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.

Toronto’s first waste-free market is ditching single-use plastics

By Sophie Chong

Unboxed Market offers cloth bags for two dollars each for produce in the store, in order to eliminate the use of harmful plastic bags. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Unboxed Market offers cloth bags for two dollars each for produce in the store, in order to eliminate the use of harmful plastic bags. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Unboxed Market, Toronto’s first zero-waste grocery store, aims to tackle the idea of eliminating single-use plastics that are potentially harmful for the environment.

Michelle Genttner, Unboxed Market’s co-owner, believes that everyday plastics used on produce in grocery stores and packaging items of food is excessive and avoidable.

“You go to stores and there are individually wrapped potatoes and cucumbers. Next they're going to start individually wrapping grapes,” she said.

Genter says consumers tend to go through layers upon layers of plastic waste in the process of bringing home food from the supermarket.

“It just gets so ridiculous that you’ll have to open up all of these things to get to your food, which you’re going to wash or peel anyways before you actually eat it. So this extra absurd step doesn’t make any sense, especially with plastics,” she said.  

Using a “take what you need” approach, the store charges based on exactly how much of a product a customer needs. Food items such as oil and milk are sold on tap, and are charged per litre, as well as home essentials such as detergent, conditioner, soap, and body wash. Spices, salts, and dry goods are available self-serve style, and eggs are charged loosely by each single egg.

Unboxed Market sells vegetable soups in jars, made in-house from scraps of produce left over from their industrial kitchen underneath the store. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Unboxed Market sells vegetable soups in jars, made in-house from scraps of produce left over from their industrial kitchen underneath the store. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

How it works

Customers can bring containers from home and weigh them in-store, where it can then be filled with product using the self-serve layout. If customers do not have their own container, they can pay two dollars to either borrow or purchase one that the store provides. Cloth bags that can be reused are also available for sale throughout the store.

At checkout, the weight of the container is deducted from the total weight, and customers will only be charged for the amount of product in the container. Customers are then encouraged to wash and reuse the containers when they come back to the store, making the transaction practically waste-free.  

Foods that are available on tap include, milk, oils, cereal, detergent and dry ingredients. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

Foods that are available on tap include, milk, oils, cereal, detergent and dry ingredients. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)


The impact of a waste-free grocery store

The self-serve layout of the zero waste market allows customers to be charged solely for the weight of what they buy. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

The self-serve layout of the zero waste market allows customers to be charged solely for the weight of what they buy. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

“By making sure that we’re not bringing in extra packaging, we’re not adding more damage to the world than what already exists. It’s completely unnecessary,” Genttner said.

According to a report released in 2018 by Canadian environmental group, Environment Defence, Canada only recycles around 11 per cent of all plastic used in the country. The report revealed that around 10,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the great lakes every year.  

Plastic pollution in landfills and bodies of water are known to be destructive to ecosystems and harmful for plants and animals. The report by Environment Defence also claims that one in three sea turtles, as well as more than half of the whale and dolphin population, have eaten harmful plastics, leaving no room for food and causing them to starve with full stomachs.

All produce at Unboxed Market are locally sourced and are not plastic sealed, making for no plastic waste. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

All produce at Unboxed Market are locally sourced and are not plastic sealed, making for no plastic waste. (CanCulture/Sophie Chong)

According to the report, Canada does not currently have laws pushing big chain companies to use recycled resources in manufacturing new plastic goods, and there are no bans on toxic and hard-to-recycle plastics.

Genttner hopes the zero waste movement will encourage consumers to push larger chain companies into incorporating methods towards the movement and eliminating single-use plastics.

“If you have small stores like this then the voice gets bigger, you can start to influence the manufacturers, the government, and distributors by telling people that you need to find an alternative to this,” she said.


Daniel Caesar: Behind the genre-defying sound and soul

By Will Lofsky

Photo courtesy Sean Brown and Keavan Yazdani via danielcaesar on Instagram

Toronto’s music scene has drastically changed over the decade from Drake-inspired moody R&B to auto-tuned trap that very few musicians have failed to stand out, with the exception of Daniel Caesar, also known as Canada’s Frank Ocean.

Ashton Simmonds, better known as Daniel Caesar, is the 23-year-old Grammy Award winning songwriter, musician, and incredible vocalist from Oshawa, Ont. He first made his way to Toronto after getting expelled from his Christian high-school and kicked out of the house by his father for selling a small amount of weed to another student.

Times were not easy for Caesar. He worked dead-end jobs and once slept on a park bench in Trinity Bellwoods Park between couch surfing at friend’s homes. “There were low points,” Caesar told Exclaim! “And I know that I could go back home, if it really came down to that.”

Growing up in a religious household that did not support secular music influenced Caesar’s gospel-infused, genre-defying blend of soul, rock, pop, and jazz. Through deep, reflective tracks about sex, love, money, spirituality and longing, Caesar connects to his audience in a way that so many artists cannot.

Caesar first built momentum off of his independently-released EPs Birds of Paradise, Praise Break, and Pilgrim’s Paradise, which featured a collaboration with long-term friend and co-founder of the IXXI Initiative, Sean Leon, and BADBADNOTGOOD, a world-renowned Jazz band formed by Humber College students in 2010.

After connecting with Kali Uchis for his Grammy nominated hit, “Get You,” which now has 75 million views on YouTube and 200 million streams on Spotify, Caesar began performing more regularly and putting together his debut album, Freudian.

Following the success of “Get You,” Caesar prepared for his take-over, “It was kind of like this is our moment,” said Caesar to Exclaim! “We knew that if we put out a subpar project, we could lose all the momentum.”

Once released, Freudian blew up and landed the #1 on iTunes top charts with “Get You” and “Best Part” featuring H.E.R going platinum in Canada and the US. In 2017, Freudian won a Juno for R&B/ Soul recording of the year, and earned two Grammy nominations; one for Best R&B Album and one for Best R&B Performance of “Get You.”

As Freudian continued to take over 2018, Caesar became the first male in history to land his first two commercial singles “Get You” and “Best Part” on the #1 spot of Billboard’s Adult R&B chart. Caesar closed off the year with a surprise single called “Who Hurt You?” a beautiful slow jam with rich harmonies, psychedelic, phased-out guitar riffs, and smooth, raw vocals that sound like you’re in the studio with him.

Now internationally recognized, Caesar’s “Best Part” won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance on stage of the 61st Annual Grammy Awards in 2019.  

While still early on his career, it’s safe to say that Caesar has made a lasting impact on Toronto and will continue to inspire the next generation of singers in the city and GTA.

Alita: Battle Angel - A cyborg girl’s redeeming tale of humanity

By Federico Sierra

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 1.40.58 PM.png

Based on Japanese artist Yukito Kishiro’s manga, Alita: Battle Angel tells a futuristic story of a young cyborg (with a human brain and heart in a robotic body) who wakes up without a memory of her identity. Much like the half-human, half-robot protagonist, Alita: Battle Angel is a hybrid of a movie that blends technological marvel with dramatic narrative.

Canadian filmmaker James Cameron is best known for pushing the boundaries of special effects to enhance his complex cinematic ambitions. When Cameron first came across Kishiro’s manga in the early 2000s, he realized the cinematic potential it had and began developing an adaptation for the big screen. Cameron, however, decided to channel his wizardry as a director on Avatar and its upcoming handful of sequels, while searching for another director who could do justice to his script for Alita: Battle Angel. The role was eventually given to Robert Rodriguez, an American director with a similar talent to Cameron’s, to immerse his audience in futuristic worlds while keeping them emotionally invested in his character’s experience of these worlds.

Alita: Battle Angel is set in the dystopic future of the 26th century, where the surface of the planet has turned into a decaying city of metallic junk known as Iron City. For the residents of Iron City, every day is a battle to survive, but the sight of the Sky City, which floats above them, is enough to fill them with hope and dreams. The Sky City, also known as Zalem, is the last remaining metropolis in the planet where only the wealthiest and most privileged get a chance to live, and whose expensive trash drops down on Iron City.

Scavenging among the scrap heap, Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) discovers a human head with a functioning brain which he brings back to his lab and attaches to a robotic body. The head belongs to Alita (Rosa Salazar), who wakes up to realize that she doesn’t know what happened to her, let alone who she is.

The relationship between Dr. Ido and Alita is very similar to that of Geppetto and Pinocchio. Alita reminds Dr. Ido to his deceased daughter, and after he brings her back to life, he can’t help but to protect her as if she was his own daughter. Most of their dialogues serve to explain the dos and don’ts of this complex world to the audience; but to Alita, the words of Dr. Ido are the lessons and counsel a father would give to his own child. Alita embodies a Pinocchio-like daughter figure to Dr. Ido as he guides her in her quest to find a purpose beyond the artificiality of her body. But the world is a tough place and finding oneself within it might be a dangerous endeavour that may end up corrupting one’s soul.


The world created by Rodriguez and Cameron is a great metaphor to what it’s like to grow up in a society where it’s so easy to trade our dreams for our humanity. The clearest example of this is the character of Hugo (Keean Johnson), an all-human teenage assistant to Dr. Ido. He and Alita develop a cute relationship, where he reveals his only dream is to live up in the Sky City. Alita becomes enamoured of Hugo; she sees in him a humble human with ambition and optimism. But Alita’s naïve attraction towards Hugo has k ept her from finding the criminal activities he is involved in as means to achieve his dreams.

