HERstory Lesson Opinions

HERstory Lesson: Nellie Bly

From Ten Days in a Mad-House to touring the world in high heels

A girlboss of her time, Nellie Bly — born Elizabeth Cochrane — was an American journalist who was famous for her investigative undercover work.

She was born in 1864 and went to school until the age of 15, but struggled to find work, even more than her brothers who were less educated than her.

In 1885, she wrote a response to an editor at the Pittsburgh Dispatch after they published an article titled “What Girls Are Good For” that criticized the presence of women in the workforce. In her response to the column, she argued for more opportunities for women in the public sphere. The editor was impressed by her writing, and this kick-started her career as a reporter. 

When she started working for the Dispatch, she began writing under the pseudonym Nellie Bly because it was considered inappropriate for women to write under their own name. So, it only made sense that all of the men in the newsroom came together to find her a “catchy” nom de plume, which turned out to be inspired by a racist form of entertainment.

Although Nellie Bly made the name a feminist reference today, it is actually the misspelled version of the minstrel song Nelly Bly by Stephen Foster. Minstrel songs were made specifically for minstrel shows, a racist form of theater that was prominent in the 19th century.

Despite bringing great reporting on the conditions of working women at the Dispatch, Bly’s editors confined her to writing on women’s issues. In a time where women were hired as reporters mainly for the “women pages,” Bly wanted to do investigative work.

To be less restricted, she moved to New York in 1886, but struggled to find work as a woman reporter. A year later, Bly stormed into the office of none other than Joseph Pulitzer and asked to report on immigrants in the United States. Although he refused her pitch, he challenged her to look into the Blackwell’s Island mental asylum for New York World.

Not only did Bly accept the challenge, she committed herself to that piece by faking mental illness to get herself admitted into the institution. During her time there, Bly investigated claims of abuse and neglect in the women’s unit. She also dropped her act and started acting “normal,” even asking to be let go, but to no avail. After ten days of trying to convince the staff that she was a reporter, the New York World had to come rescue her from the asylum.

Bly’s discoveries were published in a series of articles in the paper, followed by a book called Ten Days in a Mad-House. Not only did her investigative reporting lead to a grand jury investigation of the asylum and brought more funding for the Department of Public Charities and Corrections, it also became one of the most iconic pieces of undercover journalism. 

The ease with which she was able to trick doctors into thinking she was insane also ensured future examinations to be more thorough.

She continued to publish regular exposés on corruption in the legislature and jails, as well as continuing to advocate for the working class.

In 1889, she was inspired by Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days to beat fictional character Phileas Fogg’s record travel. Bly read the book and was inspired to beat Fogg’s record.

The New York World published daily updates of her journey, even running a contest where readers could guess how much time it would take her to travel the world. Bly travelled the world by train, boat and horse, wearing a full gown, heeled boots and corset, the traditional attire for women at the time.

She completed the tour in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds, setting a new world record. It didn’t take long, however, for a businessman to take her glory and complete the challenge in 67 days.

Nellie Bly was a pioneer in her field as an investigative journalist and continues to be an inspiration for women today.

HERstory Lesson is a new column presenting all the “bad girls” in history, or the ultimate girlboss summit.


Holocaust Survivor Angela Orosz speaks on intergenerational trauma

“I dreamt of the Germans,” says Orosz’s daughter who was conditioned to learn adulthood before she even knew the meaning of the word

When she was just three years old, Katy Orosz was sent grocery shopping on her own. Unbeknownst to her, her mother Angela was secretly following along to ensure her safety. Still, the trauma of that early push for independence lingers in Katy today.

In late January, Angela Orosz, one of the youngest Holocaust survivors, spoke at the Montreal Holocaust Museum (MHM) to discuss her daughter’s experiences with intergenerational trauma.

The event, which held an audience of 350 people, took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. 

Former Chief Anchor and Senior Editor of CTV News, Lisa Laflamme, hosted the public interview with Orosz to discuss how the genocide impacted aspects of her life, notably her motherhood.

