Note to Shelf: An ode to horror and Stephen King

For the longest time, I was averse to Stephen King, specifically because his books seemed to be everywhere.

Not seemed to be actually; they were and still are everywhere. In your local drugstore, the airport gift-shop, and at this point, even your street’s grocery store has a section for King.

I remember perusing the thriller and horror section of bookstores, and always being taken aback with the shelves dedicated to his works.

It angered me, for some reason. I kept thinking that if a writer has so many works out there, in so little time, they’re probably not that great. And for the love of god, why is he trusted with so many book reviews? Safe to say, I developed an aversion to this man without even reading anything he wrote. Tssk at 15-year-old Youmna wanting to seem cool.

For context, I am a huge fan of thrillers and horror stories—books or movies. For the latter, though, no Final Destination, Annabelle, or IT. Gore, dolls and clowns freak me out.

I have always been more of an Edgar Allan Poe girl. Yes, I understand how that confession may be confusing, seeing as I have just expressed my disgust towards gore, but Poe is an exception. Simply because alongside the gory details of his murder stories comes psychological trauma—something your girl here lives for.

But naturally, just as I fell for the Game of Thrones frenzy, I decided to pick up a copy of King’s famous work, The Shining, just so my negative opinion on the man could be founded on more than just sheer annoyance.

Let’s just say I got a well-deserved reality-check and schooling session when I found myself engrossed in the 500-page novel, eating it up word-for-word, only pausing for mandatory family dinners. Remember that “F.R.I.E.N.D.S” episode, when Rachel was reading the book, and lifted the potato squasher on Monica when she came home from work? That was pretty much how I was that summer, reading The Shining at 3 a.m. because I wanted to set the mood right.

When reading Stephen King, you are not just thrusted into his world of horrors and spirits. You are completely swallowed by it, in a way Edgar Allan Poe’s horror stories never managed to achieve. Some Poe readers will maybe agree with me when I say that although scary, his tales never shook me to the core, to the point where mundane tasks became terrifying.

King has that power.

The movie adaption of The Shining was child’s play compared to what I felt while reading the book. I was completely terrified by the last page, unable to get “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” out of my head.

Perhaps the reason King’s work is so captivating, yet terrifying, is because regardless of the supernatural aspect of certain stories, the monsters and fears come from real life—and let’s not forget his beautiful writing style, proving my initial judgment wrong.

King traps you in his world because he knows what humans fear most, and makes both the worst and best of it, by writing his stories and scaring the hell out of us.

In The Shining, Jack’s monster is alcoholism, and Danny and Wendy’s fears are based on Jack’s loss of control. As for me, I will never stay in another hotel ever again. 


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Note to Shelf: Reading ruts and mental health

Rut: a habit or pattern of behaviour that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change” – Merriam Webster.

Yeah, no kidding. It also always seems to come at an inconvenient time—like writing ruts when you need this article done by tomorrow at the latest, and inspiration doesn’t come to you until 5 a.m. the day of. Ruts that prevent you from getting your life together and organizing yourself, ending with you having a mental breakdown because the one thing preventing you from doing so is your own damn self.

All of these are manageable to me (HAH). Mostly because after the mental breakdown, a flow of uncontrollable tears and constant sobs, I actually get stuff done. But, if there is one thing I never seem to shake off for long periods of time, it’s reading ruts.

Every bookworm has them. Reading ruts can last from one month to an entire year. Some have them for years because life gets too tiring to trouble yourself with words on paper, and Netflix gets too exciting. Some just stop reading like they used to altogether, and boast about how they once hoarded arrays of novels, but now feel okay with just reading their morning newspaper and taking it easy. I don’t like those people. Yes, mum, I’m talking about you.

I personally loathe, and yes I’m using a strong here, loathe reading ruts simply because my life is hell when they happen. Now some might think I’m being too dramatic when I say this, but hear me out. Or read me out, in this case. Heh. 

Ever since I was a kid, while averse to novels mostly because my attention span was too short, I found solace in reading. From the ages of seven to 11, I would devour any French comic book I could get my hands on. From W.I.T.C.H mag (yes, I read it in French), to Titeuf, to Tom-Tom et Nana, I would eat up every word, and plead my mother to buy me the following volumes as soon as she could. It wasn’t much, but I was still reading.