The main focus to develop the character of Alita gets sidetracked when more characters are introduced. Having some of these side characters played by celebrated actors like Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly further distract the personal element the movie had built thus far to explore the identity of Alita. There’s also an additional subplot involving a popular sport known as Motorball, a gladiatorial race on skates which grants its winners a one-way ticket to the Sky City. By attempting to juggle so many ideas at once, Alita: Battle Angel halts its epic sci-fi prowess and suddenly feels like a bland exploitation of spectacle.

Alita: Battle Angel had the potential to match thought-provoking sci-fi movies like the recent Blade Runner 2049, but instead it fumbles like a reimagining of The Hunger Games dystopian scenario.

Despite the abundance of these faltering elements, Alita: Battle Angel works best when it follows its young protagonist. Alita is the beating heart of the movie, both in character and performance. Her journey captivated my attention and I was curious to see who she would grow up to become; so much that I didn’t even stop to consider that Salazar’s performance was 90% reproduced with CGI (employing the same performance-capture technique that was used to bring Gollum to life in The Lord of the Rings series.) Although this is Rosa Salazar’s first time in a leading role, the young actress communicates the nuances of waking up to experience life for the first time with subdued talent.

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 1.47.54 PM.png

At first glance Alita: Battle Angel may seem like a science fiction movie, but in this case the genre only serves as an excuse to display visual effects of the most sophisticated calibre. Buried deep underneath the technological achievement, there lies a coming-of-age story of a girl and her father figure, as they both learn to trust in one another to find the inner strength it takes to survive in a hopeless world.

The movie might put off the part of the audience that is looking for an illuminating story beyond simple entertainment. But if you manage to overlook its cliché plot points and let yourself be bedazzled by the ground-breaking engineering the filmmakers employed to tell Alita’s journey of self-discovery, you might find yourself hoping for a sequel.

All images were sourced from the Alita: Battle Angel trailer.

Tickets can be expensive, but being a Leafs fan doesn’t have to be

By Lara Kuipers

Toronto Maple Leafs fans watch Game 2 between the Leafs and the Boston Bruins in the NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2013. (Photo courtesy KatieThebeau/ Wikimedia Commons )

Toronto Maple Leafs fans watch Game 2 between the Leafs and the Boston Bruins in the NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2013. (Photo courtesy KatieThebeau/Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a Saturday night in Toronto. The sun is just beginning to set, casting a golden glow over the busy people walking in the streets.

“Tickets, I got tickets!” a man yells as he waves two pieces of paper in the air feverishly. It’s not just any Saturday in Toronto, it’s a Saturday night and the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing hockey at home.

Inside the home venue of the Leafs, Scotiabank Arena, men, women, boys and girls of all ages are walking around with a jump in their step. Holding a cold beer in one hand and a hotdog in the other, it’d be hard pressed to find someone not sporting the home team’s jersey – either in the royal blue they wear at home games or the sharp white they wear at away games. Occasionally a rare fan may be seen wearing the other team’s jersey, usually getting heckled by Leafs fans in the hallway that circle the perimeter outside the rink.

With beers in their hands, fans find their seat sections and wait in line as ushers point them to their seats. Through the curtains to the sections the ice is unveiled. The bright lights, the white ice and the screaming fans hits like a rush of adrenaline. The players are already out there warming up – shooting pucks hard at the empty net – never failing to miss their shots. The favourites are all there including the young guns, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Frederik “Freddy” Andersen stretches on their end in the neutral zone. John Tavares and Nazem Kadri are chatting as they skate around. There’s a vibe in the arena, it’s only a vibe you can get from being in the rink to watch a game live. That is, if you can afford it.

For anyone who’s a Leafs fan, seeing a home game in person is a must. However, unfortunately for Leafs fans, they have one of the most expensive tickets in the National Hockey League (NHL). A ticket in the nose bleeds (the seats at the top section of the stands) is still going to cost around $100 per person and better sectioned seats are hard to come by. However, in recent years, an alternative approach to watching the game at Scotiabank Arena has evolved, Maple Leaf Square.

Maple Leaf Square is located at 15 York Street in Toronto, in the area right outside the front doors to the arena. During playoff time it is sectioned off from traffic and designated as a “tailgate” area for Leafs fans to gather during the game. Above the front doors hangs a large screen that plays the game while it’s on. For the past few years the crowd has been packed with fans and the best part is, it’s free.

21-year-old Ryerson University student Haley Bretney has been a fan of the Leafs for most of her life and has visited  Maple Leaf Square to watch a game on three separate occasions.

Bretney said that she didn’t know what to expect the first time she went but remembers that as soon as she walked in, a worker handed her a rally towel with music blasting on the speakers.

“Everybody was really into it. I almost felt like that was more exciting than actually being inside because those were the true fans – trekking out to go to the square and watch. There weren’t a lot of people on their phones or whatever, not watching. If you went to the square you were going to stand for three hours and you were going to watch,” said Bretney.

“I know I would rather be inside, but the atmosphere is so much better outside because those are really the true fans.”

Like Bretney, Ryerson student Mat Rodger, a 20-year-old Leafs fan, said he prefers watching the game in Maple Leaf Square rather than inside the arena.

“I feel like that’s where the real fans go. Inside the rink, the tickets are so expensive, you don’t really get the blue-collar fans,” Rodger said.

But to get to see a Leafs’ game at Maple Leaf Square during the playoffs, the team has to make the playoffs first. That shouldn’t be an issue this season as the Leafs are having one of their best seasons in recent years. They are currently sitting in third place in their division with 89 points. They sit four points behind the Boston Bruins – one of their biggest rivals in the game – with 12 games left in the season.

The results so far this season are not surprising when a deeper look is taken into the dynamics of the team. This season started on a high note before it even started when highly sought after free-agent forward John Tavares signed with the Leafs on July 1, 2018 after playing nine seasons with the New York Islanders.

Tavares is now having one of his best seasons in the NHL as he currently sits fourth in the league with 39 goals scored. But this 2018-19 Leafs’ team is one with a lot of depth because Tavares isn’t the only one on the NHL’s statistics leaderboard. Mitch Marner, playing his third season in the NHL at only 21-years-old sits fourth in the league with 60 assist.

Auston Matthews who is also playing his third season in the NHL, recently became the first player in the Leafs’ long history to score at least 30 goals in his first three seasons in the NHL. In the plus-minus category, not one but two Leafs players cracked the top ten in the league with veteran defenceman Ron Hainsey topping the league with a +33 plus-minus, and defenceman Morgan Rielly sitting in fourth with +30. This comes to no surprise as the team sits third in the league in goals against average with a +46.

In addition to being fourth in the league with plus-minus, Reilly is having one of his best seasons as he sits first in the league with goals by a defenceman at 19. Backing them up, Freddy Andersen sits third in the league with goaltender wins at 33.

With a team channeling such depth and skill with just a few weeks left in the regular season, a playoff run seems very likely. So, you might want to consider hopping on the subway or GO Transit train and riding to Maple Leaf Square to watch the game in a crowd of fellow Leafs fans. Just remember to bring your jersey.

Spring in Canada: Fashion trends to stay on top of this upcoming season

By Mia Maaytah

Although this winter seems to be endless, spring is approaching and Toronto designers have been busy cultivating new fashion trends for the city.

In the past, spring has been an opportunity to softly reintroduce colour back into our closets and a time to pair lightweight material with classic, dainty jewelry. However, this year the trends seem to be roaring into existence with bright red and green pieces, mixed with eccentric patterning and bold accessories.

This year, bold is an understatement, as all shapes, colours, patterns and types of fabrics are skillfully crafted together.

Major designers such as Coach, Marc Jacobs and Kate Spade New York have hit the runway featuring designs that incorporate fusions of primary colours and classic patterns like stripes and polka dots.

Photo courtesy of coach on Instagram

Courtesy of Rex Leung and Ryan Feng via marcjacobs on Instagram

Courtesy of katespadeny on Instagram

Not all runway attire is exactly suitable for the constant hustle and bustle of the working crowd in Toronto. Sara Duke, a Toronto-based independent fashion designer and Ryerson University graduate, just released her new collection of pieces that encompass both style and functionality.

Made with all Canadian material, Duke says she strives to create clothes that are not only rich in quality, but are also suitable for day-to-day use in their comfort and versatility.

Courtesy of sarasaraduke on Instagram

“Overall, spring this year is a lot darker. There is a lot of primary colours being used,” said Duke “Everything is sort of darker and duller and grittier as far as colours go, plus, stripes. Stripes are a big deal.”

Duke’s designs feature timeless T-shirts, dresses and pants that are handcrafted and targeted toward a working woman. Her use of dark blues and baby pinks fit the trendy theme of the blending of contrasting colour palettes. Her neat use of stripes adds a classic aspect to her spring 2019 collection.

Courtesy of sarasaraduke on Instagram

Although Duke remains trendy with her creations, she said she does not rely on pieces made by major designers as an outline. Instead, she uses fashion forecasting brought to her by fabric contractors.