Laflamme covered Orosz’s story on CTV News in 2020, when the two visited Auschwitz. It had been the survivor’s first time back at the concentration camp since her birth.

Orosz was born on Dec. 21, 1944, in German-occupied Poland at the Auschwitz concentration camp. She was one of few to survive the liberation that following year.

The public discussion unraveled the painful psychological impacts of the Holocaust, and Orosz explained its influence on her early parental experiences.

During the mid to late 1960s, Orosz gave birth to her daughter Katy in Budapest, Hungary. Orosz passed down many of the “survivor skills” that she learned from her mother Vera Otvos-Beins. This consisted of sending her young daughter off to go grocery shopping and take public transportation “alone.”

“She was three years old. She can’t forgive me. I taught her how to go shopping by herself. She didn’t know I was following her, but I wanted her to have that feeling that whatever is happening, she is not lost,” confessed Orosz. 

This motherly instinct to push for early independence and adulthood in her toddler reflected the trauma she endured when anticipating a recurrence of the Holocaust. 

“I think it’s understandable, given what you’ve been through, what your mother probably taught you as a little girl,” said Laflamme. The journalist sympathized with Orosz on the challenges of teaching one’s own child as a survivor. 

In August of 2016, Orosz was asked to speak about the transmission of psychological trauma from mothers to children at a psychiatric conference in Dresden. However, Orosz’ reaction to the invite involved instant denial to her repressed feelings of trauma. “I’m not going to do it, I don’t have trauma,” she said.  

Orosz went directly to her two children to ask about their thoughts on her attending the event. When she questioned her having trauma, her son had little to say. “But my daughter gave me a list to China and back, on what I did,” she jokingly stated. 

“She said, ‘Mom, are you telling me you don’t have trauma? Your whole life is the Holocaust, everything was the Holocaust. You wanted me to be strong and you made me scared. I couldn’t go to sleep because I dreamt of the Germans,’” explained Orosz. 

Sarah Fogg is a staff member at the MHM and a third-generation survivor to her two grandparents, Marek and Mara Lewkowicz, who survived the Holocaust in Balkhash, Kazakhstan and Kassel, Germany. After World War II, the young couple began a family and fled as refugees to Canada, where they started a new chapter in their lives. 

Fogg has worked with Orosz for years, and emphasized her good intent in trying to protect her daughter from potential harms after the Holocaust. 

The thought of Orosz instilling fear into her daughter at such a young age had never been her intention. “For Angi, it wasn’t from that perspective at all, she was just trying to build a safer human,” expressed Fogg.

Orosz felt strongly towards being open about her past with her children, in hopes of teaching them resilience and gratefulness. 

She referred to memories early on in her parenthood when her children would complain about something. For instance, if they disliked the meal their mother cooked for them, Orosz would reply with “you know how happy [you] would have been in Auschwitz?”.

“We were happy if water came from the faucets in Auschwitz, how could you dare to complain?” she often asked her children.

When her children were young, she juggled the task of being a novice mother while carrying the weight of being a Holocaust survivor. Orosz was also just trying her best, and many other survivors were too.

“When I think of the survivors that I know, again I can’t speak for everybody, everyone’s different, everyone has just tried their best. They came to Canada as refugees, they had to build new lives, learn new languages, new jobs, start from nothing. And I think they all just did the best they could, really,” said Fogg.

Despite never enduring trauma from the Holocaust, Fogg sympathizes with other descendants who’ve felt as though they lived within their families’ tragic stories. 

“Now that I work at the museum, I know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to bring up the history because it could be really traumatizing to talk about it, for the listener and for the survivor,” said Fogg.

Community Culture

Our Mountain: Memories of Mount Royal Review

Check out this new exhibit commemorating the historic mountain located at the heart of our city

Out of all the iconic landmarks, one could visit in Montreal, I could list out a whole bunch off the top of my head: Orange Julep, St. Viateur Bagels, Mount Royal, etc. 