When I was the same age as Harry was when he got his letter to Hogwarts, my sister dropped the first book of the Harry Potter series into my lap and told me to read it. That it would be a life-changing experience. And so began my love for books. Not just reading anymore, but books.

I was so accustomed to reading so much so fast that I didn’t understand why people were amazed by it. It was so natural to me. It was home, it was happiness, it was serenity. No movie, TV series or cartoon ever made me feel as whole as a good book.

This is why whenever I am in a reading rut, which has been happening quite often, my mental health begins to take a beating. I become irritated, sad and cranky. Because I feel like there is something I am supposed to be doing, but I can’t do it. I pick up a book, and the words mean nothing to me. I am unable to get past two chapters without throwing the novel across the room, and wishing I could just focus for one damn minute. The ruts get so dark, I find myself inclined to stop reading altogether.

That is until a good friend recommends a novel that gets you right back to it. That offers you the greatest of all gifts and makes you feel alive again—a novel you find yourself unable to put down, reading it over and over and over again. Back in the saddle, as they say, engrossed in a fictional world— where you always belonged. 


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Minorities can have racist tendencies

They say stereotypes are there for a reason. That they wouldn’t exist if someone hadn’t experienced similar behaviour in a number of people from that specific group, and that stereotypes are not akin to racism. 

Let’s sit back and ponder on that for a second. For understandable reasons, it seems that people tread around the word “racism” very carefully, and try as hard as they can to not be associated with it. Because racism led to slavery, and still to this day, leads to discrimination, and downright violence.

But in case you didn’t already know, you don’t need to beat someone with a stick, use slurs against them or look at minorities in disgust to be racist.

When you browse for the definition of the word “racism,” you won’t get just one. The main definition as given by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Any other interpretation is a variation of that exact principle, extending it to not only racial prejudice, but an ethnic one too.

Therefore, whether we wish to admit it or not, stereotypes are racist—having an opinion about a certain ethnicity or race based solely on hearsay and social conventions is racist. Here are some examples. 

When someone says Latino men are cheaters who will toy with your emotions until they get bored, and go onto the next, that’s racist. When Latinas are equated to crazy women with attitude, that’s racist. When people “can’t tell the difference” between Far-Easterns, that’s a whole level of rude. When Russian women are always seen as prostitutes, that’s racist. When Arab women are seen as either oppressed veil-wearing women, or sensual belly-dancers with all of Daddy’s money to spend, that’s racist. When Arab men are considered terrorists, that’s racist

Now here is where I get a tad problematic and add to the generalization. When I hear such statements, I get even more enraged when it comes from a person of colour or a fellow minority. Simply because, someone who isn’t the latter wouldn’t be able to understand how it feels to be limited to negative connotations that date back to an age of discrimination. A white person wouldn’t be able to understand how it feels to stay silent when someone equates your people to terrorists because of the perpetuation of a false image.

So, when I hear a minority who has been a victim of discriminatory and crude comments regarding their race and ethnicity participate in this hateful discourse, it makes me sick—to say the least. What’s worse is when a minority uses their status to justify their racism.

“Oh, I’m Lebanese, I get to publicly insult all Arabs, because I am one, and I don’t get offended.” Honey, no. Just … no. Criticize if you must, no one is feigning perfection and claiming no culture has faults. But when your criticism further intensifies an already-racist image, that’s when you need to check yourself. Because you might not be offended, but many suffer at those unjust racist claims—and yes, it is your business.

To be clear, I am not exempting myself from this equation. I by no means am innocent of racial bias, and the tendency to equate something to someone just because of what it says on their passport. But moving to Montreal and experiencing this mosaic of culture made me realize that if I were to stay in this city, and if I just want to be a decent human being, I better get used to getting all my prejudices crushed—and I am not complaining. 

Graphic by Sasha Axenova


Queer spaces and their beauties

Why I feel safer in spaces dubbed as “queer”

I am grumbling and cursing in multiple languages as I make my way to La Sala Rossa on St. Laurent Blvd.

Where the flipping hell is this place?

I spot a few people smoking outside what could be the place I was searching for.

“Excuse me,” I calmly called.

“Yes, honey boo-boo?” one of them said, cheekily.

“Do you know where I could find La Sala Rossa?” I asked, a small smile playing on the corners of my mouth.

“It’s over here, baby girl! And let me just say, your eyeliner could kill a man! Work it, girl!” another one said.

