children who were growing up in Hamburg would learn about their mother’s culture of origin in the South and ideas about life in the North.
We gathered for a rich feast (alcohol-free, vegan and gluten-free) prepared by indigenous and treaty artists, activists and community groups during which Zainab and Sarah read selections from Sayyida Salme’s memoirs and posed questions for discussion with the audience. This event was for women/trans women only. It will raise funds for It Starts with Us, to support Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and their families.
Inhabiting the North is the second performance in Passages. The event was webcasted through live audio, Twitter and Facebook.
Interview with Muskrat Magazine
About the Collaborators
Sarah Abu-Sharar is a social worker, storyteller and expressive art therapist with a background in theatre and creative dance. She has been featured at the Toronto Storytelling Festival, 1001 Nights of Storytelling, Boo at the Barns, Toronto Fool Festival and at the Centre Islands Franklin Garden as well as various fundraisers, galas and private events. She teaches storytelling at the Parent Child Mother Goose Program where she uses stories with at-risk families to facilitate bonding. She has also participated in a number of popular theatre performances both in Croatia and Toronto, and facilitated expressive art and community art groups in community centers, various disability organizations, Peel Board of Education, a refugee camp in Palestine, and a juvenile detention center. Sarah is half Palestinian and half Croatian. Like many Palestinians, unable to return home, she spent her childhood in several countries. Born in Libya, she lived in Jordan and Yugoslavia before moving to Canada at age nine. As a result, Sarah has become a traveler. She has an MA in expressive art therapy from the European Graduate School. Sarah has worked with Gita Hashemi in Ouster Remixed and Art is (bleep), and is pleased to be working with her again.
Of African, Cherokee and European heritage, Zainab Amadahy is an author, screenwriter and educator. Among her publications are speculative fiction novels Resistance and Moons of Palmares. Zainab is a frequent contributor to Muskrat Magazine and Rabble.Ca. Her non-fiction work, Wielding the Force: The Science of Social Justice, explores how some emerging science intersects with Indigenous knowledge and is relevant to social justice, activism and community organizing. A former director of Community Arts Ontario, Zainab has also worked for a variety of community organizations in the areas of Aboriginal services, Indigenous knowledge reclamation, women’s services, immigrant settlement and community arts. For more information about Zainab’s work visit http://www.swallowsongs.com.
Salma Al Atassi
Salma Al Atassi is a Syrian born feminist, and Herbalist in training based in Toronto. She is completing her studies in Herbal Medicine with Medical Herbalist Diane Kent. She has worked in collaboration with local artists and healers in community events, such as the Healing Justice for Black Lives Matter fundraiser. Salma’s writings have been published in feminist and youth oriented Shameless magazine (Toronto) and River Rose Apothecary- Medicinal Archive HUB (San Francisco). Salma will prepare the beverages for the feast. It is her belief that tea making and sipping is a communal ritual that helps us participate in collective awareness and empowers us to heal together. In December 2014 she launched her own line of teas, Booma’s Tea. http://boomas.co/
Claude Awad is a Canadian feminist and peace activist of Palestinian origin. She was born and raised in Lebanon, and she immigrated to Toronto in 1991. Claude has a long history of activism around peace and justice in the Middle East. In 2008, she fundraised $30,000 for a project to support a mental health clinic’s operations in the Gaza Strip. She has also organized concerts and silent auctions to fundraise for various women’s projects, including Project Hope, and acted as a vendor to promote and sell handicrafts from a refugee women’s cooperative. Claude’s other passion is cooking. For her, spending hours in the kitchen cooking for her loved ones is therapy. Claude’s famous humus is the feast’s tasty starter.
Gita Hashemi’s transmedia practice focuses on historical and contemporary issues. In 2013, her solo exhibitions included Time Lapsed at A Space Gallery in Toronto and The Idea of Freedom at MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels), and she participated in The Third Space exhibition at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre as part of Tirgan Festival of Iranian Art and Culture. Her most recent projects include Headquarters; Pathology of an Ouster, a multi-platform work including an installation, performance and webcast focused on the 1953 US-UK coup d’etat in Iran; Utopias In-Progress, a performance, video and installation about the effects of capitalism on the arts; Ephemeral Monument, an embodied writing performance, video and installation based on the literature of resistance in Iran between the coup and the 1979 Revolution; and The Book of Illuminations, a book/installation that draws on self-narrative and idiomatic Farsi to comment on repetitive political and cultural patterns. She is the initiating artist in Passages, a series of live art performances and video installations that use embodied writing and reading to explore 16th-19th century travel literature. http://gitaha.net
Azar Masoumi is an immigrant, a diasporic culturally Muslim woman, born and raised in Iran. She is currently a PhD student in Sociology at York University, studying refugees, citizenship and sexuality. Besides heavy sociological topics, debates and discussions, she has an interest in making and baking all things sweet, all forms of dance, and social gatherings. She brings to our feast a highly popular and culturally significant desert in Iran called shole zard. She learned how to make it from her mother, Mahvash, who is a great and generous cook. She is delighted to share this treat and its recipe with our dear guests.
With almost thirty years experience in the foods industry, traditional Chef, Johl Ringuett (of RingFire Productions and Nishdish) has been providing delectable Anishnawbe cuisine to the Toronto Native community and allies for several years. Raised in Northern Ontario, his knowledge of native food was provided by his father (a hunter), and inspired by the culinary wisdom of his mother. Yearning for the indigenous foods from his childhood such as wild game, freshwater fish, berries, and maple syrup, he set out to provide Aboriginal catering to the urban community. Chef Ringuette will bring to the feast three sisters stew, made with corn, butternut squash and green beans, three indigenous and most frequently planted crop here before the settlers arrived. Cultivated together, these plants support one another and revitalize the soil, rather than deplete it. Three sisters stew teaches us to seek strength in community. http://nishdish.com
Regent Park Catering Collective
Regent Park Catering Collective started through Centre for Community Learning & Development as a community initiative involving a number of organizational partners. The Collective includes members from culturally diverse backgrounds including Sri Lanka, Somalia, Ethiopia, Spain, Kenya, China, Zanzibar and other countries. Its mission is to empower its members to gain financial security by doing what they love to do, creating an innovative, vibrant, evolutionary and prosperous economic landscape. Active since 2013, the Collective has made it possible for 31 Regent Park residents to receive their Food Handlers Certification, and has catered events for Regent Park Film Festival, Storytelling Toronto, Parents for Better Beginnings, UforChange and Nelson Mandela Public School among others. The Collective will provide the feast with a surprise menu of rich African and Middle Eastern flavours. http://ryan.camphireproject.com/
Nicole Tanguay is a poet, musician, activist and community organizer of Cree and French heritage. She began cooking as soon as she could reach the stove. She believes food and cooking are about love and nurturing and taking care of each other. Feeding a family, a friend or a nation are the same: Love goes into it. She combines food, music and thought into every day. Nicole also runs Creeation Foods home bakery. She enriches our feast with baked spelt bannuck.
Gita Hashemi wishes to acknowledge the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Toronto Arts Council for the Passages project. Inhabiting the North is sponsored by Charles Street Video.