“When I build a collection, I look at what did really well from the collections before that. I look at what shapes and styles did really well,” she said.

“I don’t really pay attention to runway stuff. I pay attention to my customer, because this is clothing that needs to be practical enough to be worn in public.”

Numerous other Canadian designers share Duke’s vision. They aim to satisfy their customers by staying updated with the global fashion trends while ensuring practicality.

Kollar Clothing, a Canadian fashion line for men, recently showcased their spring collection. It offers a rugged, yet classy approach for the upcoming season.

Courtesy of kollarclothing on Instagram

Kollar Clothing’s denim jackets and pants are paired with sleek button-up shirts and black leather jackets. The brand’s newest line follows the ominous theme of dark hues, accented with touches of pastel purple on a patterned, collared T-shirt.

Andrew Coimbra, a clothing line based in Toronto, reverses the trend of a primarily deep colour palette, as their Spring 2019 collection is alive with colour and vibrancy.

Courtesy of andrewcoimbra on Instagram

This collection features both casual and elegant styles. It offers felt blazers and simple white T-shirts. The blend of bright colours and busy patterns, accented with pops of black and navy blue, make the line fresh and unique.

As comfort is a concern for many practical brands, some Canadian artists do not miss an opportunity to dazzle their clientele with dressier pieces. Greta Constantine, a women’s clothing label founded by Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong, released a new collection for the upcoming season featuring fairytale-like designs for fancier occasions.

Courtesy of Peter Tamlin via gretaconstantine on Instagram

This collection’s pieces range from dresses, to jumpsuits, to matching two-pieces. Pickersgill and Wong followed this season’s stripe trend just like Duke, in a couple of designs. Their Spring 2019 line features cheetah print and primarily metallic fabrics. The collection is unique and bold, in comparison to other Canadian designers’ newest lines.

The answer to your hunger: Rye food outlets

By Akanksha Dhingra

(CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

(CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Unpredictable Canadian weather and long lectures are not a great mix. To survive the day, we always need a strong breakfast, lunch, snacks, and a cozy place to enjoy it all.

Although Ryerson University is surrounded by downtown Toronto's various food options, on-campus food outlets also offer affordable meals and snacks for students.

In between classes, it is always a blessing to have a café nearby to pick up your coffee to-go. Other times, having a lavish lunch with your friends is the best solution to all your school stress.

Convenient and affordable little space to get your wraps

Oakham Café located in the Ryerson Student Centre, offers the right setting for an early morning breakfast or a perfect midday lunch break.

Oakham Café in the Ryerson Student Centre offers a cozy environment with mouth-watering food options. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

As you enter, the red brick walls with student artwork on display give you a warm, welcoming vibe. If you are looking for some Instagram-worthy pictures and a chill atmosphere, Oakham Café is the ultimate spot.

It is a perfect place to study and catch up on assignments. Although, expect it to always be busy as it seems like no one can resist the palatable items.

One can never get tired of trying different items on the menu. Freshly-brewed drip coffee, espresso, chai lattes and freshly-squeezed juices are available for $3 and under.

Near the entrance, a chalkboard displays mouth-watering ‘Café Specials’ that are different every day.

Vegans don’t be disappointed, Oakham Café has plenty of things to offer for you too.

The quinoa burger made of quinoa, oats, mushrooms, pecans, and spices is usually in high demand.

“I love quinoa burgers, and Oakham Café has some really good vegetarian options,” said Juliana Regan, a second-year film student. “It is a convenient and affordable little space to get wraps in between classes and after long commutes.”

Juliana Regan, a second-year film student, at Oakham Café. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Juliana Regan, a second-year film student, at Oakham Café. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

As a Pitman Hall resident, I find Oakham to be my go-to place after getting tired of the food.

I would highly recommend my all-time favourite, the garlic bread with spicy mayonnaise.

Oakham Café accepts payments through Ryerson One Cards, so next time you have some flex dollars, visit the café and save some cash.

Oakham is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Monday to Friday and has brunch meals from 9:30 a.m.- 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

Juliana Regan, a second-year film student at Oakham Café. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Junk or healthy? You get both

The Flavoursome Grill halal chicken burger and a cheesy pizza slice from the Service Hub Cafe at Ryerson University. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

The Flavoursome Grill halal chicken burger and a cheesy pizza slice from the Service Hub Cafe at Ryerson University. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

If you prefer vegan, vegetarian, or halal options, the centrally located Service Hub Cafe can be your next favourite setting.

The place gives you the choice between your guilty pleasure food items and healthy workout day food too. From burgers and fries, you can also make your own bowl full of veggies, meat, and sauces.

As a foodie, I love the variety of soups, pizza, and sandwiches.

The cafe is clean and has big windows all around, creating a well lit and active environment.

I tried the grilled halal chicken burger, and it was as delicious as it seemed. A grilled chicken patty topped with a layer of pickles, peppers, tomatoes, and mayonnaise is all you need to have a better day.

“I love how you can build your own bowl, I always come here between classes,” said Pooja Rambaran, a first-year journalism student.

Pooja Rambaran, a first-year journalism student. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Pooja Rambaran, a first-year journalism student. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

The central location makes the café busy and an ideal place to get some munchies in between classes.

The Ryerson Service Hub is right next to the cafe and is never short on seating. If you have a lot of homework piled up, I would suggest you to grab some food and find your comfort spot there.

The Hub Cafe is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Thursday.

Rye’s one and only student pub  

The Ram in the Rye. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

The Ram in the Rye. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

Ryerson’s student pub Ram in the Rye is a great place to loosen up after having a hectic day.

Cheap food and drinks are exactly what every student is looking for and you’ll find it all here.  

My personal favourite is the tandoori chicken and naan. Being Indian, the spice is all I crave. The quantity is always enough to fill you for the rest of the day.

A cheeseburger, poutine, and garlic bread from Ram in the Rye. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

A cheeseburger, poutine, and garlic bread from Ram in the Rye. (CanCulture/Akanksha Dhingra)

The pub has good service and a friendly environment. Being a university pub, there is always some fun event going on. The pool tables and dark lighting are the perfect combination when wanting a night to destress.

Don’t miss the chicken wings, nachos, grilled paninis, and the special Ram Burger that cannot be found anywhere else but here.

“It is always a fun night to come here during events. I get to dance and have a cheese sandwich later,” said Mahima Soni, a second-year business management student.   

You always have a place for your study break or late night hunger, and the pub helps your pocket as the drinks and food are inexpensive.

The Ram in the Rye is located next to the Ryerson Student Centre and is open from 11 a.m. - 2 a.m., Monday to Friday.

5 Canadian books to look for in March

By Bree Duwyn

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

By Alicia Elliott

Release Date: March 26, 2019


A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott is an important and personal reflection on racism, oppression and trauma.

Alicia Elliott offers raw insight on the treatment of Indigenous people in North America and comprehension to the continuance of colonialism and its legacy. She explores the ties between both emotional, spiritual, and cultural loss in both figurative and literal perspectives by making pivotal connections between past and present. Elliott also attempts to answer questions behind the most pressing Indigenous issues faced in today’s society to forge a welcoming tool for a better future filled with respect.

Alicia Elliot is a Tuscarora author from Brantford, Ont., from Six Nations of the Grand River and lives with her husband and child. She has had work published by The Globe and Mail, Vice, Maclean’s, CBC and Reader’s Digest, among many more. She works at The Fiddlehead as the Creative Nonfiction Editor, is an Associate Nonfiction Editor at Little Fiction | Big Truths, and works as a consulting editor for The New Quarterly. A Mind Spread Out on the Ground won gold at the 2017 National Magazine Awards.

We All Fall Down

By Daniel Kalla

Release Date: March 26, 2019


We All Fall Down by Daniel Kalla is about a woman named Alana Vaughn, who is an infectious diseases expert with NATO. Alana is urgently requested by an ex-lover to travel to Genoa, Italy to examine an unusually ill patient in critical need. She’s shocked to find out that the illness is a recurrence of the Black Death, also known as the Great Plague. Alana suspects bioterrorism but Byron Menke, who works for WHO, disagrees. In a chaotic hunt to track down Patient Zero, they come across a near century old monastery and an old medieval journal that might hold the secret to the outbreak. As the deadly disease rapidly spreads, it’s a dash to uncover the truth before countless lives are lost.

Daniel Kalla resides in Vancouver and works as an Emergency Room Physician in a major teaching hospital. He received his B.Sc. in mathematics and his MD from the University of British Columbia. Kalla also doubles as a writer, managing a dual career. He has written a total of 11 books and his Shanghai trilogy has been optioned for feature films. He pairs his job as a physician to the themes and concepts of his novels. This includes Kalla’s first medical thriller, Pandemic, which was inspired by his experience in facing the SARS crisis of 2003. Kalla has appeared on ABC, FoxNews, NBC, CNN, CBC Radio, The National Post, City TV, The Vancouver Sun and many more. Kalla now works as a clinical associate professor and the department head of St. Paul’s Hospital ER.