I find myself smiling even wider. What a wonderful way to say hello. Suddenly, my mood is elevated. I stay outside for a while, sharing a smoke with this group of wonderful people before walking into La Sala Rossa, where the Massimadi’s Launch Soirée for the 12th Afro LGBTQ+ Film & Arts Fest was happening, Bo Johnson ready to take the stage.

Bo Johnson. Photo by Britanny Clarke.

I honestly don’t know what I was expecting to find, but I did not expect to feel so loved and accepted in a place where I knew no one.

“Non à la discrimination!,” someone on stage yelled. That seemed to be the founding theme the night. Everywhere I turned, people of all shapes, sizes, colours and genders were socializing with each other.

“Condoms? Can’t be too safe! Take ‘em, they’re free,” a person shouted at me over the music, with a big smile on their face.

I laughed wholeheartedly—and I was even more impressed by the fact that I didn’t feel uneasy at their comment. It was almost like they were offering me gum. It was that normalized.

Afro-beats and soulful music galore, la Sala Rossa was booming with love that night. And I think it is because it was a celebration of queerness and love.

I find that whenever I am in a space where queerness is not accepted, or is, but minorities aren’t, I feel uneasy and weird, as if I don’t belong.

But whenever a place is dubbed “queer,” I feel relieved. I feel safe. As if anyone and anything is accepted. And I believe this is why it is important to preserve these spaces, and not only that, but advertise them constantly. There is no better feeling than complete acceptance from the other, whether you are a person of colour, of a different religion, queer or straight. Everyone should adopt Lady Gaga’s philosophy!


The 12th edition of Massimadi, Montreal’s Afro LGBTQ+ film and arts festival is taking place now until Feb. 29. With panels, film screenings and dance parties, the festival celebrates local and international afroqueer artists and personalities, closing off with an extra-special dance party for Nuit Blanche.

Feb. 25

Massimadi: Virtual Reality, presented in collaboration with the McCord Museum and Gris Montreal, “Another Dream brings the gripping, true love story of an Egyptian lesbian couple to life. Faced with a post-revolution backlash against the LGBTQ community, they escape Cairo to seek asylum and acceptance in the Netherlands.” Experience afrofuturism at its most risqué. 


McCord Museum

Alternating times, for more information visit 

Feb. 26

Massimadi x Cinema Moderne screening of two films, Fabulous, directed by Audrey Jean-Baptiste and Badassery, directed by Sarafina McIntosh and Sunita Miya-Muganza, with special vogueing-guest, Lasseindra Ninja.

Suggested rate of 12$ 

Cinema Moderne 

7 p.m. 

Feb. 27 

Massimadi x Initiative for Indigenous Futures x AbTeC: Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace Panel: Intersections in Futurity, with Quentin VerCetty, Dayna Danger and Maize Longboat, moderated by Anastasia Erickson. Where Afrofuturist and Indigenous Futurist creators meet.


EV 11.705

6 p.m. 

Feb. 28 

Massimadi presents, Transfuturisk: two more film screenings, Negrum3 (Blackn3ss) and Transfinite, followed by a panel discussion on Afrofuturism as an Artistic Process, with Concordia Simone de Beauvoir Institute alum, artist, writer and creative director, Nènè Myriam Konaté.

Suggested rate of 12$ 

McCord Museum

7 p.m. 

Feb. 29 

Tour exhibition, A Hazy Collision at Never Apart with local artist Gaëlle Elma. 


Never Apart, 7049 rue Saint-Urbain

2 p.m. 

Feb. 29

Nuit Blanche closing party with Backxwash and PureMulaTo. 


La Sala Rossa, 4848 blvd Saint-Laurent 

10:30 p.m.


Feature photo by Owllix. Massimadi Opening Collection by Kevin Calixte.


Vision Gala 2020

Black Theatre Workshop’s annual celebration in honour of Black History Month

On Feb. 1, at the very start of Black History Month, Quebec’s only English-speaking professional Black Theatre Company organized their annual Vision Gala at the Hotel Omni Mont Royal.

The event pays tribute to outstanding Black artists and changemakers who contribute to the development of arts in Canada. It also celebrates a vision of growth, solidarity and unity inspired by the civil rights activist, and important historical figure, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

H. Nigel Thomas, Photo courtesy of Julian Haber

The 2020 honorees were author H. Nigel Thomas and community-driven arts educator, activist and multi-disciplinary artist, Leon Llewellyn. Thomas was awarded the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award, and Llewellyn the Dr. Clarence Bayne Community Service Award.

