Behind the screen: Indigenous filmmakers fight for better representation

By Bree Duwyn

Indigenous representation in North American films have included a long and devastating history of stereotyping and generalization.

Misrepresentation is typically portrayed in many Western films. In these films, Indigenous people have been wrongfully portrayed and described as drunk, violent, savage and exotic.

For example, Disney classics such as Pocahontas and Peter Pan have displayed Indigenous people as spiritual beings with little to no knowledge, showcasing a less complex perspective of Indigenous life.

These two films depict the two main stereotypes that Indigenous people are typically portrayed as in films: the “Native Warrior” and the “Indian Princess.” The “Indian Princess,” as seen in Pocahontas, details a young Indigenous woman as weak and mild — a damsel in distress.

The “Native Warrior”, as seen in Peter Pan, is the generalized term used in film to describe Indigenous people as dangerous, savage and uncivilized. In addition, their physical appearances depict stereotypical red skin and long black hair donned with a feather. Their hair covers their eyes, giving them no true face or identity.

A scene from  Peter Pan  where a young Indigenous woman, Tiger Lily, is held captive by Captain Hook and rescued by Peter Pan. (Via  YouTube )

A scene from Peter Pan where a young Indigenous woman, Tiger Lily, is held captive by Captain Hook and rescued by Peter Pan. (Via YouTube)

Stereotypical terminology is also used within the film. An Indigenous woman is seen calling Wendy a “squaw” which is a derogatory term for an Indigenous woman. “Injun” is also used, especially throughout the song What Made the Red Man Red?,  which is a demeaning term for Indigenous people. This is in reference to the stereotype of Indigenous people learning all the ways of life from the European settler society.

The Lone Ranger (2013), a more recent adaptation of the characters of John Reid and his Indigenous friend Tonto, sparked controversy when it was first released.

Johnny Depp was casted as Tonto, which angered some Indigenous people and groups, who considered this casting to be racist.

Similar to the characters in Peter Pan, Tonto is the film industry’s stereotypical “Native Warrior” who communicates with animals and speaks broken English, among other things. This is an example of generalizing and stereotyping within the industry.

Misrepresentation of Indigenous people can result in false knowledge and misunderstanding of their lifestyle as a whole. For this reason, the efforts of Indigenous directors and producers put into bringing an end to the misrepresentation is very important.  This is not only to create more accurate films that portray the Indigenous community properly, but to create a shift in the relationship between societies.

Indigenous directors on the portrayal of Indigenous people in the Canadian film industry

Indigenous filmmakers, Caroline Monnet and Gwaai Edenshaw, share their perspectives on the portrayal of Indigenous people in the Canadian film industry.

They have the same hope for the roles of Indigenous people to be be more modernized, day-to-day roles instead of the limitations Indigenous actors and actresses have often been faced throughout film history.

Indigenous actors/actresses “should be allowed to play superheros, mothers, daughters, doctors, or any other common roles that is not necessarily culture specific,” said Monnet in an email interview.

Caroline Monnet

Photo courtesy    coco.monnet    via Instagram

Photo courtesy coco.monnet via Instagram

Caroline Monnet is an award winning Algonquin-French filmmaker and visual artist specializing in installation and printmaking from Outaouais, Quebec and now lives in Montréal.  

Monnet’s work has been exhibited in various film festivals including the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and Clermont-Ferrand vidéformes in France.

Monnet is well known for films such as Ikwe, Emptying the Tank and The Seven Last Words.

Inspired by other female Indigenous filmmakers in Canada such as Danis Goulet, Helen Haig-Brown, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril and Lisa Jackson, Monnet wanted to “be apart of that same energy” that these filmmakers had created.

These filmmakers were telling important stories without fear of directing and producing, according to Monnet and she was inspired by this.

Through her films, Monnet hopes to “convey an emotional experience with insights into Indigenous struggles and reality. I want my films to remain accessible to a large audience while keeping artistic integrity and vision,” said Monnet.

She also hopes that with her work, audiences can be submerged in the experience so they have a better understanding of Indigenous realities, identities and communities.

“Films for me have to be a multi-sensorial experience where images and sound collide in order to inform, inspire and challenge audiences,” said Monnet.

Monnet explains how she has been working towards breaking the stereotypes of Indigenous representation in film. She finds it her job to flip the script and create positive images of Indigenous people on screen.

“Challenge what is being put out there and go against the redundancy of what is presented in the media. There are so many different ways to express indigeneity and most often medias only choose one perspective,” said Monnet.

To her, it is very important that Indigenous filmmakers are given the opportunities to breathe life into their films.

“It is a necessity in the Canadian film industry because today we are still lacking that diversity and still too often Indigenous stories are being told by non-Indigenous perspectives and filmmakers,” said Monnet.

Monnet believes this can often lead to the romanticization or stigmatization of Indigenous representation within film.

As a filmmaker, Monnet aspires to successfully direct her very first feature this upcoming fall.

“I hope to have the strength, dedication and clear vision to bring my project forward. I hope to contribute to indigenous cinema and Canadian cinema overall. I hope that this film can touch international audiences and reach far beyond the indigenous community it is putting on screen and that a story that happens on a native reserve can become a universal story of humanity,” said Monnet.

Gwaai Edenshaw

Gwaai Edenshaw (second from left) and family.  Photo courtesy    gwaai    via Instagram

Gwaai Edenshaw (second from left) and family. Photo courtesy gwaai via Instagram

Gwaai Edenshaw is a Haida artist and filmmaker from Haida Gwaii, British Columbia.

Edenshaw apprenticed under the late artist Bill Reid beginning at the age of 16 and holds a jewelry and art design diploma from Vancouver Community College. His art exhibits in galleries nationwide, as well as Seattle, Washington and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Edenshaw primarily works in wood carving and jewelry making, however, in 2017 began the project of SG̲aawaay Ḵ'uuna (Edge of the Knife) with co-director, Helen Haig-Brown.

Edge of the Knife is the first Haida language feature film based on the traditional Haida story of Gaagiixid the “wild man”, who loses his hold on reality in the forest before returning to his community in a healing ceremony.

The film premiered at TIFF in 2018 and won various awards such as Best Canadian Film and Best British Columbia Film at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

In addition, the film won Best Director and Best Actor from the Vancouver Film Critics Circle, an organization that promotes Canadian films and the British Columbia Film and Television Industry.

Edge of the Knife also received the Sun Jury Award at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts festival.

Edenshaw is a founding member of Q’altsi’da Kaa, the Haida storytelling group that promotes the Haida language as it has approximately 20 speakers on the islands.

The film proved to be an excellent opportunity to share and promote the Haida language and was also filmed on Haida Gwaii.

The process of Edge of the Knife began with Edenshaw and his brother, Jaalen, writing the script, along with Graham Richard and Leonie Sandercock.

“Our goals were around storytelling, probably like any other movie. Our guiding light was that we were making the movie for our people. So, in terms of the hometown audience, we didn’t want anyone to feel patronized or anything of the sort, that they would feel like this was their movie,” said Edenshaw.

Edenshaw also described the film as a story of facing mental health issues, addiction, etc.

It is about recognizing the hard points that an individual can experience in their lifetime, and being there for them in their time of need, according to Edenshaw.

“When someone is the hardest to be around but that is their time when they need us the most,” said Edenshaw. “That is a piece of the story that we are telling.”

The inspiration behind Edge of the Knife was the notion to create a piece of art that would involve the Haida language and conjure excitement around the language, according to Edenshaw.

“We wanted to have something, in terms of our language goals, that they could be part of an immersive experience,” said Edenshaw.

The script began in English as Edenshaw and his co-writers consulted with Elders and other knowledgeable people of the Haida language in order to transform the script.

The final translation stage consisted of a group of people coming together to make sure the dialects were communicating with one another, according to Edenshaw.

Edenshaw fondly recalled the moment when the team came together to make the translations agree. Two translators, Diane Brown and Delores Churchill, originally expressed nervousness heading into this process.

“They felt like they wouldn’t understand the other person, worrying they might not get along. In the end, they wound up having a great time together and really being able to help each other even in their separate dialects,” said Edenshaw.

Edenshaw had explained the process of translation as a moment of joy and found it important for himself to be a part of that experience.

The production of Edge of the Knife was a labour of trust and the sharing of knowledge through culture and language — a unique opportunity to share with the world a language that is not well-known.

Efforts towards the revitalization of Indigenous languages are ongoing and there are many people who have dedicated their lives to this process, according to Edenshaw.

“With this film we can offer another tool for learning,” said Edenshaw in relation to expanding the film in a second edit to include more opportunities to further learn the Haida language.

“Our people should be doing whatever we can to learn our language and make language common place and a part of our lives here on Haida Gwaii. It provides one more incentive for young people to learn language. They can learn the language because it can help them to land a role in future films because we’ll always be doing these movies in Haida,” said Edenshaw.

The film industry has made steps towards demonstrating a more accurate Indigenous representation. However, Indigenous voices need to continue to be heard and valued in the process of the creation of these films in order to produce real and genuine Indigenous portrayals on the screen.

Opinion: Is university drinking culture all just fun and games?

By Mia Maaytah

Binge drinking is a culture in universities and colleges around Canada, and though it seems like a fun pastime, the social and global pressure are making it hard to stop

I was at my first university party at a popular bar for students. There was no occasion except for the fact that we all had just begun school. It was a Thursday night and though the majority of us had class the next day, it was as if the next drink we bought allowed us to forget that fact more and more. I remember looking around, smiling and laughing but I wondered how every person there was tolerating the endless rounds of shots.