By Amy Spurway

Release Date: March 26, 2019


Crow is about Stacey Fortune, known to most as Crow, who is diagnosed with three inoperable brain tumours that send her running from her glamorous life in Toronto to her mother’s trailer home in rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Everyone in her hometown believes that Crow’s family is cursed. Crow decides to write a memoir to stun all. She’ll dig into her family’s past, investigate the alleged curse and uncover the mystery of her father, who vanished before she was born. Crow contends with an electric bunch of characters that add more flavour and spice to her memoir and her life. Crow by Amy Spurway is a witty, energetic and humorous tale of twists, drama and soul.

Amy Spurway was raised in Cape Breton, which influenced the setting of Crow. At the young age of 11, Spurway landed her first writing and performing jobs with CBC Radio. From there, she worked as a communications consultant, editor, performer and speech-writer. Spurway’s work has appeared in the Toronto Star, Babble, and Elephant Journal, as well as Today’s Parent. She currently resides in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

This One Looks Like a Boy

By Lorimer Shenher

Release Date: March 31, 2019


Lorimer Shenher’s This One Looks Like a Boy: My Gender Journey to Life as a Man is an honest memoir of his gender transition. It is an inspiring coming-of-age story that embraces identity.

This memoir is thoughtful as Shenher shares his life experience of his gender journey from his childhood to adolescent experimentation to early adulthood denial of his gender identity.  This One Looks Like a Boy brings the reader on Shenher’s journey of self discovery and finding acceptance.

Shenher is an author, the former head of the Missing Persons Unit in Vancouver, and is also an influential public speaker. He speaks on a large spectrum of topics, including police culture and its impact on society in relation to the fight for human rights of marginalized people. Shenher is recently retired and the recipient of a MA in Professional Communication (2017). He is now a full-time writer in multiple media and has experience as a reporter and photographer, as well as a film extra and a TV technical consultant.

Immigrant City

By David Bezmozgis

Release Date: March 12, 2019


Immigrant City is a collection of short stories written by David Bezmozgis that all focus on the lives of immigrants. Immigrant City, the titular tale, tells the story of a father and daughter duo who find themselves in an unusual version of his immigrant childhood. These tales create a sense of wonder and journey as the underlying themes play with self-discovery and following one’s heart. Within these enriched stories, Bezmozgis presents complex immigrant characters in a heartfelt demonstration.

An award-winning writer and filmmaker, David Bezmozgis has had his work published in The New Yorker, Harpers, Zoetrope All-Story and The Walrus. Bezmozgis has also written Natasha and Other Stories, a story collection and novels such as The Free World and The Betrayers.

Bezmozgis’ first feature film, Victoria Day, premiered in competition at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and has received a Genie Award nomination (Canada) for Best Original Screenplay.

He graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and now lives in Toronto.

Review: Anvil at The Rockpile West

Toronto’s speed metal veterans got heavy with hometown fans last Friday

By Manus Hopkins

Anvil frontman Steve “Lips” Kudlow delivers a real rock ‘n’ roll show to a crowd of diehard fans on March 8. (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

Anvil frontman Steve “Lips” Kudlow delivers a real rock ‘n’ roll show to a crowd of diehard fans on March 8. (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

It’s not so common anymore to see the living, breathing legends of days past up close and personal in venues like The Rockpile. You get the dinosaur bands who tour once or twice a decade through big-city stadiums, or the washed-up acts you might catch mid-day at some county fair with one or two original members. The band in question tonight falls into neither of these categories.

A couple hundred fans have flocked out for the first of two nights in Toronto on Anvil’s ‘Pounding the Pavement’ 2019 tour. There is even a surprisingly high number of fans who come early to see sets from four local support acts. Old-school heavy metal group Injustice, hard rock cover band Rotten Candy and heavy rock trio Down the Void each play a half hour set to an enthusiastic audience. The main support band, Caym, rips through a ferocious but unexpectedly short set, and at midnight the real event begins.

Main support act, Caym, bring their raw energy to to the Rockpile and leave with a few new fans. (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

Main support act, Caym, bring their raw energy to to the Rockpile and leave with a few new fans. (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

Immediately upon taking the stage, Anvil frontman and guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow jumps off and snakes his way into the crowd, where he stays for the opening song, an instrumental, “March of the Crabs.” The people who surround Kudlow are the same diehards who have supported his band for decades, and when he returns to the stage, the band wastes no time ripping into fan favourite “666.”

Kudlow shows his signature way of introducing “666” off of 1982’s  Metal on Metal.  (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

Kudlow shows his signature way of introducing “666” off of 1982’s Metal on Metal. (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

Formed back in 1978, Anvil was a huge influence on many bands that made up the emerging thrash metal scene in the early 1980s. Infamous thrashers like Slayer, Anthrax and the highest-selling metal band of all, Metallica, have all cited Anvil as an inspiration.

Unfortunately, it would be decades before the group gained the recognition they deserved.

Anvil’s career-spanning set incorporates material from their 1981 debut album Hard ‘n’ Heavy, all the way up to their most recent record, 2018’s Pounding the Pavement. With 17 albums under their belt, there’s a lot of ground for Anvil to cover. They don’t rely on the nostalgia factor, though. Newer tunes like “Bitch in the Box” and “Badass Rock ‘n’ Roll” fit nicely in the set alongside the classics.

That’s not to say songs that were written over 30 years ago like “Winged Assassins” and “Mothra” don’t still manage to sound fresh. The old records might be dated by today’s standards with the advancements in recording technology, but there’s still a magic to them that isn’t often captured in the digital age.

It’s easy to see that the members of Anvil are genuinely having fun onstage, but there are touching moments in Kudlow’s banter as well. He takes some time to recount stories of partying with late Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister in the early 80s, and acknowledges the impact the incredibly moving 2008 documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil had on the band’s career.

Before the success of the movie, Kudlow and fellow Anvil founder, drummer Robb Reiner, stuck it out as a band, but struggled to the point of having to work dead-end day jobs while they weren’t on tour. After a few words about the film, Kudlow tells the crowd he hasn’t had to deliver meals for 10 years, sparking a huge cheer through the venue.

The worst days are behind them: Anvil can now rock out onstage and go home with a paycheck. (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

The worst days are behind them: Anvil can now rock out onstage and go home with a paycheck. (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

Anvil has been called the real-life version of the fictional band from the 1984 mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, and it shows in their performance. A bass solo, a guitar solo (for which Kudlow swaps out his pick for a vibrator) and a bombastic drum solo all find their way into the 90-minute show. The main set closes with Canadian heavy metal anthem Metal on Metal, and if there are any doubts that Anvil has still got their fire, this song alone is enough to dispel them. This is a veteran band that hasn’t lost a bit of its edge over its 40-year career. Not bad for a group of guys in their 60s.

Trouble in the Garden: Indigenous Indie film brings attention to Sixties Scoop

By Bree Duwyn

A dancing scene from Trouble in the Garden (Courtesy of @troubleinthegardenthefilm on Instagram).

Award winning writer and director Roz Owen tackles important Indigenous issues in her latest film, Trouble in the Garden.

The film opened theatrically in Toronto at Imagine Cinemas Carlton Cinema and in Calgary at the Plaza Theatre throughout the week of Feb. 15 to 21. The film is also set to screen in Regina at the Rainbow Cinema Golden Mile from March 1 to 7. As well as at the Magic Lantern Roxy Theatre in Saskatoon from March 8 to 14.

Bailed out of jail and taken in by a brother she has not seen in years, Trouble in the Garden tells a story of an Indigenous protester, Raven, and her adoptive family who battle with betrayal and heartbreak.

The film is a fascinating journey that depicts a storyline that many Indigenous people faced as victims of The Sixties Scoop, a practice that took place from the late 1950s through the 1980s in which Indigenous children were taken away from their homes and placed into foster homes or put up for adoption. However, to this day there are still children being removed from their homes and put into foster care using the legal system.

Trouble in the Garden also tackles Indigenous treaty and land issues, as Raven fights for the rights of Indigenous people and their rights to land.

Owen’s inspiration in creating Trouble in the Garden comes from her sister-in-law, a Sixties Scoop survivor. She wanted to bring awareness to a topic not so often discussed.

Owen hopes to “flip people's thinking” and finds it important to use her film to bring awareness to the history of Canada’s dark past when it comes to the treatment of Indigenous peoples, she said. She also hopes that Scoop survivors who watch Trouble in the Garden will feel authenticity in the story.

To ensure she would tell the story with the most accuracy, Owen called Raven Sinclair who is Nehiyaw (Cree) from Treaty 4 located in southern Saskatchewan, a professor of social work — as well a Sixties Scoop survivor and activist.

Sinclair, who is also a filmmaker, values her work on issues of Indigenous child welfare, adoption and historical trauma and recovery.

Owen and Sinclair collaborated extensively to tell a genuine story that is raw, crucial and something that people need to talk about.

“I want people to see it and understand that everybody has a story and this story isn’t just the story of a survivor. There are themes that we need to understand to know a bit more about what our population has gone through,” said Sinclair in an interview with What She Said.

In order to nail down the dialogue in Trouble in the Garden, Owen also consulted Cara Gee, the Indigenous actress who plays Raven. Gee executes an excellent performance as the protagonist of the film — strong and capable all while being vulnerable and genuine.