In terms of history, Mount Royal is as rich as it is stunning. An exhibit recently launched at the Musée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal called Our Mountain: Memories of Mount Royal recognizes the storied history of the mountain. 

This exhibit launched on Nov. 15 and runs up until Aug. 31, 2024. The location is 201 Pine Ave, W.

The exhibit mainly focuses on issues that contributed to the mountain’s initial development, and the current preservation efforts that are being undertaken.

Walking through this exhibit, you can learn about many different things, including some background on the park’s architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, the same architect behind the famous Central Park in New York City.

The exhibit focuses on the history of the park as a landmark in a growing city. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, over the course of the 19th century, Montrealers bought large pieces of land at the base of Mount Royal. Those pieces of land were used as orchards or farms.

The turning point was when the city kept growing in population and the large pieces of land at the base became a cause of congestion. That’s when citizens started a petition to protect the mountain and turn it into a park for the public to enjoy. 

It was in 1874 that the city hired the famous Olmsted to design the layout of the park. Afterward, the park was officially opened to the public in 1876. 

The exhibit also makes a point of describing the mountain as a geographical territory. Mount Royal is composed of three summits, with its highest summit measuring 233 metres high. 

Walking through the exhibit, I noticed a space that was titled Mount Royal in 50 years. Visitors could write their predictions of what Mount Royal might look like in half a century. Now with the history of Mount Royal in mind, I leave the question with you — what do you think Mount Royal will look like 50 years from now?

Photographs by Dalia Nardolillo/The Concordian


Concordia For Dummies: Graham Carr’s Apology Explained

Welcome to The Podcast. Cedric Gallant will produce and host this podcast alongside our Section Editors every week. The shows will rotate weekly to cover topics from each section of our newspaper!

This week’s show, Concordia for Dummies, was produced by Cedric Gallant, alongside our News Editor Lucas Marsh Tune in for future episodes of Concordia for Dummies, where we explore topics on students minds throughout the school year.

Graphic by James Fay

In this episode:

Lucas Marsh gives context on why Concordia’s President Graham Carr apologized for the University’s handling of the 1969 Black Student Protest. In addition to his historical explanation, Lucas interviewed Robert Wilkins, a photographer who was present when the fire broke out in the Hall building.


Public Intimacy—discovering the margin between the public and the private

The interactive piece kicks off the reopening of the Museum of Jewish Montreal

There is a line drawn between public and private spheres. In our lives, everyone has a limit as to what is kept personal and what we want to display to the public. As of Oct.13, art enthusiasts have the chance to explore this idea through the creation of Berlin artists Sophia Hirsch and Johannes Mundinger titled Public Intimacy, showcased at the Museum of Jewish Montreal until Jan. 22. 

The installation is composed of a plethora of curtains hung from a tall metal framework. Curtains of different materials, densities, and colors, are meant for the public to wander through and reflect upon. It’s a maze, and it provides the chance to close each participant off from the rest of the public, allowing them as much intimacy as they desire. 

“The curtains are second hand, they all come from a regional context that has a history with the Holocaust, the contemporary rise of neo-fascism,” said Stokvis-Hauer. “I don’t think that the exhibition is only about that, either. There are a million different things that public privacy can be associated with, it’s such a broad topic.”

The installation’s walls are occupied by immense photographs of mysterious residential windows, accompanied by existential and thought-provoking questions. 

The curtains were found around the Berlin area in historic places. Some were found in abandoned buildings previously occupied by German Democratic Republic government officials, some belonged to Mundingers’ grandmother, and others were found on the street. 

In 2019, the two artists were called in by the Museum of Jewish Montreal to present a project on-site. However, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down any works in progress, and the Museum of Jewish Montreal was shut down. 

This is the first exhibition since the museum’s reopening and the first Montreal-based project for the artist tandem. In this new space, the artists found even more room for freedom of discovery.