Without a second thought, my friends and I initiated a competition to see who could drink the most. The idea was enticing until one of us was throwing up in the washroom and the other was stumbling into an Uber that I hoped was hers. As for me, I had gotten escorted out for rowdy behaviour. The next morning, we replaced our rum and Cokes and shots of tequila with bottles of water and Advil. We reminisced only about the initial smiles and laughter we shared, and chalked it up to being a successful night out.

We agreed on this because alcohol is made to look like fun, especially for people our age. Its purpose is to make you feel warm and approachable in a society that says it is okay to drink excessively and to be somebody we would not usually be. In other words, alcohol is almost like an escape from reality.

I thought about the stress of being a young adult, caught somewhere in between having a handle on both nothing and everything at the same time. A can or two of beer to relax the mind wouldn't be such a bad idea to most. Alcohol is a break. It is a break from reality. It is a timeout from making those decisions, from thinking so much, from being anxious about showing up too early or too late, from talking to that special person, or even being that person.

However, for myself and my peers, alcohol has become a go-to. It has nestled itself deeply into the plans I make every weekend while at school. It has become a partner-in-crime, an ally, a friend.

I am not saying I drink to go out, but if I go out, I am drinking. It has been embedded in what I consider a good time and I have excused its presence because it is just something that everybody does. If I am meeting up with friends, we make sure there is somewhere to pre-drink and money to spend on drinks when we get to wherever we are going. If I go to my hometown to visit old friends, we arrange a wine night. If I just finished an exam, I agree to make use of happy hour to celebrate.

The level of drinking that occurs in both university and college students is overwhelming and I feel overly desensitized to it. I recently turned 20-years-old and after almost a full week of drinking, I asked myself if I have a problem. If we have a problem.

Fizza Ali, a first-year biology and psychology student at Western University, said it did not take her long to realize that everything at school revolved around drinking. Beginning with orientation week, an event that is marketed as the time to meet people and form connections that'll last a lifetime, alcohol has begun to make its grand debut.

She said it puts an enormous amount of pressure on people to be outgoing and courageous.

“Its dreadful enough and somehow drinking excessively is the only solution to making things less awkward,” said Ali.

On top of the initial week at school, Ali explained how much of her life at university involves alcohol. School events, sports teams, campus bars, and different clubs all do their part in supporting and promoting drinking among students.

For example, she said that the chemistry club at Western dedicates a night where students are allowed to drink with their professors. Also, sports teams raise their team fees for the season in order to afford alcohol for a party at the end of the season where they award the MVP with a big bottle of vodka.

Homecoming (HOCO), is an event that many universities and colleges partake in that was initially intended for  welcoming students back to another year. However, Homecoming has recently progressed from a day event to a weekend full of drinking, club crawls, and public rallying.

“HOCO is just an excuse for people to drink as much as they want and be reckless without being held responsible for any of it,” said Ali. “During HOCO we were woken up at 8 a.m. with a jello shot and then everyone just drinks until they can’t anymore ... The whole university participates so it’s weird to not take part, you don’t want to miss out.”

Advertising and Social Media

The action of promoting drinking in a school setting makes it clear as to why students begin to drink excessively amongst themselves. However, there is a global pressure seen in marketing techniques that demands to tie together the idea of fun with drinking.

Though the Government of Canada implements strict policy on prohibiting the use of marketing liquor to underage peoples, brands still manage to appeal to those who are looking for a good time.

For instance, beer brands such as Corona and Bud Light often portray scenes of young adults partying or relaxing on the beach. In addition, Wine or champagne companies often use two or more glasses coming together to showcase drinking with company. Even vodka companies use catchy slogans reciting how much better drinking will make you feel.

Not only is the idea of drinking romanticized on a global platform or normalized through school institutions, it is also perpetuated through social media.

Certain social media accounts often glorify dangerous situations brought on by intoxication. Yet, they tend to use captions that honour and laugh about it while posing questions asking who else can relate to being in these situations.

Video courtesy barstoolsports on Instagram

Video courtesy canadianpartylife on Instagram

Students in university or college tend to drink according to two principles: drinking often and drinking a lot. Blacking out is when so much alcohol is consumed that new memories are unable to be made within the brain.

An article posted on the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) stated that “blackouts are periods of amnesia during which a person actively engages in behaviours like walking and talking but does not create memories for these events as they transpire. Alcohol produces blackouts by shutting down circuits that involve the hippocampus, an area of the brain which plays a central role in consolidating memories for what happens in our day-to-day lives.”

The NIAAA stated that moderate drinking for women is no more than three drinks in a specific day and no more than seven drinks a week. For men, it is four drinks in a day and 14 drinks in a week. However, binge drinking occurs when women consume four drinks and men have five drinks within two hours. When this much alcohol is ingested in that short period of time, blood alcohol level increases to 0.08 which is enough to become extremely intoxicated and a danger to yourself and others.

Risky Drinking, Alcohol Accessibility, and Education

In the HBO documentary Risky Drinking, a new way to articulate how bad one’s drinking habits are is showcased. In the past, a patient was categorized as either having a problem or not having a problem. However, with the increase in binge-drinking in young adults in post-secondary school institutions, the danger of drinking has been placed on a scale of risk. The meter has five categories: no risk, low risk, mild, moderate, and severe, and after severe comes death.

The aim of the documentary is to provoke some sort of conversation about drinking patterns and drinking in general. The subjects within the film are a university student, a “wine mom,” an alcohol abusing father, and a severely addicted elderly man.

There is a theme in alcohol use in university or college students, which is shown in the film. Majority of people who consume alcohol within this environment tend to drink more than they can handle, and drink enough every weekend to become mildly at risk for developing an addiction.

The film showcases a young college student named Kenzie who is celebrating Halloween as a weekend event. On the Friday night, she gets drunk to the point of blacking out and during this begins hysterically crying. The next morning she wakes up and she laughs about the previous night.  

She is encouraged by her friend saying, “it happens,” and that, “We tend to drink a lot on our nights off and just sleep wherever we end up really. It’s kind of bad. We are alive. We haven't gotten raped or murdered yet.”

The girls then go about their day and begin drinking until once again Kenzie is blacked out, angry, and crying. Through this trend, she is beginning to showcase risky behaviour that nobody in her life seems to see it as a problem. Instead by shrugging shoulders and knowing other people are doing it too makes it seem okay.

Jefferson Ribout, a Toronto-based psychotherapist said that patients who deal with alcohol addiction knew right away in university that they had a problem. He said that they could tell their drinking habits were different than those of their friends. When the party was over, instead of going to sleep, they would stay up drinking, or they would often drink much more than their peers and often to a point of blacking out.

“People think there are predispositions to alcohol abuse. But I like to think that you aren't really born that way,” said Ribout. “But there is a term called epigenetics that says  you can be predisposed but there has to be another emotional or environmental factors that trigger that gene.”

Not only is drinking a regular activity for university students, it is also implemented into a vast number of activities meaning there is always an opportunity to drink.

Samantha Campbell, a second-year film studies at Ryerson University said drinking has become much more accessible since entering university.

“I think the association with alcohol and fun is embedded in everything which normalizes it, especially in university,” Campbell said. “It’s everywhere and it’s routine to go out at least once on the weekend. Be it going out to drink or going to watch a band play or even to a gallery, most of the events that I go to, alcohol is just part of the culture and experience.”

“I wouldn't say that I feel pressured to go out and drink all of the time or get drunk every weekend. But if I’m putting myself in the environment, I’ll likely be drinking while I am there.”

Ribout said alcohol is a kind of culture in university. He explained that alcohol use is almost systemic in a way where this routine of drinking during your degree is normalized, as students aim to mimic those before them.

He said that drinking while in university is an attitude or a way of life when inside schools, however, he said that students who do participate in drinking need to be educated early on in their drinking career.

“Education is important. But it’s also about how you approach it with your kids. That’s the key piece. I mean if it’s taboo then you're not doing yourself any favours,” Ribout said.

“I find that families that are religious based will use that, and that’s their view of how a person acts but how well does that really resonate with somebody in university? I don’t think its the school [that enforces drinking], I think it’s a mix of parents and peer group.”

He states that teaching with fear only makes the situation worse as youth will most likely want to rebel, however if the education is done by way of presenting facts and offering an opportunity for open communication, then perhaps students would not go into university feeling the need to drink excessively.

“Instead of saying no to drugs and alcohol and to be punitive about it, you can just educate people in a smart way. Make students self aware. That’s going to resonate more.”

The Divided Brain: The documentary that will change the way you experience life

By Ivonne Flores Kauffman

Photo courtesy    The Divided Brain trailer

On April 9, The Divided Brain made its Canadian premiere at the Isabel Bader Theatre in downtown Toronto. The film, directed by Manfred Becker and produced by Canadian Vanessa Dylyn, seeks to explain how the human brain works and the importance it has regarding the way we see ourselves and the world around us.

Dylyn, who is an Emmy-nominated and Canadian Screen Award-winning producer, presented the film to the  audience. The Divided Brain is not the first documentary Dylyn has produced. She is responsible for other films such as Werner Herzog, a documentary about our relationship with volcanoes, The Woman Who Joined the Taliban, for CBC, and Leslie Caron: The Reluctant Star, an arts documentary on the career of actress Leslie Caron, star of An American in Paris.