Raven (Cara Gee) in a scene from Trouble in the Garden. (Courtesy of troubleinthegardenfilm on Instagram)

Owen said that a film can touch an individual on an intense level of emotion and her goal for Trouble in the Garden was to give that opportunity to the audience.

“Emotionally, I wanted to give people the opportunity to think. You can read so many statistics and get all this information but in the end, it doesn’t touch you. It can upset you but does not shake you up,” said Owen in an interview with CanCulture.

Trouble in the Garden is a heartbreaking yet beautifully crafted story that shines a light on Indigenous issues in Canada, all while maintaining a solid and truthful demonstration of the effects of the Sixties Scoop. It gives the world an opportunity to connect and forges a path towards recognition, reconciliation and respect.

Through Raven’s journey, the film depicts a storyline filled with change, growth and revelation. Raven battles with the lack of support from her adoptive family and the strenuous relationships between them, all while standing up for the rights she believes in as a protester for Indigenous lands.

Raven’s brother, Colin (Jon Car), is a real estate agent, which is problematic to her cause. Colin’s pregnant wife, Alice (Kelly Van der Berg), harbours distaste for Raven and believes she is a bad influence, especially for their young daughter, Gracie (Persephone Koty).

Once Raven is bailed out of jail by Colin, she is brought to their home, an outsider looking in on a picture perfect family, or so thought. Raven has never felt like she belonged to the family and shows moments of intense heartache when she recalls her past. She feels so distant that she pitches a tent in the backyard to escape the world and swim in her own thoughts, rather than breach the animosity and tense atmosphere within the family she never felt at home with.

Owen does an exceptional job of drawing in the audience through the emotions of Raven’s quick-tempered and fierce persona, which is evident right off the bat in the opening scene at a police station. The narrative also shows Raven’s gentleness as she timidly breaks out of her shell with the help of Gracie’s innocence and acceptance (expertly shown in an adorable scene of playing in the dirt within the garden behind the family’s house).

The audience is kept wondering about the slow-burning drama, before it implodes in a chaotic ending when Raven and Colin’s parents show up to stir up more aspects of betrayal and dishonesty, that drives home all the compelling elements of a raw story.

The Indigenous narrative in film is constantly growing and evolving within Canada, especially with the production of the Indigenous Screen Office in 2018, an organization that is assisting Indigenous media makers with the development of their content.

There is an interest in Indigenous stories due to an urgency for them to be told. Canada is in a process of Truth and Reconciliation, and the growth of the Indigenous film scene gives the opportunity to share Indigenous voices and experience.

Opinion: Being in Toronto has made me more aware of my allergies

By Nuha Khan

When I first heard I was heading to Ryerson University for my undergrad, I couldn’t have been happier. For someone who lives more than an hour away from downtown Toronto, I don’t get many opportunities to familiarize myself with the city. I finally got the chance to immerse myself in everything Toronto had to offer: the people, vintage stores, art galleries, but most importantly, the food.

I’ve accepted the fact that Toronto is not the most ideal city for a person living with allergies. Like many members of my immediate family, I’m allergic to many things - sesame seeds, nuts, oats, just to name a few. I know that these items may not seem like common ingredients used in most meals, however, coming to school in a food-centric city has made me so much more aware of my allergies.

Constantly being in Toronto, it’s almost impossible not to want to eat out at least once a week. At every corner and intersection, I see a food stand or restaurant popping up out of the blue and it’s always something I could never find anywhere else.

There’s been instances within the past year or so where I’ve ordered food that I would never assume to have items containing the things I’m allergic to, but once I’ve eaten it, I get a reaction.

Just last month, I went to a restaurant which shall remain anonymous. I browsed through the menu thoroughly, looking for what to order and came upon a meal I thought I would enjoy. Due to my many allergies, I always tend to be precautious about what I’m getting. Since my meal contained bread, I needed to ask the waiter if it contained sesame seeds, as breads do in some cases.

Now, here comes the most annoying part of my day. Whenever you ask a sever about the ingredients in your meal, they always seem to assume that you’re asking about it because you have an allergy. They tend to make it a bigger deal than it actually is and put you in an awkward situation which almost makes you feel like an outcast. Socially, it’s hard to be that one person who takes too long to order or can’t go to many restaurants because of cross-contamination issues.

The waiter did ask about my allergies that day and offered to prepare a meal that would be allergy-friendly, meaning they would use fresh utensils, pots and stay away from all things I couldn’t eat. This sounded all too good to be true and unfortunately, it was. On the way home, I felt very nauseous and ended up vomiting most of what I had.

In this situation, I was lucky. Everyone who has an allergy experiences different reactions, some of which can be more severe than others. Another person may have had a harsher experience, ultimately placing their lives at risk.

It was indeed a scary experience, but something that does happen often. According to Food Allergy Canada, over 2.6 million Canadians have at least one food allergy and more than 40 per cent of Canadians have to read food labels searching for allergy information.

Since so many Canadians are affected by allergies, it should become a priority for Toronto’s food vendors to be more allergy-safe, as well as more aware of the ingredients they are using to prepare food. When restaurants become more transparent with their ingredients and meal preparation, it will become safer for people like myself and others who also have food restrictions.

It only takes a simple fix. Toronto restaurants should have all employees learn more about allergies themselves and not make it a bigger deal than it is.

Toronto’s allergy safe food spaces

Although some restaurants may be tough to eat at when you have a lot of allergies, there are thankfully a couple of local places that are devoted to being an allergy-safe space.

Toronto’s Hype Food Co. has a ‘make your own’ meal option, all of which is gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free. (Courtesy via Instagram)

Hype Food Co. is a bakery and restaurant located in Leslieville on 1060 Gerrard Street East. It is known to be Toronto’s most known allergy-free fast casual restaurant. Owner Pauline Osena wanted to open this business due to her children having many allergies.

Hype Food Co.’s kitchen is free of ingredients such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, sesame seeds and seafood. In terms of their restaurant menu, they offer many “build your own” meals options, including a selection of items like brown rice, zucchini, noodles, beans, Canadian brisket and much more. Giving customers the opportunity to create their own meal allows them to have full control of what they’re eating.

Sorelle and Co.’s berry smoothie bowl contains raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, lemon zest, pumpkin seeds, coconut yogurt and goji berry. (Courtesy nu.nectar via sorelleandco on Instagram)

Another spot Torontonians can go to for allergy-friendly food is Sorelle and Co.This is a vegan-centered café which is free of all tree nuts, gluten, dairy, egg, soy, mustard, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds.

The name Sorelle translates to “sister” in Italian, as the café was inspired by a mother struggling with five daughters who have many allergies. Their main store can be found on 161 Yorkville Avenue, but they have other spots in Vaughan, Saks Food Hall, and Etobicoke. They serve many unique dishes, from berry smoothie bowls to mushroom grilled cheeses to coconut macaroons.

As someone living with allergies, places like Hype Food Co. and Sorelle and Co. are helpful but rare. Toronto should work towards finding a middle ground, making sure that one by one, each food place will have a transparent ingredient list for every meal and understand ways in which cross contamination can be eliminated.

Mickalene Thomas' Femmes Noires highlights Black femininity and inequality in the modern era

By Will Lofsky

Mickalene Thomas, an African American artist from Brooklyn, N.Y., has outdone herself with her first major solo exhibition in Canada, Mickalene Thomas: Femmes Noires, at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

While managing to address the complexity of African femininity, Thomas highlights powerful black celebrities and the struggle for representation and inequality in the modern era.

Known for her multifaceted contemporary work, Mickalene Thomas: Femmes Noires, features collage, silk-screen work, photography, installations and videography pushing the boundaries of modern art. The living rooms are interactive, and art fans can sit down and take in the films and paintings while exploring the exhibit.

Two living room installations at either end of the showcase feature HD videos with silk-screen paintings along the surrounding walls for her Los Angelitos Negros piece and the Groundbreaking Black Women section, which includes many abstract portraits of celebrities and the highlight reel titled Do I Look Like a Lady? (Comedians & Singers).

Los Angelitos Negros combines Eartha Kitt singing her 1953 track of the same name with a collage of Thomas and two other women split into different screens emphasizing eyes and lips to a song about Western Christian art’s lack of black angels throughout history. The 23 minute, 8-channel, coloured short film split between four video monitors is both amazing and painful as Kitt’s passionate voice echoes around the large room in a performance sure to give you chills.

Mickalene Thomas.  Los Angelitos Negros , 2016. Courtesy of the artist. © Mickalene Thomas / SOCAN (2018).

Mickalene Thomas. Los Angelitos Negros, 2016. Courtesy of the artist. © Mickalene Thomas / SOCAN (2018).

Thomas uses 12 minutes worth of discussions on vulnerability, sexuality, femininity and passion in Do I Look Like a Lady? to explore the theme of inequality that exists in and out of the art world. Whoopi Goldberg, Wanda Sykes, Adele Givens, Whitney Houston and Nina Simone are amongst some of the icons Thomas showcases through a combination of monologues, short clips, songs and performances.

On the wall opposite to the short film, the silk screened acrylic mirror work called Diahann Carroll shot with a Polaroid and touched up on Photoshop reflects light around the room as part of a stunning series on black presentation, representation and female identity.  