“I feel very validated with this award,” Thomas told The Concordian. “There is a verse in the Bible that alludes to the fact that you are always honoured last by your own community. So to be recognized right now by the Black community is truly an honour.”

As a gay Black man writing about racism, and gender and LGBTQ+ issues, Thomas’ work is not without its share of backlash.

“But I must say, ever since 1993 when I wrote my first book, Spirits in the Dark, there has been great community progress,” he said.

The gala began with a dynamic cocktail reception, where champagne and canapes were served. In addition, attendees feasted their eyes on a number of artworks behind an eager artist, who had smaller versions of each canvas laid out on a table in front of them for sale.

Emmanuel Ayoola Akintade, also known as Emmanuel Ayo was born and raised in Nigeria, and now based in Montreal. The artist studied Studio Arts at Dawson College, which allowed him to hone his craft and passion.

In 2017, his first-ever self-organized solo show took place in Montreal at a public studio. Since then, his paintings have been featured in school associations (Concordia and McGill’s African student associations) and organizations such as Dawson’s yearly student exhibition (S.P.A.C.E – a science and arts exhibition.)

One of his most eye-catching works was of a bearded Black man, painted over a striking yellow background. Drawn simply from the shoulders up, his head is rolled back, eyes closed, with tears rolling down his cheeks and mouth agape. The sheer, raw emotion represented in this artwork was simply intoxicating.

When asked what he thought of Black History Month, and the fixation on artists of colour during that time, he shrugged.

“It is what it is,” he said. “All we can do is embrace it. At least people are paying attention, you know?”His words echo with honoree Thomas’ remarks.“I don’t mind that February is recognized as Black History Month,” Thomas said, “because it sheds light, and it might make people pursue and do their own research.



Photos courtesy of Julian Haber.

Student Life

My first Valentine’s Day as a single girl

It’s that time of the year again: chocolate hearts and Hershey’s kisses galore. Overwhelming pink and red confetti in that wretched drugstore aisle when all you wanted to do was buy conditioner. The looming stuffed animals that somehow lose their balance on shelves and end up falling on your head. What? I’ve seen it happen. 

You guessed it—it’s Valentine’s Day! 

I was never a big fan of the praised “V-Day.” In fact, I always avoided it like the plague. Probably because, up until I was 18, I had no one to celebrate it with. My “relationships” or whatever you can call two-week-to-30-day-long makeout sessions, always seemed to fizzle out before that day would come. 

The first time I celebrated Valentine’s Day, I have to admit, was quite sweet. Roses on my doorstep, a box of chocolates under my boyfriend’s arm and a little black dress waiting for me with a note that said “wear this tonight”—a scene straight out of a movie, I tell ya. 

However, the following years were not as special for a number of reasons. 

The “holiday” would often sneak up on me, and I would grunt at the thought of having to clear my schedule for it. Plus, when you work in a restaurant, most of the time, your weekends/nights aren’t your own—especially on holidays.

Valentine’s Day had to be either a few days earlier or later than the initial date. It started to feel like an inconvenience more than a celebration of love. Both of us would get mad if the other didn’t put in the effort. Suffice to say, Valentine’s Day wasn’t our favourite—neither of us would admit it though. 

Our last Valentine’s together was last year, and I was working on the actual day. Long story short, the relationship was no more a month later—for many reasons. 

Now it’s 2020, and your girl is single again—and I still hate the day with a passion. Walking into a Dollarama, Pharmaprix, or Jean Coutu always irks me—what was up with all the pink and red when it was only January?! They take down Halloween decorations a day after Oct. 31, while Valentine’s day seems to drag on two weeks after Feb. 14. I get that it’s a day to celebrate love—but do y’all have to be so loud and obnoxious about it? 

Yeah, yeah, I can hear everyone screaming at me to leave people alone and let them celebrate. I didn’t say otherwise, but I’ve always been averse to this holiday because—and call me a boomer or whatever—in my opinion, Valentine’s day should be every day. 

The stress that comes with it, whether you’re single or in a relationship, is just too much. If you’re single, you’re a lonely spinster who can’t do love right no matter how hard you try. If you’re in a relationship and life gets in the way of your celebrations, you’re a terrible partner! And the ones who don’t care for it are simply heartless. 