The documentary was inspired by Dr. Iain McGilchrist’s book The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. McGilchrist, a soft-spoken British psychiatrist and neuroscientist, has a radical theory on the way our brain works. He believes most of the problems our planet is facing today are the result of our brains’ left hemisphere taking full control over our thoughts and perceptions of life.

The documentary argues that Western societies are failing to find balance when it comes to relationships, knowledge and Mother Nature. The world is facing critical economic, social and environmental issues. McGilchrist’s theory argues the reason behind these problems might be related to the idea that the left hemisphere has hijacked our brain and that it cannot see the full picture when it comes to our actions and thoughts. We could compare the left hemisphere as the way an extremely paranoid person thinks. They might be right about every single detail, but they are wrong about everything. The left hemisphere is excellent at organizing and accomplishing things. However, it fails to understand them in depth.

McGilchrist believes Westerners have focused on small details like making money, acquiring power and creating technologies; all of these pursuits dictated by the left hemisphere or as he calls it “the master of the brain.” However, according to him, if we used the right hemisphere with the same passion we allow the left one takes control, our world would be a much happier and healthier space. The right hemisphere in our brain is the one that dictates emotions such as love; it’s the one that can see the magnificence within Mother Nature and instead of destroying it, it understands our bodies are connected to it.

To support McGilchrist’s theory the documentary follows him around the world as he not only interviews experts but gets together with people who have lost the ability to use both of their brains’ hemispheres as result of strokes or other damages.

In addition, the documentary includes interviews with actor-comedian John Cleese, neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte, pioneering neuroscientist Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, neuroscientist Jurg Kesselring, Aboriginal elder and scientist Dr. Leroy Little Bear and neuroscientist Onur Gunturkun. All the subjects interviewed added some evidence to support Dr. McGilchrist’s theory. Dr. Kesselring invited some of his patients to show the way their brains work after suffering from different injuries that affected the efficiency with which they can either use the right or left hemisphere of their brain.  Dr. Little Bear explained Indigenous connection with Mother Nature could be traced to a more predominant use of the right hemisphere and a cultural deeper understanding of our relationship with Nature.

After the screening, author Carolyn Abraham hosted a discussion via Skype with McGilchrist, Dr. Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself, and Dr. Jordan Peterson who wrote 12 Rules for Life. The discussion allowed for the questioning of McGilchrist’s theory, which the psychiatrists present did not entirely agree.

Perhaps, McGilchrist’s theory is unconventional and can’t be proven, but given the crises we are facing today, it might be worth it to think critically about this documentary and actually look within ourselves to create a shift in the society.

Language Arts: Soothing the soul through forward thinking art-pop

By Tashon Daley

Image courtesy    Language Arts “Neighbour” Official Video    - Director of Photography Charles Hutchings

Image courtesy Language Arts “Neighbour” Official Video - Director of Photography Charles Hutchings

Kristen Cudmore swiftly plays her guitar while her serene vocals fill the room, her eyes focusing intently on the words from a songbook she created. The sounds echoing from guitarist Patrick O’Reilly’s guitar causes Cudmore to pause for a moment.

Depending on the nature of the song, Cudmore might say that it needs Patrick's “touch.” O’Reilly, who mainly plays the guitar, is also the driving force behind the synths of the songs. Amidst their discussion, drummer Neil MacIntosh comes up with an innovative approach that will alter their tune.

With help from the rest of the band, they remove the legs of the drums. MacIntosh then bangs the legs together, allowing for strange and unexpected sounds to emerge. Then, a strong baseline kicks in, prompting synth bass player Chris Pruden to extend it until there are two parts.

“I like this baseline,” he says as the floor shakes.

This is just another day of practice and the music making process for the Canadian art-pop band, Language Arts. They work on every aspect of their music together.

With support from the Ontario Arts Council (OAC), to which the band acknowledges as a game-changer for Ontario artists, Language Arts is dropping their brand new album, Lemon/Lime, this fall.

The OAC is a government agency that provides funds for artistic projects in Ontario. With financial support from them, Language Arts can afford to pay Grammy-winning producers.

Lemon/Lime, the band’s third album, sets itself apart from Wonderkind (2014) and Able Island (2015); taking on more of an electronic sound.

“Somehow, we made it onto some EDM playlists. I don’t know how, but cool. I like EDM,” says Cudmore, “It definitely has … a storm kind of sense to it.”

She says that drum and synth sounds, combined with effects pedals create their “own little flavour.”

For Language Arts, this album is a perfect opportunity to explore different genres. Cudmore says that she has always admired how artists like Beck manage to make each record different.

For Language Arts, a change in genre is a glimpse into the artist’s vision and approach to songwriting.

“I think that there’s nothing wrong with just being who you are and if you don’t fit in a genre, so be it. Just make songs that you want to hear,” says Cudmore.

Produced by Grammy-winner David Bottrill, and Juno-winning producer Joel Stouffer, Language Arts got the perfect collaborative approach the band was looking for.

On April 5, the band dropped their first single for Lemon/Lime called “Against the Wind.” The song is an explosion of sound, bursting with synth bass beats that balance Cudmore’s soothing voice.

Steady, pulsating drum rhythms bring a stronger emphasis to the chorus. Cudmore needed to find the perfect way to “give them an excuse to break out.”

She says that writing the song happened quickly. In order to process her writing, she shut herself into her room and brought out her loop pedal, creating multiple layers to which she could sing along to. Cudmore then used her keyboard to set up baselines for pre-choruses.

Accompanying the song is an equally artistic music video. Visuals with bright colours of faces and creative lines move at the pace of the song. The band themselves collaborate on the artwork used in their videos.

Following the song’s release, Cudmore couldn’t hold back her excitement. It was everything she wanted it to be — heavy, yet uplifting. She said she floated off onto cloud nine as soon as she popped the headphones into her ears and pressed play.

“I didn’t hear it in that kind of capacity outside of the studio for a few weeks … and then I went out and went into it and I was dancing like a crazy person.”

While some songs from Lemon/Lime are relatable to everyday situations, others are deep and personal. Even her band members, she says, allow her the intimacy of practising emotional parts of these songs. Cudmore’s emotional trauma comes from her horrifying experience in a car accident in which she was hit by a drunk driver and suffered a brain injury.

At this time, Cudmore was required to attend physiotherapy appointments and take medications— all of which came out of her pocket. She was in and out of the hospital for months and would encounter multiple flare ups stemming from different symptoms.

“My brain would work in different ways where I would remember things that happened to me when I was younger that were really traumatic,” says Cudmore.

However, Cudmore did not expect for her recurring suppressed memories to become the driving force of the music for the record. Many of the songs were written in the hospital.

Cudmore was taken to a psychology unit to be evaluated, where she stayed in for six days. It felt like a jail to her, as she was prohibited from being in the room by herself and having restrictions on electronics. The environment was stressful at first, but Cudmore was able to turn to her music to soothe her soul.

Image courtesy    Language Arts “Neighbour” Official Video    - Director of Photography Charles Hutchings

Image courtesy Language Arts “Neighbour” Official Video - Director of Photography Charles Hutchings

With permission from the staff, she was allowed to go to an observation room close by the nursing station, or sometimes she would stay in her room with the door opened.

“I just sat in there and wrote,” Cudmore says, “Those were the two places that I would go to just to, kind of, write down my thoughts and my lyrics.”

While the album recalls deeply personal moments Cudmore went through, there are also a number of moments that any listener can relate to.

In Lemon/Lime, Cudmore nods towards the growth of movements like #MeToo or the narratives on privilege and other popular topics of awareness.

Language Arts plans on doing two more shows in Toronto, the first being at Monarch Tavern on May 23 and the second and final show during the fall after the full record has been released.

Following the shows, Language Arts will be taking a break due to the brain injury that Cudmore still suffers from.

“The amount of stimulation that I experienced in Toronto just makes me feel sick when I’m not working,” she says.

To help recover, Cudmore plans on moving back home to Nova Scotia with her partner, her supportive service dog, Sprout, and his little adoptive brother. They plan on living near the sea, with the band communicating long-distance during their break. In the meantime, Cudmore’s artistic nature will not stop her from making music.

“There is no other species in the world that's so aware of the art they're making and expressing themselves through it. There are only humans,” said Cudmore. “So, I'm hoping that it will become more important in this society and the world because it really makes people's lives worth living.”

Canadian films have a lot to say about climate change

Climate change, endangered species and Canadian wildlife — these films have it all

By Devon Harvey

On April 22nd, Earth Day is celebrated worldwide. The purpose of this day should be to reflect on how our way of life impacts the planet. What better way to do it than spending the day watching Canadian productions about issues facing the planet and the natural world?

The following films are all either linked to Canada’s wildlife and ecosystem, or directed or produced by Canadians. Each of these films has something to say about nature and what’s happening to the planet, urging people to listen.


This film focuses heavily on climate change and takes place primarily in the natural lands of British Columbia. Directed by Roland Emmerich, 2012 brings attention to how the earth is being altered as a cause of climate change and what could theoretically occur to the planet if negative climate change continues.

In 2018, the BBC News reported that if countries do not act on climate change, temperatures may rise by 4.5 C by the year 2100. A temperature rise of more than 1.5 C could be detrimental to the planet according to researchers. That’s why it’s more important now than ever to take this issue seriously.

2012 is a film meant to scare us into action. Canadians even more so as it is filmed primarily in our home country and shows exactly what could happen to Canada’s land.


Directed and produced by Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart, this film focuses on sharks and bringing attention to their nonviolent nature. The documentary details how due to hunting, shark finning and illegal killing for their meat, 90 per cent of the shark population has been killed.