Mickalene Thomas.  Diahann Carroll #2 , 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels. © Mickalene Thomas / SOCAN (2018).

Mickalene Thomas. Diahann Carroll #2, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels. © Mickalene Thomas / SOCAN (2018).

Another long, beautiful silkscreen on an acrylic mirror in the Groundbreaking Black Women area called Naomi Sims mounted on wood is split into multiple pieces and features a large colour spectrum with Sims looking proudly off into the distance.

Mickalene Thomas.  Naomi Sims #2 , 2016. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul. © Mickalene Thomas / SOCAN (2018).

Mickalene Thomas. Naomi Sims #2, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul. © Mickalene Thomas / SOCAN (2018).

Spanning the entire fifth floor of the AGO, minutes can turn into hours staring at Thomas’ amazing body of work. The more you look, the more you appreciate the scrupulous attention to detail in every piece.

Fortunately, the breathtaking exhibit will be open until March 24 at the AGO. Do yourself a favour and check it out. You will not be able to find anything like this in Toronto.

Opinion: Tory Lanez’s Constant Need for Attention

The Toronto rapper constantly makes headlines with his penchant for starting conflicts

Photo courtesy of Anton Mak/The Come Up Show/Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Anton Mak/The Come Up Show/Wikimedia Commons

By Manus Hopkins

Having a hard time keeping up with all the feuds Tory Lanez keeps seeming to land himself in? You aren’t the only one. The 26-year-old Brampton rapper has earned himself a load of publicity taking shots at some of the biggest names in the industry.

Lanez has been on the music scene, putting out mixtapes since 2009 and has risen to fame over the past 10 years. After being picked up by Mad Love and Interscope Records, his first full-length studio album, I Told You, was released in 2016. Though his music has received critical acclaim, he has still found other ways to continue reeling in attention.

Lanez’ oldest and longest-running feud was with Toronto superstar Drake. It dates back to as early as 2010, when Lanez was just a teenager. It all started with a callout from Lanez, and in 2015 he dropped a mixtape called New Toronto, which some saw as a slight to Drake, the reigning king of Toronto’s rap scene. Drake even name dropped Lanez’ mixtape in his song “Summer Sixteen,” rapping “all you boys in the new Toronto wanna be me a little.”

Though they buried the hatchet in May 2017, the two rappers spent a few years continuing to make vague jabs at each other on their tracks. When the end of their beef became Instagram official, Lanez didn’t waste a lot of time busying himself with other high-profile conflicts.

Lanez’ feud with Drake had earned him a great deal of publicity. For better or worse, it made people notice him and pay attention to him in a way they hadn’t before. With his name in the headlines, he was able to attract more potential listeners. It seems as if getting himself into disputes with other stars proved to be a way for him to stay relevant.

Lanez began using Twitter as a new platform to throw insults at his contemporaries, starting more feuds and gaining more attention. He had short-lived public disputes with artists such as Jacquees in February 2016. Later that year, Lanez also had a fiery dispute with rapper Travis Scott, of which eventually led to an in-person confrontation where blows were almost thrown.

In some cases, the hostility between Lanez and his rivals blew over quickly. Other contentions have lasted longer and continued into the present. A still-ongoing war of words ignited in 2017 between Lanez and Eric Bellinger after Bellinger accused Lanez of trying to steal his tag, twice. By this point, Lanez had become known for landing himself in hot water with other rappers, and he hasn’t failed to uphold this reputation.

Lanez started to step up his game in 2018 and throw more disses and challenges wherever he could. His ego-tripping got him into trouble with rapper Joyner Lucas and another tweet at the expense of Royce 5’9” created animosity between the two. The rifts were settled with a couple of diss tracks and an apology respectively, but Lanez’s more recent feuds haven’t ended just yet.

We’re only a few months into 2019, but it’s already been a busy year for Lanez and his pot-stirring. Not all of Lanez’s contemporaries share the view that he is “The best rapper alive right now,” as he not-so-subtly proclaimed in a tweet.

Some rappers took issue with Lanez’s self-praise, including Mysonne and Don Q, whose accusations that Lanez stole his rhymes earned him a diss track from Lanez, titled “Don Queen.” Lanez has also claimed he could outrap prominent artists: J. Cole, Pusha T and every artist on Dreamville Records.

Maybe Lanez is clever and knows igniting feuds is a good way to keep his name on everyone's lips and doesn’t mind the integrity it costs him. Or maybe he’s just insecure and needs to prove he is the best rapper around for his own validation. Either way, he’s sure to be back in the headlines soon enough with more drama.

Winter weather got you down? Warm up at #The7TO

By Chloe Cook

The7 is a brand new installation in the heart of downtown Toronto aimed at curing cabin fever and sprucing up Instagram feeds across the city.


The7 is open to public until the end of the season. (CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

When’s the last time you were able to dive straight into a ball pit? For most of us, it was at a first grade birthday party, but for me, it was just a few weeks ago.

Severina Chu, CanCulture Food Editor, in The7’s ball pit room. (CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

Severina Chu, CanCulture Food Editor, in The7’s ball pit room. (CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

A couple CanCulture editors and I took a trip to see the highly talked about exhibit, The7, an installation geared towards Torontonians who are battling cabin fever during the cold winter months. We weren’t disappointed with the bright backdrops or giant props and we were snapping insta-worthy pictures in no time.

(CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

(CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

Hidden away on the seventh floor of the Hudson’s Bay on Queen St., The7 consists of eight wildly wacky rooms, each with a different joyful theme, for anyone to come and have a fun mid-winter photoshoot. The rooms range from the absurd to the trippy, but all of them are sure to give you some great content for your Instagram feed.

(CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

(CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

With so much variation, there is sure to be a room that fits even the most rigid Instagram theme. There are unicorns, dinosaurs, giant cake, flamingo legs coming out of the ceiling and much, much more.

(CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

(CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

While our trip was fun, you’ll have to be prepared for crowded rooms and patiently waiting for strangers to walk through your shot, which can be a little frustrating. Once you claim your stake though, you’ll be on your way to some picture perfect shots.

Rupi Kaur: Authenticity through the lens of poetry

By Mariah Siddiqui

Rupi Kaur is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator. The Indian-born Canadian poet released two poetry collections: Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers that caught the eyes and hearts of people on a worldwide scale.

Two illustrated bees can be seen on the dark cover of  Milk and Honey.  (CanCulture/Mariah Siddiqui)

Two illustrated bees can be seen on the dark cover of Milk and Honey. (CanCulture/Mariah Siddiqui)

Milk and Honey is raw and unforgettable. It was released in 2014 and jumpstarted Kaur’s career as people resonated with the poetry and prose she poured her heart into. The book is separated into four parts: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing.

‘The hurting’ deals with the themes of sexual assault and trauma. The pages hit you in a way you don’t expect because they are so real and authentic. There is no filter when it comes to this section and the experiences are uncensored and heartbreaking.

‘The loving’ explores the feeling of being so wrapped up in love and the happiness that comes with being with someone. It not only explores romantic love but the kind of love you feel from a maternal perspective. People can relate to love as it is something so commonly felt and experienced. However, with love also comes heartbreak which people can heavily relate to as well.

‘The breaking’ is all about that heartbreak. Breakups suck but most people have gone through one and know how hard it is to get over sometimes. This section pours that all onto the paper through the dark illustrations and truthful emotions within the poems.

‘The healing’ is warm and inviting. It talks about dealing with that trauma and heartbreak and finding yourself again through all of that. It is a reclamation of loving who you are and where you come from. Reading the words is almost therapeutic as you witness Kaur overcoming battles in an inspirational way.

The stark white cover can be seen with illustrations of sunflowers. (CanCulture/Mariah Siddiqui)

The stark white cover can be seen with illustrations of sunflowers. (CanCulture/Mariah Siddiqui)

The Sun and Her Flowers is full of metaphors and powerful messages. The poetry book was released in 2017 and is set up in a similar way to her first collection. This book is separated into five parts: wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming.

‘Wilting’ is all about pain and the subject of heartbreak is revisited once again.

‘Falling’ is about being at your lowest. It visits the subject of depression and loneliness in an intense way.

‘Rooting’ talks about searching for your identity and beginning to manifest the idea of who you are again into your own mind.

‘Rising’ is putting those thoughts of who you are into the real world as you make changes that encourage your personal growth.

‘Blooming’ is succeeding in doing so and looking back at everything you have gone through, knowing you are stronger because of it. This section discusses femininity and empowerment through having important discussions and putting those thoughts into action.

When comparing the two poetry collections, there are many patterns and similarities between them. The first book cover is dark black and the second opposes that with its stark white cover. They both are organized in sections and each book tackles sensitive issues in a way a lot of people haven’t seen before. Both discuss the way love feels and the pain of a heartbreak, but they both do it in a way that can be easily related to.

While Milk and Honey is straightforward with the process of growth, The Sun and Her Flowers embodies the process in a beautiful way. The life of a flower is used as a metaphor to explain the way humans feel. First, we wilt due to pain and trauma, then we fall before we begin to root. Then we begin to grow and find ourselves and we rise and bloom. The image of a flower is a known image of beauty and strength. The comparison was done effectively and draws a powerful parallel.