I’ve been single for almost a year, and most of the time it’s been great. During the holidays, I will admit, a little pang of loneliness did hit; Christmas time and New Year’s Eve were the worst. For some reason, most of my friends are in relationships, dating, or stuck in the in-between phase of our wonderful hookup culture. In all cases, they’ve all got something going on, while I’m watching Sex and the City reruns.

Therefore, I propose a motion: for Valentine’s Day to be cancelled, and a second Halloween to take its place! 

Photo by Britanny Clarke


Concordia hears student’s shuttle concerns

Faculty members and students get together to discuss the neverending shuttle bus issue.

Concordia students and faculty members gathered on Tuesday, Jan. 18 to discuss an ongoing issue at the university: the shuttle bus.

Among those present at the conference were Roger Côté, Vice President, Services at Concordia, Desmond O’Neill, the university’s Manager of Transportations, Mail and Facility Management, representatives of the Facebook page Spotted: Concordia, as well as a number of engaged students.

Complaints as well as solutions were discussed.

Spotted: Concordia posted on their page about the event, informing students that the faculty was willing to listen to their ideas on how to improve the shuttle services. The representatives read the comments aloud to those in attendance.

The comments ranged from the lack of communication between the drivers and the shuttle bus riders to critiques of the digital screen at the bus stop and how it is seen as practically useless. Above all, attendees insisted that the bus is unreliable and inefficient. Many concerns and ideas that were raised were repetitive and similar.

Professors, as well as students, commented on the bus’ schedule—it is not coordinated with classes, nor does it account for the busiest times of the day, which leads to the bus being often overpacked. Students also mention its infrequency, and the absence of buses during weekends is inconvenient for students living in residences.

But, perhaps the most common complaints were about the riders’ inability to open the windows, and one particular driver’s dangerous driving. They remained unnamed, but the numerous nods indicated that everyone knew who the driver was.

While one driver was praised for their friendliness and kindness towards the students, another was criticized for their blatant road-rage, and as a result, their careless driving.

One student seemed especially exasperated.“One time, we almost curbed a biker,” he said.

“Once they got in a fight with another driver on Ste. Catherine, and practically chased them down the street,” a professor said. “It was not pretty.”

Ideas put forth for possible solutions included installing free wifi on the bus for students to study during traffic jams, improving the Concordia app for tracking purposes and informing students about possible issues with the bus. Additionally, the possibility of increasing the number of buses was also considered—more specifically, having them come every 15 to 20 minutes.

As the conference neared its end, O’Neill was asked if he had ever calculated the number of people who took the shuttle.

“There’s about three-quarter of a million people who take the shuttle per year,” he answered confidently. “We are working on maintaining the service, and enhancing the safety.”

“There seems to be a convergence on the issues,” Côté said. “We will make sure to get to a mutual agreement and respond to each and every one of your demands.”


Photo by Britanny Clarke 


NikkieTutorials and the art of labelling

On 13 Jan., Nikkie de Jager, known famously as NikkieTutorials, one of YouTube’s biggest makeup gurus, was trending all over the platform after uploading a video entitled “I’m Coming Out.”

I have been a casual fan of Nikki’s for a long time, mostly for her original makeup looks and her lively personality. I was never very invested in her personal life and would just get inspired by her videos for my own makeup looks.

However, when this video was trending, I was curious. I recalled vaguely that Nikkie was engaged to her long-time boyfriend Dylan. “Oh, she’s coming out as bi? Dope!,” was my first reaction as I clicked the link. I did not expect tears to roll down my cheeks once I was done watching this 17-minute-long video. But then again, I’ve been very emotional these days, it’s kind of embarrassing, but that doesn’t make this video any less important.

I watched as Nikkie breathed deeply, smiling uneasily at the camera, then chuckling nervously and saying: “I always wanted to tell you guys this. I just didn’t expect to do it now. When I was a child, I was born in the wrong body.”

The relief that coursed through her after coming out as transgender was inspiring, and frankly beautiful to watch. The uneasy smile turned into a hearty laugh as she repeatedly stated that it’s always great to finally be honest with her supporters.

Nonetheless, her coming out is not all rainbows and roses. (Get it?) 

The video starts and ends with the fact that the timing was not of her choosing—and that is because she was blackmailed into doing it.