According to Oceana EU, sharks play an important role in ecosystems by maintaining the population of species they feed on and indicating the health of the ocean itself. If sharks were removed from the ecosystem larger predatory fish would grow in numbers and eat all of the herbivore fish. This would make the ecosystem dominated by algae and alter the ability of the reef to survive.

By showing the nonviolent nature of these animals, Stewart brings attention to the dying population of sharks and how detrimental their extinction would be to the ecosystem. Stopping the hunting and poaching of sharks is important in the maintaining of the earth’s natural spaces.

Wild Canada

Produced and directed by Jeff and Sue Turner, Wild Canada is a CBC mini series focusing on profiling Canada’s natural environment. Using high-definition videos, the film brings attention to the state that Canadian wildlife is in.

In terms of Canadian natural spaces, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia habitat fragmentation is one of the biggest threats to national parks. This means that species within the parks may not survive in the long run unless various conservation measures are taken.

When talking about climate change and the alteration of nature it may be difficult to associate those changes directly with one’s homeland. This mini series offers insight into the natural world of Canada and the struggles surrounding it.

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch

This film was directed by an all Canadian team: Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier. Baichwal and de Pencier also produced the film.

The film showcases the effects that humans have on the natural world. This includes: seawalls in China, the largest terrestrial machines from Germany, the devastation of Great Barrier Reef in Australia and much more.

National Geographic reported a 2016 study that found that three-quarters of the earth’s surface is under pressure from humans and their activity. Anthropocene: The Human Epoch offers insight into the effects that human activity has on the planet and visually documents what is happening to the Earth’s natural spaces.

This film is set to inform the global population into conservation action.

North of Superior

Directed and produced by Canadian filmmaker Graeme Ferguson, this film focuses on the northern lands of Ontario. The film follows the changes of the seasons in Canada and a devastating forest fire.

According to Natural Resources Canada over 8000 fires occur every year and they burn an average of 2.1 million hectares. Even though wildfires play a role in shaping ecosystems they are still deadly and can be harmful to the natural world, animals and humans alike.

An article from National Geographic recognizes that natural occurring wildfires are integral to ecosystems. They return nutrients to the land, act as a disinfectant and allow sunlight to reach forest floors. However, man made fires do not work in the same fashion.

North of Superior illustrates that the beauty of Canada exists all year round and informs the public that natural wildfires can be beneficial to ecosystems, it is the man made fires that are harmful.

Keep these Canadian films, documentaries and the issues they tackle in mind and on your watch list as Earth Day approaches.

5 ways to cope with stress during exam season

By Cheyenne Bholla

Stress 1.jpg

If you’re in university or college, you’re probably extremely stressed right now because all of your final papers, assignments and exams are aligning like the stars.

You’ve probably seen one of the many posts and articles about how to cope with stress, but now you have come to the final destination. Here you will learn the REAL tips.

Here are a few ways you can reduce stress before your exams.

Awareness and Mindfulness

Researchers found that when participants committed to an eight-week program of mindfulness, group discussion, and daily homework assignments, stress levels were reduced.

Mindfulness emphasized being aware of and living in the present. This may pose a problem for many students that have on-the-go lives. However, taking a step back and analyzing your situation could help.

If you’re always thinking into the future, whether it be to tests, exams, or essays, you’re going to overwhelm yourself and in some cases, this could cause you to turn to procrastination. This makes your stress worse in the long-run.

Taking a few minutes between study sessions or after you wake up to focus on your breathing and bodily sensations can help to keep you calm and in the moment, at least for a bit.

In the study, participants reported that the meditation helped them to get a new perspective on their academic career as a whole. The focus flipped from “driven by avoidance, to develop mastery” in their field.

This mindset is extremely important as it keeps your learning intentions in the right place. Down the line, it will ensure that you actually know what you’re doing on the job, whether you’re a doctor or a teacher.

In addition, another recent study found that mandala and free colouring both shown a decrease in anxiety amongst post-secondary students.

stress 3.jpg

Researchers suggested that mandala colouring was more effective in elevating state mindfulness because the structured circular design gives students a sense of direction, attention, awareness and organization.

Employ Good Study Habits

Having good study habits is vital to reducing your exam stress. By understanding the best way to study for YOU, you’ll be able to get in “the zone” and study for hours on end.

According to KidsHelpLine, some helpful study habits are: finding a good environment to study in, figuring out as much as you can on what will be tested in advance, and using mind maps.

Study Environment

Some people need to be locked away in a closet with pure silence in order to study whereas others need a little chatter in the background to focus. Figure out the environment that you work best in, and when you really need to dig deep in the books, put yourself in those spaces. One thing that will help everyone is turning your phone and laptop on do not disturb.

Ask Questions

It may be hard to approach your professor and ask questions in a lecture hall of a hundred people, but take advantage of office hours. Teachers are a resource in your education, so if you don’t fully know what you’re being tested on or there’s concepts you don’t understand, go to your professor. You’re not paying thousands of dollars to go home and google the things you learn in class. Always ask questions.

Mind Maps

If you have trouble organizing your thoughts, use mind maps to lay out all the information you’re studying while making connections where possible. Bright colours to signify links can help with memorization.


It may be hard to keep up with a to-do list, but time management skills are important. Prioritize your time on the most important assignments and papers, and break them down into smaller tasks. This will put less pressure on finishing the whole assignment at once, and you’ll probably finish quicker. Also make sure to take occasional breaks. Giving yourself incentives will train you to finish tasks on time. With each study accomplishment, treat yourself to something, like ten minutes of play time with your pet, or a bowl of fresh fruit.

Eat Proper Meals

stress 4.jpg

I know everyone reading this is probably rolling their eyes because of the tendency for self-care articles to imply that drinking water solves all of your problems.

It’s not completely inconclusive that water affects cognitive functioning, but dehydration can cause poor concentration, short-term memory problems and moodiness.

Skipping the junk food for nutritional snacks is also important. Make sure to eat a balanced meal with vegetables, protein and grain for a good source of energy.

Avoid Stimulants

stress 5.jpg

Drinking stimulants, such as coffee or energy drinks to pull your all-nighters may seem like it’s helping you in the moment. However in reality, the come-down will leave you feeling more tired and burnt out than you were in the first place.

Coffee can also worsen anxiety and trigger panic attacks, not to mention their effects on your health.

Packed with sugar and caffeine, there’s no evidence that energy drinks are more effective than other caffeinated drinks at maintaining high energy levels and improving cognitive function.

Get a Full Night’s Sleep

stress 6.jpg

Though you may be tempted to pull all-nighters in order to cram all the semester’s concepts into your brain, its effects reflect the opposite of what you hope.

The non-Rapid Eye Movement phase (non-REM) of deep sleep is known as slow-wave sleep (SWS). SWS allows communication in different parts of your brain that strengthen your ability to form and retain memories, such as vocabulary or grammar.

Rather than trying to make these connections on a sleep-deprived brain, you should review the topics, do questions, and have a full-night’s sleep.

Although power naps have shown positive results in children, it’s also important for memory and learning throughout one’s life.

Getting a full night’s rest will help to improve cognitive function and memory, both of which you’ll probably need for your evaluations.

All images courtesy Pixabay

Ryerson Formula Racing unveils new team car ahead of state competition

By Talha Hashmani

Nearly a decade ago, Michael Salameh and his family arrived in Canada from Lebanon. On Saturday, he stood in front of a crowd of sponsors, alumni and proud family members, with nearly 50 other students from Ryerson Formula Racing (RFR), Ryerson University’s formula racing team.

The team celebrated their 25th anniversary, as well as the unveiling of their new RF-19 race car. The crowd gathered, eagerly awaiting what was hidden under the black veil.

The RF-19 prior to its unveiling at the Markland Wood Golf Club. (CanCulture/Talha Hashmani)

The RF-19 prior to its unveiling at the Markland Wood Golf Club. (CanCulture/Talha Hashmani)

“Thank you everyone for coming,” said Salameh, RFR team captain, as he nervously looked across the crowded room. Each face fixed attentively on him.

Salameh explained that the engineering design team builds a race car every year to take part in racing competitions attended by various university teams across the world. The largest competition, he said, takes place at the Michigan International Speedway from May 8 to 11 and hosts nearly 120 teams. The competition is hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

Before the unveiling, Salameh delivered a speech about the RF-19 and explained its various features such as greater fuel efficiency and a faster acceleration period. He also said that the RF-19 is eight per cent lighter than last year’s car, despite its massive size.

The car sports a new paint job, ditching the team’s early renditions of a blue and white car body. It is painted with a glossy black finish and a sharp yellow stripe down its side. The car is also said to be lighter than previous years’ models, even though the frame at its front is larger.

Ryerson Formula Racing’s new car, the RF-19 which was revealed at the unveiling on Saturday. (CanCulture/Talha Hashmani)

Ryerson Formula Racing’s new car, the RF-19 which was revealed at the unveiling on Saturday. (CanCulture/Talha Hashmani)

Onlookers were encouraged to move closer to the car, take pictures, and sign their names on the car’s wings - with a small donation to RFR funds.

Sponsors questioned team members on the car’s features, inspecting the handy work of a group of university students who had acquired sponsored materials and technical support.

But for Salameh and his team, it was a celebratory afternoon. Students took pictures with their families and indulged in the euphoria of completion that had taken nearly 8 months to achieve.

According to Erica Attard, the recruitment manager for RFR, there will be four students from the team responsible for driving the car during competitions. Ariel Gill, head of design and testing, said that this will be his third year driving the race car.