Many share the opinion that Kaur writes mainstream poetry that isn’t that special, but it takes immense strength to write these poems down and share them with others. When people share their truth, it is never guaranteed that every single person is going to get it and relate to it. There are no rules to expression through art. It takes courage to tackle such significant and broadly misrepresented issues in the bold ways Kaur has.

If you want to check out one of these books, I suggest you start with Milk and Honey first for an insight on how Kaur progressed as a poet. Personally, that one resonated with me on a deeper level and I felt connected to many of the pieces in it. I hope it does the same for you.

Pow Wow Cafe brings taste of traditional Indigenous cuisine to Kensington Market

By Bree Duwyn

(CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

(CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

Pow Wow Cafe, home of the Indian taco, is adding to Toronto’s diverse food scene with a taste of tradition and indigeneity.

Growing up in Orangeville, Ont., chef Shawn Adler, owner of Pow Wow Cafe, first fell in love with cooking in high school. After a few years of experience working for various restaurants, Adler attended a two-year program at Stratford Chefs School.

At 23, Adler opened his first restaurant in Peterborough Ont., named Aasmaabik’s Bakery and Bistro - Aasmaabik being his name in Ojibway. This began a culinary adventure for Adler as he opened another handful of restaurants, including The Flying Chestnut Kitchen in Eugenia, Ont.

After selling a few of his restaurants, Adler decided to try out the culinary scene in Toronto. Known for its diverse array of vintage shops, cozy restaurants and colourful art pieces, Kensington Market delivers a multitude of cultures, making it the perfect place for Pow Wow Cafe to open its doors in October 2016.

Adler wanted to bring Indian tacos, differing from regular tacos because of the use of fry bread instead of tortilla shells, to Toronto and got the inspiration for their Kensington Market restaurant through his experience catering at various powwows.

A powwow is an Indigenous ceremony filled with dancing, singing (featuring drum circles) and feasting. It is a cultural and spiritual experience that encourages community gathering and celebration.

“I love catering because it poses a challenge. I like it because it’s often in a barn or the fields. It’s cool to create a field kitchen and do things other people can't do,” said Alder.

Adler holds pride in the originality and value of Pow Wow Cafe’s food, including their famous brunch that has people lining up out the door on the weekends.

“This cuisine is not a trend, it's here to stay,” said Adler.

Pow Wow Cafe also supports the Kensington Market community by sourcing their produce from shops within the neighbourhood, as well as Indigenous suppliers.

The restaurant keeps the ingenuity of Indigenous food alive through a variety of dishes based around fry bread. This includes their extensive brunch menu that features eggs, oatmeal and more.

Pow Wow Cafe’s brunch, displayed on a wooden board, is a big hit with the locals and new visitors. (CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

Pow Wow Cafe’s brunch, displayed on a wooden board, is a big hit with the locals and new visitors. (CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

Adler’s plans are to further expand Pow Wow Cafe and continue to expose people to Indigenous cuisine.

“I knew in Toronto, there wasn't anyone doing cuisine like we were doing,” said Adler, “So I found this location and the rest is history,” he said.

You gotta try this…

Being someone who thoroughly enjoys food, I am always ready to try out new dishes. After being welcomed by the pleasant staff, I felt comfortably at home inside the cozy restaurant.

Adler advised me that the Indian taco topped with beef was the best choice if I wanted to enjoy a traditional experience.

The appetizers and Indian taco menu are displayed promptly on a chalkboard of Pow Wow Cafe’s wall. (CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

The appetizers and Indian taco menu are displayed promptly on a chalkboard of Pow Wow Cafe’s wall. (CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

The taco begins with sweet, melt in your mouth fry bread and beef chili topped with cumin sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, shredded cheese, jalapeños, cilantro, sprouts and flowers, including calendula and pansies.

A traditional beef Indian taco with all the fixings at the price of $15. (CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

A traditional beef Indian taco with all the fixings at the price of $15. (CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

It was incredibly filling and delicious, not to mention wonderfully plated. All the elements of the taco went great together, producing an abundance of flavour and texture. The traditional beef Indian taco is definitely a perfect meal on a chilly day.

If you're not one for beef, Pow Wow Cafe also offers a chicken shawarma and seafood Indian taco. For any vegetarians, a red lentil coconut curry option is available.

The restaurant changes its menu often to offer various sensational combos of Indian tacos, but the traditional beef taco will always remain. It's definitely worth taking a trip to Kensington Market or stopping by Pow Wow Cafe whenever you're in the area to grab an authentic Indian taco or try their famous brunch.

Pow Wow Cafe is located at 213 Augusta Ave. and is open seven days a week.

Get to Know: Drew Yorke, the Toronto-based creative who works harder than you do

By Will Lofsky

Photo courtesy  mr.koa

Photo courtesy mr.koa

At just 23, Drew Yorke has become a contributing editor and staff photographer for lifestyle and culture publication Sidewalk Hustle, started his own video podcast, The Drew Yorke Show out of the Red Bull office on Queen Street West and completed a joint-degree in media studies and journalism at the University of Guelph-Humber.

What separates Ottawa-born Yorke from most 23-year-olds is his relentless drive to turn his show into a regular press stop for international artists, produce live concerts and video performance segments like BBC Radio 1’s “Fire in the Booth”, and to help cultivate the next wave of upcoming rap and R&B artists in the city - all while keeping up with growing Toronto rent prices.

We got together at a coffee shop in Parkdale to talk about his story, what he’s got going on right now and his plans moving forward. Read the full interview below.

What made you want to get into journalism?

I’ve been a fan of interviews on Hot97 and the Breakfast Club for a long time now. Every day I wake up and I watch all of those shows. Even when I was younger and more into video games I would watch news shows and stuff like Machinima. When it came time to go to school, I went for a multimedia program and focused on journalism later on. I don’t really know what drew me towards it. I think I used to want to be a real, hard news journalist but I quickly realized that I didn’t want to get that serious. I like talking about stuff I care about. Even though hard news is really exciting, it’s exhausting.  

How long have you worked as a photographer?

I started doing that in early 2015. So, I guess almost four years now but I started taking it really seriously in the beginning of 2017.

Do you have management?

No. It gets busy, but it’s not overwhelming. A lot of my work is based in the city. I’ve travelled a little bit for brand stuff, but it’s all pretty manageable. It’d be cool to be at that point where it’s not manageable, but I guess that’s a little scary too. I’m still in the place right now where I think I’m just saying yes to a lot of people.

Where have you travelled to?

I’ve been to Vancouver a couple of times to shoot and write. I know some artists out there like So Loki, ANKLEGOD and Yurmsauce and I was working with a cannabis brand out there called Emerald Health Canada. There’s also a festival in Quebec City that I go to a lot called Festival d’ete de Quebec. It’s a huge festival - they go all out for like eleven days. Last summer I saw The Weeknd, Neil Young, and Future headlining over three nights with a bunch of other acts. It’s crazy.

How’d you get in touch with Sidewalk Hustle?

HYPEBEAST posted a photo I took of an Atlanta artist named Raury at Adelaide Hall and the location tag on the post said it was taken in Toronto. Sidewalk Hustle saw it and DM’d me asking if I was from Toronto and how much I charged. I gave them my rate and started working for them. About a year later they were like, “Do you write?” and I wasn’t really writing about music or anything but my writing had always been pretty good so I said yes. Eventually they started sending me more opportunities and I would write about the shows I was going to as well as photograph them. One day they asked me if I could interview an artist, and I always thought about it, but I had never done it yet. The first one I ever did was with Phantogram. That’s how I got into interviewing.

When did The Drew Yorke Show start to come together?

I’ve wanted to do it for years but six months ago I started thinking that I wanted to take the idea seriously. I don’t really put things on paper, I kind of work them out in my head. The only thing I was missing was a name. I had bought mics, I had a location, I had equipment, I had some potential guests, and a quick format of how I wanted to do it. I slowly worked out all of the details but couldn’t figure out a name for it. I didn’t know what to call it. I think I just got fed up that I had no name and eventually I decided that I was going to call it The Drew Yorke Show. I thought that people were going to think that I was too cocky but people were into it. I was always behind the camera, and that’s the reason why I started doing interviews because I wanted to be on camera and be part of the story.

What’s the plan moving forward?

I really want to do a live performance segment. I haven’t really put the pieces together for that yet but there are so many people that do stuff like “Fire In The Booth” so I want to do a sick job. I want to do live events too. I think that strategic partnerships for live events and for anything I do with the brand is really important. I realized that particularly when trying to promote friends and other artists - I can only put the same cover of a song on my Instagram story so many times. There’s only the same 500 people that are seeing it and that’s not even the best way to reach people.

If I did a partnership with a music festival where I had a little set-up somewhere doing live interviews it would be way better for storytelling. I got emailed today by somebody saying, “I haven’t seen you out at any events since the new year,” and it reminds me of how puzzled I feel by how I’m going to break through and not be a part of my same little bubble. It’s really easy to get trapped in your own little comfort zone, thinking that you’re doing something cool with the same people around telling you how what you’re doing is sick and not moving forward. Toronto’s only so big. I want to be bigger.