Her voice cracking, with tears forming around her eyes, she made sure to state over and over that: “I am still me. I am still Nikkie. I am human.”

That stuck with me, because there is nothing worse than to be limited to one label that people force you to completely define yourself with. Whether you are LGBTQ+, a person of colour, or of a certain religion, people always deem it fit to keep you in a specific box in order for them to better place you in society. What the hell is that all about?

There is a big difference between minorities defining themselves as such, and society doing it for them. Because when minorities own this part of themselves, it’s normally to shine a light on their struggles and show tell others going through the same thing that they are not alone. But, when society chooses to slap a label on them, it is most likely not out of the goodness of their hearts, but as a sort of placement.

When NikkieTutorials said “before anything, I am me,” I never felt so connected to her. I by no means claim to know anything about her struggles, nor the struggles of transgender people in general. But I know what it’s like to be tokenized in order to fill a fantasy, boxed in order to fit a stereotype people refuse to let go of, or even limited to a single part of my identity.

So please, for the love of all that is good and pure in this universe, as a wise man (Harry Styles) once said, treat people with freakin’ kindness and quit forcing labels on them—it’s not cute. 



Graphic by Sasha Axenova


Spotlight on BIPOC artists should be unlimited, not constrained to the shortest month of the year.

 Clear out your schedule to make way for these important celebrations

As February begins, one better make space in their calendar for the number of events that will be happening this month. For indeed, the second month of the year will be full of activities because of “Black History Month,” a title that was given in 1926 as a celebration of African-American heritage. BHM today has seriously moved away from “African-american” heritage to completely encompass ALL of black culture.

During this month, a number of galleries aim to showcase works by black artists, and Concordia is no different. The Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA) has recently selected their artists for the month’s pop-up exhibitions around campus, they encouraged “submissions by all artists who identify as a person of African descent.” Interesting choice of words FASA, black and African are not synonymous. Every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square!

While dedicating a part of the year for minorities certainly is an important step towards inclusion, it is also important to remember that these artists are there all year—and should be celebrated every day; not only as Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, (BIPOC), but as artists, and most importantly as human beings.

In any case, here are some things happening this February.

Jan. 27 marked three years since the Quebec mosque shooting, and Cinema Politica screened The Mosque: a community struggle in memoriam, and on Feb. 3, there was a screening of First Voices: an evening of Indigenous cinema as part of First Voices Week—and many more initiatives.

The prestigious annual Vision Celebration Gala, hosted by Black Theatre Workshop, is the official launching pad for Montreal’s Black History Month celebrations that took place on Feb. 1. Their Facebook event describes it as an event serving to pay homage to outstanding Black artist changemakers who contribute to the development of arts in Canada. It celebrates the vision of growth, solidarity and unity inspired by the great historical figure, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  (Stay tuned for my coverage of this next week.)

Many organizations are making sure to give a platform to black voices. For example,  Phi, a centre for contemporary art offers  Le Mois de l’histoire des Noirs: prendre la parole chez Phi. At the Cinémathèque Québécoise, there is a series of movies celebrating black lives, and honouring their history for the entire month of February—especially the renowned Kenbe la, jusqu’à la victoire. Shot between Haiti and Montreal, it is the story of an artist and militant, a black woman, who in spite of her sickness, strives to create a permaculture project.

February is not only reserved for the black community when it comes to Montreal but for a number of people of colour. For example, Cinema Politica at Concordia has made it their moral imperative to showcase a movie each week about POCs’ struggles—from First Nations to the Black community.

While at times it could be on a positive note and a sort of honouring, one can’t help but wonder why they all get crammed into 28, sometimes 29 days. Spotlight on BIPOC artists should be unlimited, not constrained to the shortest month of the year.




Graphic by @sundaeghost.


A peek into what climate change has done to us

How an Iranian artist reminds viewers of their humanity

A Canadian lynx missing its paws, a bumblebee with no wings, a wolf pack howling in the night with no legs to stand on. This is what climate change is leaving us with; endangered species upon endangered species, decaying as the planet is dying.

At least, that is what Shabnam Zeraati wants you to feel and think about in her newest exhibition, Side Effects, at Atelier Circulaire in the Mile End. Side Effects is not only an exhibition concerning wildlife and the dangers climate change poses on them, but what a decaying planet means for human beings as well.