Attard said that the RFR consists of students from any discipline. “You don’t have to be in an engineering program to be on the team,” she said.

However, she also added that for engineers, being a part of the RFR team “is the best way to get proper hands-on engineering experience and to learn things you will learn in [later years].”

RFR is funded by a number of sponsors, including the university itself and the Ryerson Engineering Student Society.

According to Attard, the team receives cash sponsorships, services and venues. Additionally, they rely on mechanical parts, materials and technical support from their sponsors.

Attard explained that Ryerson placed in the top 10 at the 2005 Formula SAE Michigan tournament while in 2017, they placed twenty-fifth overall.

The team is now looking forward to competing in this year’s Michigan tournament. In addition, RFR will be competing in Barrie and a small circuit tournament at the University of Toronto - St. George Campus.

To Attard, experiencing the features of the car the team had spent many months working on means more than simply winning each of the upcoming competitions.

Sipping the bubble tea: Toronto’s best spots

By Ashley Alagurajah

Calling all bubble tea lovers! Toronto is one of the most diverse places in the world. That means getting to enjoy delicacies from all over the globe in this evolving Canadian city.

Bubble tea, a drink straight from Taiwan, finds its popularity in the city due to the increasing number of cultures making their way to Canada, one of the largest groups being those of Asian heritage. Bubble tea has stolen the hearts of many, both those from Taiwan and those who aren’t.

It is a drink usually served cold that consists of tea and milk of various flavours – topped with most commonly tapioca pearls. There are countless variations of the drink, some made with purely tea, others topped with custard and aloe vera. No matter what your preference is, the infinite combinations will allow for you to find a drink just right for you.

With the growing number of shops popping up in the city, CanCulture did some digging to find out where the best bubble tea is served in downtown Toronto. For now, Real Fruit Bubble Tea, Chatime, CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice, and Bubble Republic Tea House go neck and neck to see who does the original - black milk tea with tapioca - best.

Positive messages in rap could evoke hope for Toronto

By Will Lofsky

As violence escalates in Toronto, celebrities and up-and-coming artists in the city are advocating for peace

According to CTV News, by the end of 2018 there were 96 homicides and 51 gun-related murders in Toronto. These incidents included the daylight murders of 21-year-old Regent Park rapper Smoke Dawg following his release of his track “Fountain Freestyle” and 28-year-old Koba Prime, a member of the collective, Prime, on Queen Street West.

Both Koba and Smoke Dawg worked together in the supergroup, Full Circle, which brought Halal Gang and Prime together. Prime consisted of Jimmy Prime, most famously known as the founder of the term, “the 6ix,” Koba, Donnie, and Jay Whiss. Halal Gang, a group of Muslim rappers, consisted of SAFE, Puffy L’z, and Smoke Dawg. All of the members of both groups frequently work together, appear in each other’s music videos, and are lifelong friends from The Esplanade and Regent Park.

Following the killings of Smoked Dawg and Koba, close friends of the fallen artists took to social media to wish their friends goodbye. This moment followed the shooting of XXXTENTACION, a murder that hurt the entire music industry. At the time, Drake posted an Instagram story about the tragedy of young artists’ lives getting cut short before they went major. Other individuals from the music industry also expressed their condolences, including Jazz Cartier, Mustafa The Poet, Murdabeatz, SAFE and Boi-1da.

Courtesy smokedawg via Instagram

Shortly after the death of one of his best friends, SAFE — the famous Toronto singer and fell ow member of Halal Gang — uploaded a video for his track “No Diamonds” which included Smoke Dawg hanging out in a nightclub with him during the shoot.

Prime Boys and Halal Gang ensured that Smoke Dawg’s album in the works, Struggle Before Glory, which featured big names including AJ Tracey, SAFE, Giggs, Jay Critch, Puffy L’z and Jimmy Prime, was released at the end of November.

Since Smoke Dawg’s death, more artists have teamed up together to speak about gun violence in Toronto. Last month, Mustafa The Poet put together a powerful short film on YouTube called Remember Me, Toronto, where artists from different hoods had the opportunity to speak on violence and their fallen brothers.

LocoCity, Drake, Baka Not Nice, Boogz, Puffy L’z, Drake, Pressa, were among some of the artists who chimed in on the ongoing struggle that young black men encounter when growing up in “priority neighbourhoods” with little resources. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the film is that artists who are born enemies because of the neighbourhoods they grew up in all supported Mustafa’s goal to express their condolences. They also spoke about how they wanted to be remembered, and how they give hope to the city. Each person interviewed stated that they want to be remembered as someone who gave back to their communities and fed their families.

Following the release of Remember Me, Toronto, a 19-year-old emerging talent, LocoCity, released an emotional video for “Never Know,” in which he gets shot as a result of the lifestyle he landed himself in from growing up in the hood on Bleecker Street.

In an interview with Noisey, LocoCity talked about the lack of support his area gets:

“I know everybody knows hoods like Regent Park, P.O., Rexdale, Jane and Finch. Other communities, they get the they need because they will go through a lot of shit… programs and people that help them, reach out to them. But Bleecker, we get none of that. We’re just there, under the shadow of everybody.'“

Most recently, the shooting of rapper Nipsey Hussle in Los Angeles outside of his clothing store has left Torontonians crushed once again as another young black artist was killed in their own neighbourhood.

Courtesy champagnepapi (Drake) on Instagram

The positive messages emerging in rap this year sparks hope in changing the city but its ultimate impact is yet to be revealed. It is vital that we and the rest of Canada continue holding these conversations.

Asian women making their mark in Hollywood

By Severina Chu

Growing up as a Chinese-Canadian, it was often a struggle to see characters I could relate to on screen. Either casted in stereotypical roles or not casted at all, the image of Asian women that was pushed by the media made me want to stray away from my culture. When Hollywood fails to accurately represent your stories, it impacts the way we see ourselves. However, the industry is slowly changing its ways and letting the voices of Asian women be heard, providing representation that will impact the younger generation.

On March 30, Sandra Oh became the third Asian woman to host Saturday Night Live in the show’s 44-season history. Born in Ottawa, Oh touched on her Asian-Canadian roots in her opening monologue as she also celebrated her one-year anniversary of American citizenship. However, one of her best moments of the night came at the very end. As she closed the show, Oh was seen wearing a shirt with the quote “It’s an honour just to be Asian,” taken from her famous moment at the 2018 Emmy Awards.

Photo courtesy Paola Kudacki via iamsandraohinsta on Instagram

Oh is best known for playing Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy, and more recently, Eve Polastri on Killing Eve. Both of these characters are intelligent, ambitious women, and Oh is often who comes to mind when one thinks about the impact of Asian women in Hollywood. These strong characters are who Asians want to see on screen, though, this representation hasn’t always come easily.

When it comes to casting Asians, Hollywood has always struggled. According to the Hollywood Diversity Report by UCLA, Asians made up only 3.1 per cent of 2016’s top film roles. With Hollywood’s history of whitewashing Asian roles, this underrepresentation is no surprise. The tendency to cast white actors in Asian roles, such as Scarlett Johansson playing a Japanese character in Ghost in the Shell or Emma Stone playing a part Chinese, part Hawaiian woman in Aloha, is an issue that’s hard to ignore.

When Asians are given the chance, it’s often in roles that reflect a stereotype. Time and time again, we’ve seen common characters like the model minority or the foreigner with broken English. Especially when it comes to Asian women, their most common tropes are two extremes – the submissive “China Doll” or the aggressive “Dragon Lady”.

It seems Hollywood has a certain image of Asians etched in their minds that they can’t quite stray away from, but recently, our stories are starting to make a name for themselves in the industry. With the success of Asian actresses like Oh, the surge of Asian leads in romantic comedies, and the overall growing interest in our stories, the industry is taking steps towards the accurate representation of Asian women that we desperately need.

Making our stories heard

One of the biggest film stories to come out of 2018 was Crazy Rich Asians. Based off the novel by Kevin Kwan and directed by Jon Chu, it was the first film by a major Hollywood studio to feature a majority Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club in 1993.

Constance Wu plays protagonist Rachel Chu, a Chinese-American economics professor. The film follows her relationship with Nick Young (Henry Golding), a man who turns out to be from one of the wealthiest families in Singapore. Despite obstacles like Young’s disapproving, traditional family and Chu’s personal identity crisis when it came to her Asian heritage, the core of the film is the love these two have for each other.

When it comes to romantic relationships, Asian women are often subject to fetishization in the media. They are seen as exotic or submissive partners, such as Kyoko in the film Ex Machina, a robot who is created to look like an Asian woman and is programed to serve her owner through domestic chores and sexual favours. However, Crazy Rich Asians shows a healthy relationship with Asian characters without resorting to these stereotypes. Chu is portrayed as a determined woman, and the film makes her Chinese-American heritage a part of her without turning it into a personality trait.   

In terms of more local projects, Kim’s Convenience has been running on CBC for three seasons and renewed for a fourth. The sitcom follows a Korean-Canadian family running a convenience store in the Moss Park neighbourhood in Toronto, and the storefront used in the show can be found on Queen Street East near Sherbourne Street.

Janet Kim, played by Andrea Bang, embodies many aspects of the lives of second-generation immigrants that aren’t always discussed on screen. Kim is a photography student at OCAD University, and she struggles to gain her parents’ acceptance for her art as a result of their traditional look at life.

Andrea Bang as Janet Kim in   Kim’s Convenience  .