For example, there’s a Spanish rapper named Kidd Keo. I really want to interview him. I think he has a lot of potential for western crossover - he has millions of followers and sells out huge venues in South America and Spain. And all I have to do is go to Spain. It’s all in my hands.

Who do you really want to work with in the city?

Do you know Nue? I like his music a lot. I’ve done some stuff with him before and he said he wants to be on the show. When he started to break through people didn’t really support him. The usual people that get behind artists that start to get popping weren’t really into it. I’m not sure if that’s because he signed to an American label so quickly, or because his music is so different, but I like his work a lot. That’s somebody I think I would like to work with more.

LocoCity is one for sure. He’s getting really good numbers and his music is interesting. There’s a new kid named Velow that just finished graduating from The Remix Project. His voice is unique, and I think he has a lot of potential in the US market.

It’s funny. I want to work with more Toronto artists but I also want to get every single American artist that comes to Toronto on my show - and I realize that it’s a process. If an artist is going to New York, they’re going to stop in at The Breakfast Club or Hot 97 or Sway. If they go out to LA, they’re going to stop at No Jumper and Big Boy. It’s a press run. That doesn’t even exist in Toronto. People are going to say “You’re going to Toronto? Are you going to see Drew Yorke?”

For more on Drew Yorke tune into his show and follow him on Instagram @drewyorke.

This interview has been edited by Drew Yorke for clarity in his responses

5 Black Canadian authors you should be reading right now

By Chloe Cook

February is Black History Month, and there’s no time like the present to start reading some of Canada’s most celebrated black authors.

Dionne Brand

Photo courtesy Pearl Pirie/Flickr

Photo courtesy Pearl Pirie/Flickr

Dionne Brand is an award winning poet, novelist and documentarian. Born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1953, Brand moved to Canada after high school to attend the University of Toronto. In 2017, she was admitted to the Order of Canada. Brand is also an outspoken activist for women’s and immigrant issues in Canada.

Dionne Brand’s must read: What We All Long For. This is a story of a group of friends who are learning to balance the difficulties that young adulthood and life throw their way. Based in Toronto, this novel shares stories of people from all different backgrounds and shows a true representation of Toronto’s diversity.

Esi Edugyan

Photo courtesy Daniel Harasymchuk/Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy Daniel Harasymchuk/Wikimedia Commons

Esi Edugyan is a black fiction novelist from Alberta, Canada. She wrote her first book, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, which gained critical acclaim at just 24-years-old. She often writes about the black experience from a historical perspective, showing that the themes from yesterday still hold true today.

Esi Edugyan’s must read: Washington Black. In the latest novel by Edugyan, Washington Black is an 11 year old boy who is born and raised on a plantation in Barbados until his master’s brother chooses him to become his personal manservant. Washington Black explores the complexities of relationships and freedom in this deeply moving tale.

Dany Laferrière

Photo courtesy Nemo Perier Stefanovitch/Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy Nemo Perier Stefanovitch/Wikimedia Commons

Dany Laferrière is a French Canadian author whose many literary works have garnered a lot of attention throughout the years. He was born in Haiti and moved to Canada in 1978 where he began a career as a journalist. Shortly thereafter, he made the jump into fiction writing in 1985. While his works are written in French, they are mostly all translated into English for us anglophones to enjoy.

Dany Laferrière’s must read: How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired. Published in 1985, this novel launched Laferrière’s career. Provocative, witty and charming, How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired, gives a biting look into the life of a Black man living in Montreal.

Lawrence Hill

Photo courtesy Nigel Dickson/Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy Nigel Dickson/Wikimedia Commons

Lawrence Hill is a wildly popular novelist from Newmarket, Ont. In his youth, Hill sought to be an Olympic athlete but turned to writing as a teenager. He started his career in journalism and eventually became the parliamentary bureau chief for a newspaper in Ottawa where he covered Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court before moving to Spain to write fiction full time.

Lawrence Hill’s must read: The Book of Negroes. Easily Hill’s most popular book, The Book of Negroes tells the story of Aminata Diallo, a young woman who escapes her slave owner after being abducted from her village. She goes on to work for the British Army, creating The Book of Negroes, a ledger with all of the names of slaves that were freed by the British side during the Revolutionary War. The Book of Negroes is a real document that can been seen in the National Archives in London, England.

André Alexis

Photo courtesy vabookfest via Instagram

André Alexis has gained a lot of buzz recently for his fictional works. He was born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1957 and moved to Ottawa where he started a career in theatre. Throughout his stage career and up until present day, he wrote novels and short stories. Alexis now lives in Toronto where he continues writing while also teaching english and creative writing at the University of Toronto.

André Alexis’ must read: Fifteen Dogs. This follows the story of 15 dogs who are given human consciousness after Greek gods, Hermes and Apollo, make a wager in a Toronto bar one night. Fifteen Dogs studies the human condition and its many complexities as the dogs adapt to their newfound capabilities. Make sure to keep an eye out for all of the Toronto landmarks named in this novel, too!

The Oscars 2019: Canadians dominate the best short film category

By Devon Harvey

The Academy Awards are back on Feb. 24 and this year Canadians are dominating the short film categories. Bao, Weekends, and Animal Behaviour are some of the short films that are contesting to take home the gold.

Usually a majority of the awards are filled with American nominees, but this year Canadians are taking over. Filmmakers Domee Shi, Trevor Jimenez and David Fine are being praised in the film industry for having their work up for notable awards.

Canadians are nominated in the live action short film category and animated short film category.

For best live action short film

Jeremy Comte is nominated for Fauve, a short film set in a mine that details how two young boys go from playing seemingly innocent power games and having fun to being pitted against their surroundings with Mother Nature as their only witness.

Marianne Farley is nominated for Marguerite. This film tells the story of Marguerite (Béatrice Picard), an elderly woman who develops an unusual friendship with her caretaker Rachel (Sandrine Bisson). Through this friendship, Marguerite is able to confront her longing that she had hidden away and was able to make peace with her past.

In the animated category for best short film

David Fine and Alison Snowden are nominated for Animal Behaviour, this short film follows a group of animals through a group therapy session as they all attempt to come to terms and deal with the negative behaviours that come to them naturally.

A scene from  Animal Behaviour,  directed by   Canadians Alison Snowden and David Fine.

A scene from Animal Behaviour, directed by Canadians Alison Snowden and David Fine.

Domee Shi is nominated for Bao, a story about a Chinese mother who is experiencing empty nest syndrome because her son left home. She is given a second chance when one of her handmade dumplings comes to life. The story follows the mother through raising the dumpling as she did with her son. This film shows a mother’s love for her child through all stages of their lives.

In an interview with journalist Tracy Brown from the Los Angeles Times, Domee Shi spoke at great length about her short film Bao:

“My inspiration mainly came from my own life. Growing up I was that overprotected little dumpling for my Chinese mom. I was an only child living in Toronto with my parents, and they’ve always kind of watched over me and made sure I was safe — kept me really, really close. And I just wanted to explore that relationship between an overprotective parent and their child with a dumpling as a metaphor, as weird as that sounds,” said Shi.

When Brown asked Shi about the choice not to include dialogue in the animated short Shi said, “by taking dialogue out you’re really pushing and challenging yourself to tell the story with all the acting and emotion and actions of the your story could be understood by people of all ages and all backgrounds and all cultures.”

A scene from the short film  Bao,  directed by Domee Shi.

A scene from the short film Bao, directed by Domee Shi.

When Pixar picked up the Asian-Canadian short Shi explained that despite Bao was such a culturally specific film, overprotective parents learning how  to let go of their children and food bringing families together are universal themes with which people all over the world could identify.

Trevor Jimenez is nominated for Weekends, an animated short film that follows a young boy as he moves between his recently divorced parents’ homes. It couples dreamlike moments with the reality of a broken up family and home. The details of the reality of divorce and moving between parents’ houses and lives are portrayed through the eyes of a child.

I met and interviewed Trevor 12 days before the Oscars over Skype, he explained to me that the day he found out his film Weekends was nominated, his wife and him woke up really early, “The day of, was insane... it was our anniversary that day too...I almost felt like shock, like I couldn’t believe it”.   

When he finished the film just over a year ago Jimenez said, “I had friends who told me ‘Oh this is going to get nominated,’ and I never believed them...To have it do what it’s doing now is crazy.”

Jimenez said that every time he watches the film it’s different. “[it] depends on the crowd and how people react and the questions that come after. It’s always sort of shifting...I think the whole experience has shifted how I view it...For it to be validated in this way is a huge confine boost...It almost feels like a weird science experiment. It’s like oh the experiment kinda worked, like that’s how it feels. People connect with it and that’s kind of special,” Jimenez said about his short film.

When I asked him how being Canadian has affected his experience as a nominee Jimenez said, “I’m really happy that there are other Canadians, I’m very proud to be Canadian. Everyone is just really happy to be there whether or not you share that kind of nationality or not,” adding that all of the nominees are rooting for each other.

The 91st Oscars air live across the country Feb. 24th at 8 p.m. E.T.

All images were sourced from Animal Behaviour short film and Bao trailer.