Zeraati’s animal drawings are scattered across the gallery, but the most striking installation is the white plaster hand coming out of a black puddle, positioned in the middle of the room, as if it were drowning and asking for help — which is exactly what she was going for.

“In all of my projects I try to invite the spectator to think and be sensible towards everyday occurrences, and what is happening in the world,” she said.

Zeraati was born in Iran and is now based in Montreal where she has shown her work in places like MAI, Maison de la culture in Longueuil, Musée historique du Madawaska, Atoll art actuel in Victoriaville, and Articule. Her works often showcase her desire to cross different techniques in her art, from screen printing, to engraving, to moulding.

Her artistic journey led to her leave Iran in 2003, with no intention of going back. Prior to moving indefinitely to Montreal in 2011, she studied in France, though she admits she didn’t particularly feel quite at ease there.

“It’s hard, living in France as a stranger,” she confessed. “I couldn’t progress artistically like I wanted to. In Canada, there are a lot of opportunities for artists, and it coincided with what I was looking for.” 

“In high school, I knew I didn’t want to continue in sciences, whether it were in biology, human sciences, or physics,” she added. “So my choice was to go in graphics in university. That’s when I felt that I wanted to go more into drawing, and visual arts.”

Side Effect, she stated, was an idea born out of a migratory mammal encyclopedia she had created in 2017. Zeraati primarily describes her pieces in Side Effect  as a narrative. “My prime objective is to make art as comprehensive as possible for everyone, not just for elitists,” she explained.

“Shabnam Zeraati plunges us into a near future, already clearly perceptible, in which the shift away from our responsibilities is the greatest threat,” said Gauthier Melin, the communication manager for Atelier Circulaire’s executive board.  

Zeraati’s animals, receding into the gallery walls, move from a beige colour to an invisible white. But it is the presence of the plaster hands on the floor, reaching for help, that adds an layer of meaning to her work.

“These outstretched hands cry for help, condensing the stereotypes used in media representations of migratory movements over the past decade, and in particular the treatment of the Syrian refugee crisis,” said Melin, “as a result, the work brings us to another reality of global warming: climate refugees.”

Gripping, disturbing, raw, and, most of all, painfully realistic, Zeraati’s works not only invite the viewer to ponder over the reality of climate change, but calls for them to remember their humanity.



Photos courtesy of Atelier Circulaire.


Note to Shelf: Our Women on the Ground

Growing up in Lebanon, my sole sources of inspiration concerning the journalistic world were movies like Almost Famous and Runaway Bride.

Mostly because my proficiency in the Arabic language was not fluent enough to read a newspaper — that, and the fact that all news in Lebanon is politically affiliated with a party, and my parents always shielded me from that.

I was never interested in politics in general, but rather what politics inspires people to do — from wars, to art, to literature. I also didn’t see a future for me in journalism, because I didn’t have any female journalists to look up to in Lebanon. I erroneously thought female news anchors were a joke. In my opinion, they cared more about showcasing their newest plastic surgery fail and maintaining their perfectly blown hair, eventually making fools of themselves in political debates. At least that’s what I grew up watching — not knowing there was an entire world out there where female journalists were fearless, brave, and dying for their causes on battlegrounds.

In comes Zahra Hankir, a London-based British-Lebanese journalist, with a book that would school my judgmental, uneducated behind with Our Women on the Ground.

The book is a collection of essays written by not only women journalists, but Arab women, edited by Hankir with a foreword by the one and only Christiane Amanpour. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Amanpour, she’s been a badass journalist for the past three decades, and CNN’s chief international anchor. She’s also of Iranian origin.

To put it bluntly, as I always do, there is only one version of the Middle East everyone gets, be it from Hollywood, or good ol’ classic literature — and that is the repetitive narrative of thrill-seeking Western journalist demanding justice, who then gets kidnapped by Islamic terrorists, tortured or whatnot, released, and what do you know? A beautiful story about self-discovery is born.

And people wonder why I refused to watch the movie Beirut, but let’s not get into that again.

Sufficient to say, after growing up with countless Western testimonies about the Middle East, and its wonderful paradox, Our Women on the Ground was a breath of the freshest air.

Because I wasn’t reading about strangers judging, and depicting my land. I wasn’t rolling my eyes at how a Western man smelled the heavenly smell of man’oushe, while hiding from the incessant bombing. I wasn’t reading about a fabricated, fetishized (yes, fetishized) Middle East. I was reading about my people by my people. I was reading raw, unedited, unfiltered emotions. I was reading about all the women I wish I had met growing up — because I knew they existed. I just didn’t know where to look.