Andrea Bang as Janet Kim in Kim’s Convenience.

The desire to follow a passion that strays away from our parents’ expectations is a narrative that many Asian-Canadians can relate to, and when we make up over 12% of Canada’s population, it’s a narrative that needs to be told. For years, the idea that Asians are model minorities has been pushed in the media, making the thought of disapproval or failure much harder to accept.

However, Kim’s character shows that it’s OK to take a risk and follow a passion. Having these kinds of stories told in the media is the representation that will influence the younger Asian-Canadian generations to come.  

In the animation world, Pixar short film Bao found great success, winning the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film at the 91st Academy Awards. Directed by Chinese-Canadian Domee Shi, it makes her the first female director for a Pixar short. Set in Toronto, the story follows a Chinese mother who deals with empty nest syndrome and tries to come to terms with her only child moving out.

When first released, Bao was met with mixed reactions. Using food as a metaphor, the film incorporates an integral part of Asian culture to tell an emotional story, but some were confused by one particular moment. Outsiders might have laughed it off as a humorous twist, but for almost every second-generation Asian, the complex parental relationship that moment represents is one that hits too close to home.

Though the themes in the short are universal, it’s refreshing to see this story play out from an Asian perspective. In a culture where emotions aren’t usually discussed, the short proves that Asian women can show vulnerability without being deemed weak.

Steps in the right direction

What all of these works have in common are their realistic portrayal of Asian women, building them up to be more than just exotic beauties or fragile dolls. These characters can come from all walks of life and possess their own unique personalities, being able to incorporate aspects of Asian culture into these stories without being reliant on stereotypes.

Though there is still a long way to go, Asian women are slowly making a name for themselves in Hollywood. From portraying strong characters to the creative minds behind them, Asian women are finally getting the opportunity to tell not only their stories, but the story of many others who have been misrepresented by the media for years.

Boxcar Social: The taste of coffee from around the world

By Akanksha Dhingra

(CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

(CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

A sunny day, a small cafe, and a variety to pick from. Nothing sounds better than a day out on the streets of Toronto and a chance to taste coffee flavours from around the world, without having to travel.

Boxcar Social’s Summerhill location is a two-storey cafe with glass windows, natural light and unique infrastructure. White walls, artistic decor and red bricks can be the background of your next Instagram picture.

Boxcar Social in Summerhill, Toronto has unique infrastructure and a warm vibe. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Boxcar Social in Summerhill, Toronto has unique infrastructure and a warm vibe. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Be it the coffee beans from Africa and South America farms or the coffee roasters of Oregon and Scandinavia, it is all accessible to Torontonians now thanks to the new and interesting initiatives put together by the Boxcar Social team. They say you can see the world through coffee, and now customers can come see for themselves.

Prior to now, tasting coffees from Burgundy, France and Tanzania was nearly an impossibility for me. Along with the welcoming staff, the calm, comforting atmosphere one experiences when entering the cafe is something you would not want to miss.

The story behind the bean

One of the many different coffee flavours served and tested at Boxcar Social. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

One of the many different coffee flavours served and tested at Boxcar Social. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

“We are a multi-roaster coffee house and our aim is to not stick on specific coffee flavours,” said Niall Curran, a professional coffee taster and host of the tasting.

The multi-roaster cafe is a concept in which the shop purchases and sells beans from various roasters instead of making their own product.

Niall Curran at the tasting event. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Niall Curran at the tasting event. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

The cafe works with different roasteries that are located in different parts of the world. Not only do they serve coffee, wines and scotch, but they also focus on narrating the hidden stories behind the coffee beans.

“My job is to taste different coffees and approve them for the cafe,” explained Curran.

Boxcar Social does not rely on one bean but instead has an evolving coffee profile. Every week, new coffee samples come in that could potentially be served in the cafe’s ever-changing menu.

“We are really interested in why it tastes the way it tastes, and we get that flexibility by being a multi-roaster,” said Curran.

According to Curran, the cafe’s main goal is to bring together interesting flavours that taste good.

“It is a really fun way to operate this coffee shop, we bring the best wines and coffees of the places one cannot always travel,” he said.

You can tell how much focus the cafe puts on coffee, wine and craft beers as the Boxcar team hosts a free coffee cupping event every Saturday, which is often crowded.

The coffee cupping event is a thirty-minute process of grinding, smelling and mixing the beans. It gives customers the chance to grind coffee beans themselves,  taste every coffee and decide their favourite.

Curran is a great host and storyteller who explained the story behind the bean and the country it belongs too. It would make you wonder about the coffees you drank before without knowing how the beans got to your cup.

Curran expertly guides customers throughout the coffee-grinding process and you can expect to go back home with some newly learnt coffee tasting methods. If you are a caffeine lover, this is your next go-to spot.  

Top 5 Canadian photographers you should follow on Instagram right now

By Anastasia Barbuzzi

Luckily for photographers, all millennial eyes are glued to one photo-sharing app: Instagram. So far in 2019, it seems that Canadian photographers are racking up major followings for their talents. From one curated grid to the next, their feeds are a limitless display of colour, style, and adventure inspiration. Not only are some of the most popular Canadian photographers mustering up the imaginations of people across the globe with ultra-stimulating content, they’re also killing it off the ‘gram with side businesses and charitable movements. Here’s five accounts that you should be stalking right now.

Callum Snape - 793k followers

With one of the largest digital audiences within the outdoor and travel industry, Callum Snape treats his native British Columbia as a natural playground. His vibrant shots of Canada’s landscapes and wildlife make the North seem otherworldly.

Photo courtesy Callum Snape via calsnape on Instagram

Angela Liddon - 625k followers

Angela Liddon pioneered the healthy vegan lifestyle movement back in 2008 when she was living in Toronto, where she kickstarted her blog, Oh She Glows. She’s amassed her 625,000 followers by photographing all of her own recipes and talking about her health and wellness journey. She now has two cookbooks: The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out and Oh She Glows Everyday: Quick and Simply Satisfying Plant Based Recipes.

Photo courtesy Angela Liddon via ohsheglows on Instagram

The First Mess - 248k followers

Hailing from St. Catharines, Ont., Laura Wright is a professionally trained cook and vegan chef. As well as the author of The First Mess Cookbook and food photographer of all her own content. The pictures on Wright’s blog, also called The First Mess, look good enough to eat themselves.

Photo courtesy Laura Wright via thefirstmess on Instagram

Jamal Burger - 184k followers

Based in Toronto, Jamal Burger photographs sports and lifestyle subjects in the downtown area with an emphasis on street style. He also helped found The Kickback - an initiative that puts brand new and lightly worn sneakers into the hands of adolescents who can use them. Burger has also worked with big-name clients such as Nike and HYPEBEAST.

Photo courtesy Jamal Burger via jayscale on Instagram

Chris Smart - 48.3k followers

Famed for his fashion week street style photos, Chris Smart is an internationally published photographer that masterfully captures the subtleties of a candid photo. Smart shoots in a clean, crisp and editorial style and his Insta-posts will have you coming back for outfit inspo on the daily.

Photo courtesy Chris Smart via csmartfx on Instagram

Tequila Nosedive steals the show at Ryerson’s Battle of the Bands

By Federico Sierra

Tequila Nosedive performing “It’s OK Keep Dancing.” (CanCulture/Federico Sierra)

Tequila Nosedive performing “It’s OK Keep Dancing.” (CanCulture/Federico Sierra)

Ryerson rock group, Tequila Nosedive, won the seventh annual Musicians@Ryerson’s Battle of the Bands, sweeping the two biggest awards of the night.

The first place was determined by the judges of the competition: David Cramb, a member of the board of directors for the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival in Calgary, Ian Heath, director of marketing for Dine Alone Records, and Zack Leighton, administrative director to Riverfest Elora. The other prize of the night, the People’s Choice Award, was determined by the loudest support from the audience.

Along with the praise of both audience and judges, the band also won a spot to play at the Riverfest Elora Music Festival, plus a paid show by the Ryerson Students’ Union.

The lineup for this year’s competition featured Scarlett’s Hand, Misunderstood Ninja, Tequila Nosedive, Gavin McLeod, Bad News Bois and The High Loves.

Tequila Nosedive delivered an electrifying performance with their bangers, “It’s OK Keep Dancing,” “Sex,” and “Strawberry Blonde.” As the wailing guitar riffs and loud, obnoxious punk vocals smashed through the speakers, a mosh pit formed, leaving the audience drenched in sweat, and begging for an encore.

“The guys knew what they wanted to do and what they wanted to say,” said judge David Cramb. “Great vibes and great energy.”

Runner-up to the People’s Choice Award were the Bad News Bois. The song, “Eff’d My Mood Up” had a sweet and meditative vibe that sent shivers through the audience.

Judge Ian Heath particularly admired the soft “speaking” vocal style of the lead singer.

“I was moved by the raw emotion of the band’s on-stage performance,” said Heath.

Bad News Bois performing “Eff’d My Mood Up.” (CanCulture/ Federico Sierra)

Bad News Bois performing “Eff’d My Mood Up.” (CanCulture/ Federico Sierra)

A powerful and historic evening, this year’s Battle of the Bands showcased some of the finest musicians on campus and set the tone for years to come.

How Torontonians can shop more consciously and locally

By Jessica Fonseca

In the very corporate driven world where most of the market is cornered by big box stores, there’s still a sliver of hope for Toronto-based companies to make their mark.

Last April, CBC reported that a Swiss-based website called StartupBlink collected data on the best places on the planet for starting a new business. Toronto’s startup ecosystem ranked 11th best in the world.

Three other Canadian cities made the top 100 list: Vancouver in 19th place, Montreal in 34th and Victoria in 95th. Canada overall as a country ranked third after the United States and the United Kingdom.

These statistics seemed surprising considering you can’t walk one block in Toronto without seeing a Tim Hortons or Starbucks on every corner.

So how could you as a Torontonian support fellow locals?

Well for starters, don’t go running to Yonge street for all of your shopping needs. There are plenty of niche stores and shops to catch your eye all over the city in unique spots you’ve probably never seen before or just passed by.

Did you know the Distillery District is more than just a Christmas village? This popular area is filled with 40 one-of-a-kind boutiques that cater to your fashion needs, food cravings or your knick-knack collection on your bedroom shelf.  

Photo courtesy distilleryto on Instagram

Another great way to support your neighbours is to find out more about who they are and how their businesses can be just what you’re looking for. This can be through doing a quick search on social media or Google.

If all that searching is too much work for you then check out a website called Seek Minimal that does it for you. They advocate for sustainable living and support many Toronto entrepreneurs who are in the clothing, beauty, and food industries to get their products and messages across.

On their website you can find all kinds of information on the people you may be buying from and where you can purchase their products.

“Seek Minimal always supports Canadian brands, especially those from Toronto. We’ve found incredible brands apart of the sustainable community and we hope Seek Minimal can bring them all together,” said Joss Bacalla,  founder of Seek Minimal.

Another way to shop more consciously is by going to food markets all across the city to get fresh, locally grown produce. This is a lot easier to do in the summer as there are many more options. However, some markets stay open and suffer through the winter with you.

St. Lawrence Market is the known spot for fresh food with its close proximity to Toronto’s busy city centre. An alternative worth checking out is the year-round Dufferin Grove Farmers Market which is all organic, locally sourced food. Moss Park Market Container is another great market that is very small, and by that I mean it’s the size of a shipping container.

St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. (Photo courtesy Wladyslaw/Wikimedia Commons)

St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. (Photo courtesy Wladyslaw/Wikimedia Commons)

This market may be small, but it packs a lot of fruits and vegetables for a very affordable price. Who said buying locally had to be more expensive?

No matter who you are or what you do, it’s important to support other people, especially those in your community. If you want to see your city prosper and its people to succeed, put your money where your mouth is.

Get the look: Your 6 favourite TV characters

By Bree Duwyn

With the rise of Netflix original shows, Canada has finally earned its way into the popular television industry. Three of the company’s most popular original series, Riverdale, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and A Series of Unfortunate Events, were filmed in Vancouver, placing Canada one step closer into the TV limelight.

These shows have more in common than just the filming location. Their combination of mystery and adventure, their dark and alluring plots with moments of heart and humour, all create the unique dynamic of each show.

In Riverdale, the main characters often hang out at the Whyte Wyrm, known in the real word as Gabby’s Country Cabaret, in Langley, B.C. This spot and Langley itself has grown in popularity lately, primarily because of the show’s success.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina films mostly in Cloverdale, Surrey, a suburb in Metro Vancouver. A staple location in the series is a bookstore, Cerberus Books. In real life it was known as Dann’s Electronics, but is currently empty for filming.

A Series of Unfortunate Events was filmed at Whites Ironwood Studios, with locations is both, the north and south parts of Vancouver.

These popular shows feature creative sets, props and fashion. You can get the look of your favourite characters at popular stores such as H&M, Forever 21 and Aritzia.


Photo courtesy thecwriverdale on Instagram

Riverdale is a hit Netflix original series, that also airs on The CW Television Network. Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge are reinvented on screen from the original Archie Comics as the dynamic best friend duo. They’re solving the mysteries of their town, Riverdale, alongside Archie Andrews and Jughead Jones.

Just like vanilla and chocolate, sugar and spice, the styles of these two complement their friendship and personalities.

Betty’s style is cute and playful, while maintaining maturity and vibrant colours. For instance in season 2 episode 6, she pulls off a cute pair of denim overalls, a piece she’s been spotted in throughout the series. You can get a similar pair of overalls online at ModCloth and to complete the look, a similar white long-sleeve shirt from Aritzia.

Photo courtesy thecwriverdale on Instagram

Throughout the show, Betty pairs the overalls with an abundance of colours and styles. Solid colours and patterns such as stripes look well against the denim, and fitted shirts complement the fit of the overalls.

Betty shows off her quirky personality in colourful prints on sweaters, such as hearts, flowers and stripes.

Betty is most often seen in a simple pair of jeans and a sweater. This pink pullover can be paired with high-waisted denim jeans, to recreate her casual look.

These items can be found at Free People (sweater) and ModCloth (jeans).

To add a twist to Betty’s denim overall style, check out this cute overall skirt from Forever 21.

Photo courtesy forever21canada on Instagram

Veronica’s style is bold and confident, with a breath of sophistication. Her style consists of collared dresses. They vary from black with pure white collars to ones with a pop of colour.

Both dresses are from ModCloth.             

For a more daring look, check out this cape dress, similar to the ones Veronica wears. For a preppy look, Veronica often wears fitted polo tops, like this one. It’s both casual and bold.

Veronica also often wears vibrant and youthful crop tops, as well as sweaters with a bow.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Photo courtesy sabrinanetflix on Instagram

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina details the life of a teenage witch named Sabrina Spellman. This show is also derived from the world of Archie Comics.

The story follows Sabrina as she copes with having a life in both, the mortal and the magical worlds. The show features numerous unique characters from both spectrums of the world.

Sabrina’s signature colour is dark red. She wears an array of clothing pieces in this colour, such as this buttoned coat.

She often wears knit turtleneck sweaters, ranging in colours and styles. This classic grey knit, this ruffle-trimmed knit and a bold ribbed yellow sweater, are similar to those she wears in the show.

These tops are often paired with black jeans and can also be paired with vintage skirts such as this, or plaid skirts like this one, available at H&M.

Another dazzling character from the show is Prudence Night, an empowered witch with a daring and wicked style.

Photo courtesy sabrinanetflix on Instagram

Prudence’s style is sharp, bold and mature. Her boarding school-esque attire is perfect for any occasion.

To make the ensemble pop, add chunky rings, tights and a pair of heavy black boots to complete the look.

When Prudence is not attending her witchcraft classes, she has a sleek and modern style.

You can find all the essential pieces of her outfit, including this skirt, shirt and jacket at H&M.

Photo courtesy hm on Instagram

Photo courtesy hm on Instagram

Harvey Kinkle, the beloved mortal boy and Sabrina’s on-again and off-again love interest, has pile-lined denim jacket as his statement piece. H&M sells mens denim jackets in both light and dark wash.

Photo courtesy sabrinanetflix on Instagram

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Photo courtesy unfortunate on Instagram

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a spinoff of a book series by Daniel Handler, under the pen name Lemony Snicket. This series airs on Netflix and has been a big hit for its mystery and alluring appeal of wonder and adventure.

Esmé Squalor is the villain of the show. Her fashion is very bold and outspoken. She rocks patterned pantsuits and has a dynamic power behind her personality.

Photo courtesy unfortunate on Instagram

NA-KD has a similar pink striped pantsuit in a modern and fun style.

Esmé also loves to wear leather. If you’re looking for an edgier look, these pants, this shirt, and this jacket is your way to go.

If you’re looking to change it up a bit this year, getting the look of these expressive characters can be a fun way to try new things and explore your style.

Seven Lives: Bringing rare Californian-Mexican fusion cuisine to Toronto

By Nicole Colozza

Seven Lives’ signature taco, the “Gobernador,” in front of their store window, paired nicely with the Baja fish taco. (CanCulture/Nicole Colozza)

Seven Lives’ signature taco, the “Gobernador,” in front of their store window, paired nicely with the Baja fish taco. (CanCulture/Nicole Colozza)

A bright red awning, eye-catching bubble letters and the muffled sound of music accompanied by boisterous singing are what calls customers to line up out the door at the Californian-Mexican fusion taco shop, Seven Lives, located in the middle of Kensington Market.

Sean Riehl, an American-born, self-taught chef, moved to Toronto from California in 2010 and created Seven Lives three years later, originally just as a pop-up.

He opened up a permanent shop in one of Toronto’s most popular markets a year later, and his tacos have been a hit ever since.

The menu is inspired by both the California-style tacos Riehl enjoyed growing up and his trips to Tijuana for authentic Mexican tacos.

“It’s a mix of Tex-Mex,” said Seven Lives manager Omar Joel Soria. “Our tacos have fish and meat in them and he tried to mix Californian style with a Mexican style and put it all together.”

The Seven Lives menu features eight different tacos, each for only six dollars, that switch occasionally on a yearly basis.

You can enjoy your tacos with their selection of sides from classic guacamole and freshly made tortilla chips to colourful seafood ceviche.

Their signature taco is called the “Gobernador” and is packed with flavour from a steamy pile-up of smoked marlin, grilled shrimp and cheese. It’s a Seven Lives specialty and the only taco that never gets taken off the menu, according to Soria.

Another crowd favourite is the Baja fish taco that features a golden slab of fried haddock smothered in pico de gallo and cabbage.

The monstrous fried haddock in the Baja fish taco is encased by its two corn tortillas. You can enjoy your tacos in their quaint shop or take them to go for a delicious on-the-run meal. (CanCulture/Nicole Colozza)

The monstrous fried haddock in the Baja fish taco is encased by its two corn tortillas. You can enjoy your tacos in their quaint shop or take them to go for a delicious on-the-run meal. (CanCulture/Nicole Colozza)

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, Seven Lives has provided an enviable roasted mushroom taco option which is available at their second location in the Annex Hotel.