So you see, we Arabs are classified into two categories: the fun-loving, shisha-smoking belly dancers, and the Islamic suicide bombers. Both columns oppress their women. The exceptions in between always seem so eager to shed their Arab skin, that the world doesn’t have time to place them in either of those columns.

Our Women on the Ground is brilliant because it breaks those classifications completely. It does not fit in either one, and most of all, does not feed into the West’s demonization of the region. 



Anne-Audrey Remarais and the art of healing

How a Concordia student is using art to help people be kinder to themselves

Anne-Audrey Remarais is a Concordia student, studying Performance Creation. Prior to her current major, she studied theatre at Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, where she got her first taste of performance art. Later, she went on to pursue a Bachelors in Social Work at McGill University.

That kind of academic background is one of the many things that inspires her pursuing a current career in art. Since Nov. 16, two of her visual art installations, Miwa, I … and Seeing and Be-Coming, have been on show at the VAV Gallery as part of the No.03 exhibition. Remarais is part of the many artists showcasing their pieces in the exhibition.

Seeing and Be-Coming is a beautiful interactive installation, a video projection with the words “Will you move with my shadow?” standing out. It shows two figures struggling to find a rhythm, as if they can’t seem to trust enough in each other to come together.

Seeing and Be-Coming.
Photo by Youmna El Halabi

Miwa, Iis not for the faint of heart. The installation is simple, a mirror, with headphones hung right next to it, in an empty room, but the emotional effect on the viewer is intense. Imagine standing in front of your reflection, with the words “I AM ENOUGH” written on the mirror, listening to words stemming from self-doubt, and insecurities, daring you not to sob.

“Performance comes in different ways,” Remarais said. “People in the creative space become the performers. I’m changing the way I view performance and realizing that a story can be told without the need for a script. It can be through lighting, through visuals, and I wanted to explore the different types of storytelling.”

What inspires Remarais the most is her own life and the highs and lows that come with it. 

“The past few years, I’ve been on this healing journey and throughout the year I’ve had a better understanding of what it means to be vulnerable, realizing through therapy that I needed to focus on that,” she said. “Building the foundation and routine of taking care of myself for real and being able to speak kindly to myself — I want to commit to it. Art helps me with that and including people with me like ‘let’s do this together, I don’t wanna do this alone.’ I feel like this is something we can all share, you know?”

Remarais first experienced a sense of unity and security at a visual arts installation in New College, at the University of Toronto, on April 7, 2018.

Song for the Beloved was an interactive performance honouring those who have died from urban violence in Kingston, Jamaica, linking these experiences to other forms of violence in communities around the world.

“It was an intimate healing experience,” Remarais said. “A space where we can come together, quietly. I remember thinking about my uncle even if we didn’t talk very much. I remember crying and being so touched by what I was seeing. To me it really was … it really fed my soul.”

As a person of colour, Remarais has dedicated part of her installation, specifically Miwa, I … , to the black community, and the suffering they have experienced throughout history. When asked if she ever felt a sort of political burden as a black artist, she shook her head.

“I feel like I haven’t done enough to have that identification in art,” she confessed. “But I’ve seen other people go through it. Especially people of colour — it’s like, people always ask them ‘how do you feel about the political state of the world?’ It’s ridiculous to focus on that and to give a person the responsibility to represent a whole community cause we’re all unique individuals. Yes, I’m black but it’s a subjective experience, even if it’s political.”

In Remarais’ words, her art can be summarized in three actions: healing, seeing, and dialogue. She wants people to feel comfortable enough to have a healthy dialogue with themselves, and others, about their suffering.

“[Art] gives me life,” she said. “It allows me to dig deeper into myself. I see it as an outlet.”

Remarais had planned on hosting a workshop called ”A spell for my healing,” dedicated to the black community to find their voices and create personalized loving mantras, prior to the exhibitions finissage. However, due to unforeseen infrastructural issues, VAV Gallery was forced to cancel both events, and close their space on Dec. 9. It will open again early mid-January.

Nevertheless, Remarais plans on making a pop-up workshop in the new year, and both Miwa, I … and Seeing and Be-Coming are up until Dec. 6 at the VAV Gallery.


Feature photo by Britanny Clarke.

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