Photo courtesy of via sevenlivesto on Instagram

Part of the fun is watching your delicious taco being put together in their open-concept kitchen. Everything is made in-house, except for the tortillas as per Riehl’s wishes, and some of their fish and seafood comes straight from Kensington Market shops to “support the market businesses.”

The Seven Lives Family

Over the years, Toronto has made itself known as a diverse cultural hub with a wide range of cuisine options for all of your gastronomical needs. However, with the high number of new food spots opening every month, shops need a certain element that stands out to the hungry masses.

Soria explained how the Seven Lives team, or family as they refer to themselves on Instagram, is what sets them apart from other shops. Along with their fusion cuisine, Seven Lives’ friendly atmosphere is what keeps customers coming back for more.

“The lineup, people love it. You can see in reviews that people think our lineup is amazing. They say, ‘The people are so friendly.’ We are more open-minded so we are not just working, we are also having fun,” said Soria.

When you walk through the door, the bright colours and fast-paced music is not the only thing that gives vibrancy to the small shop. Everyone is laughing and singing behind the counter and second to the sight of one of their mouth-watering tacos, watching the Seven Lives family in action is the fastest way to bring a smile to your face.

Seven Lives is located at 69 Kensington Avenue and is open seven days a week from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Coming this summer, Seven Lives’ third location will be opening on 72 Kensington Avenue, just across the market.

Artist Profile: Hudson Alexander

Toronto producer Hudson Alexander never slows down

By Manus Hopkins

Hudson Alexander is a Toronto-based music producer and artist (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

Hudson Alexander is a Toronto-based music producer and artist (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

Originally from Winnipeg, 26-year-old musician and producer Hudson Alexander is making a name for himself in Toronto’s music scene. Surrounded by music since he was young, Alexander naturally picked up guitar as a teen. He’s come a long way from his original musical roots playing in high school bands.

“I would just record songs on my own,” said Alexander, “I’d do random guitar parts and then use MIDI and drum samples or whatever I could find. When I joined a band I kept making music like that until eventually that became more fun to me than being in bands.”

When Alexander was drafting up songs himself before showing them to his bandmates, he found a penchant for producing his own music and stopped bringing all his material to them. After high school, he got more serious about recording and started to explore what he could bring to the music scene. Since then, he has become more independent by pursuing his own passions.

Eventually, Alexander outgrew Winnipeg as a musician and decided that Toronto would be a better place for finding opportunities in the industry.

“It was a pretty snap decision...I didn’t really have a lot of time to think about it,” he said. “But I was just getting bored of Winnipeg. I was trying to do more DJing and playing more dance music and stuff like that, but there was no scene for that there.”

When it comes to his work process, Alexander said it’s usually pretty loose before ideas really come together.

“When I’m starting a beat, I’ll sit down and mess around with different notes and sounds and stuff to find something that I like,” said Alexander. “I get ideas out as quick as I can, and then if I’m really feeling something I’ll spend more time to expand on it, structure it, and arrange it.”

Alexander has worked with a variety of rappers and singers, making beats, tracks and handling production duties. He cites fellow artists HUSH., teddybear and his old Winnipeg friend smrtdeath as the “OG dudes” he first started working with.

Last October, Alexander and HUSH. released a seven-song album together, a project Alexander says he is particularly proud of. They spent nearly a year working on the record.

“We started working together when we were both pretty new to what we were doing,” said Alexander.

“It was right as I was making the transition from making electronic and solo music to doing more beats and working with artists, and it was when [HUSH.] was taking more of a front seat to music. He was becoming more of a rapper and more of a vocalist.”

The album is called You’re Just Miserable and can be heard on Spotify, Soundcloud and all other streaming platforms.

“It was really beneficial for both of us,” he said, “We’re both super happy with how the project turned out. In some songs you can hear the progression, going ‘these are the older songs’ and ‘these are the newer songs.’ It’s crazy.”

Alexander is currently working on his next project, an album in collaboration with rapper Boy Pape (formerly known as Brick), with whom Alexander has collaborated before. It will be released on April 5, and is also a short album, similar to the one Alexander made with HUSH.

“It doesn’t feel like an EP because we worked really hard on it and tried to make it an actual cohesive, well-sequenced, diverse project,” says Alexander. “I’m really excited about that. I’m currently in the manic stages, trying to mix it and listening to it a million times. I’m kind of going crazy about it right now, but I’m super excited.”

Alexander is producing the whole album, which was recorded in his bedroom.

“That’s how I do all my music,” he says. “I’m a super control freak about stuff like that. I like to record, mix, master and everything myself.”

The song “Madness” has already been released as a single.

“This year I’m trying to put out more of those little projects,” says Alexander. “Last year I was mostly focused on being able to drop a cool song every couple of weeks or so, and get a lot of content out.”

Alexander says releasing longer projects instead of singles is rewarding, and a better way to attract lasting attention.

“If you’re just doing one song every week or so, you’re putting out music, but it gets forgotten as time goes and you stack up more songs. These little projects feel more important, so I’m trying to do more of those.”

Check out Hudson Alexander on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud.

How Bettina Bogar is provoking skin cancer awareness and empowerment through photos

By Anastasia Barbuzzi

Creative Director Katherine Murdick chats with a visitor about the  skinwork  exhibition. ( skinwork /Bettina Bogar)

Creative Director Katherine Murdick chats with a visitor about the skinwork exhibition. (skinwork/Bettina Bogar)

In a new photo exhibition called skinwork, Toronto-based photographer Bettina Bogar managed to highlight the female form, raise awareness for skin cancer, and pay tribute to a late friend, Heather Mundle, with a humble grace unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

At the exhibit launch event on International Women’s Day, a teary eyed Bogar stood before an audience ready to listen to a panel discussion about skin cancer prevention. She thanked friends and family for their attendance and took almost no credit for the alluringly curated, completely unedited collection of photos she put together with creative director Katherine Murdick.

“Heather was so passionate about skinwork and making it something bigger than us,” Bogar said. “We want to honour her life and her goal by doing as much as we can to encourage everyone to be aware of their skin’s health.”

The finer details

Featuring 60 Canadian women who have a special connection to the cause, Bogar’s exhibition took a unique approach to advocating for cancer prevention by focusing on skin markings left by melanoma. And for every skinwork print that’s sold, all profits go straight to the Melanoma Network of Canada – the movement’s official charitable partner.

Bettina Bogar shoots a close-up photo of a  skinwork  model. ( skinwork /Bettina Bogar)

Bettina Bogar shoots a close-up photo of a skinwork model. (skinwork/Bettina Bogar)

Bogar initiated skinwork last year with a select group of women including Heather Mundle. It was Mundle who passionately advocated for the project to be about skin cancer prevention having personally experienced melanoma earlier in her life. Unfortunately, Mundle’s cancer returned shortly after the project started and she sadly lost her battle to a metastatic melanoma in September of 2018.

While walking down the long hallway of wall to wall prints inside Artscape Youngplace with Murdick, skinwork’s creative director, a silence hung in the air as she described the last few months of working on the project with Mundle. Mundle never told anyone involved in the exhibition that her cancer came back.

“Being on-set, working with over 60 women was very emotional and empowering,” said Murdick. “This project has already touched so many people, myself included, and it feels incredible.”

A personal and sensory experience

As we watched launch party-goers and influencers float throughout the room, I was surprised to have recognized some of them in the photos displayed. With the slightest clue, like a strand of blonde hair, a freckled shoulder, or pair of sun-spotted cheekbones, I was able to match a person to a photo. It became easier for me to understand how every women that bared all for Bogar’s camera felt more confident about themselves afterward. Thanks to the direction of her and Murdick, they were able to see parts of themselves that they never appreciated before as truly beautiful.

Bettina Bogar (center) and Katherine Murdick (right) on set of the  skinwork  photo shoot .  ( skinwork /Bettina Bogar)

Bettina Bogar (center) and Katherine Murdick (right) on set of the skinwork photo shoot. (skinwork/Bettina Bogar)

That’s when viewing skinwork became a very sensory experience for me. I came across a print that emphasized a woman’s midsection and hips. She had a small scar on her side that was shaped like an irregular circle and it reminded me so much of one of my own - an imprint from a recent kidney surgery. Without knowing what I was really doing, my hand moved to touch that scar on my side. I then quietly reminded myself to love that little part of me even harder and get my skin checked for cancerous spots this year.

The girl with the scar in "SWG65", a print included in the  skinwork  exhibition at Artscape Youngplace. ( skinwork /Bettina Bogar)

The girl with the scar in "SWG65", a print included in the skinwork exhibition at Artscape Youngplace. (skinwork/Bettina Bogar)

Over the course of the two-day photoshoot that Murdick and Bogar orchestrated to capture skinwork, they became overwhelmed by the amount of generosity that local businesses showed them once they learned about the project’s mission.

“My dream is that skinwork becomes a movement. That this project emotionally connects with people so deeply that they take action – make a doctor’s appointment – get themselves checked and start taking care of their skin’s health,” said Bogar.

Though skinwork is no longer on display at Artscape Youngplace, I’m so happy to have seen it in the flesh while it was. You can now follow the movement on Instagram, purchase a print, or visit the website for more information. Hopefully we’ll be able to see skinwork travel to other Canadian cities soon.