There certainly is an element of the exhibition that harkens to the past and present and leans towards elements of “Jewishness,” according to the museum’s artistic director Alyssa Stokvis-Hauer.  Themes of racism, xenophobia, and possibly other matters relevant to a broader community than the Jewish. 

“We aren’t Jewish ourselves, but we have history with the culture,” said Mundinger. The artist had been invited to participate in an exhibition at the Galicia Jewish museum located in Kraków in Poland. Hirsch had gone as far as spending three years with a concentration camp survivor to create his biography in the form of a graphic novel. The work is not yet published through an official company.

In terms of an exhibit, the museum’s staff team saw Public Intimacy as a connection of interest to the Jewish community in Montreal. For the team, there’s a wide range of interesting questions that are relevant to the Jewish community, and further relevant to other communities. 

“What’s so great about Johannes and Sophia’s work is that it asks infinite questions,” added Stokvis-Hauer. “It invites everyone to think about where the line is between public and private on the macro and micro scales.” This piece, she emphasized, is meditative.

If you want your brain and heartstrings tugged on, all while experiencing the essence of a homely yet conflicted culture, you should visit the installation in the Mile End before it closes on Jan. 22. You can read more about the event on the Museum’s website.

My new favourite winter accessory — the balaclava

No, I don’t mean the delicious snack baklava, I mean balaclava

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve also noticed the revival of a knit ski mask-like accessory in the fashion scene. The balaclava, a fun, multi-purpose scarf/hat hybrid, has quickly made its way onto the heads of all the cool kids around Montreal, New York and Copenhagen.

If you aren’t familiar with what a Balaclava looks like, picture a ski mask, tight around the top of your head with an opening for your eyes or face that extends down around your neck like a neckwarmer. Unlike your typical ski mask, a balaclava is knit and can adopt many different styles — thicker or thinner, soft yarn or thick cotton, sometimes even mohair to give it an airy look, or the all-important devil horns and bunny ears if you want to stick out.

Balaclavas were first invented in the 1800s when soldiers fought in the Crimean war, specifically the battle of Balaklava — a port of support for the British, French and Turkish against the Russians during an indecisive battle. The tightly-knit wool hats would help keep soldiers warm and slowly made their way into popular culture and fashion. By the 1970s, fashionable balaclavas with fur trimmings and opulent details started popping up.

Today, the resurgence of the warm winter accessory is attributed to the avant-garde and high fashion community, with most of the viral balaclavas coming from designers like Miu Miu, Rick Owens or Isa Boulder — most retailing for more than $400.

Funny enough, the current resurgence of the northern hood came hand-in-hand with the uptick in knitting and crochet as hobbies. During the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, many started to pick up needles and yarn and make all sorts of creations. We saw the rise of granny squares, hand-knit blankets, and even checkered bags all driven by our favourite guilty pleasure: social media, and TikTok in particular. I’ll admit, I too fell victim to each trend.

This is an accessory with many functions — warmth, fashion, and even anonymity. Historically, many protest groups have worn ski mask like hoods to disguise their identities from the police. However, these efforts have been criticized due to the intimidating nature of the all-black look.

One example of balaclava’s cultural impact is their specific protest aesthetic, rocked by many anti-fascist and anti-white-supremacy groups. The balaclava, combined with the head-to-toe black outwear, and military accessories like gas masks, represents activism and protesting against fascism and racist ideals. While the look can be intimidating, the safety in anonymity it gives to protesters is an important use of the balaclava.

But you don’t have to look intimidating in a cagoule — I would argue many look very endearing in them. The variety of colours and shapes we are seeing emerge in fashion create a sea of wandering specks of colour walking around in the cold, grey weather, and I’m here for it.

I have recently started knitting my own balaclavas and, as with all crochet projects I take on, I recommend everyone try and learn how to make their own — it’s so rewarding! 

When considering what kind of balaclava you should make or buy, ask yourself: what kind of feel do I want on my face? What colour scheme is my wardrobe, and what balaclava could best compliment that? And lastly, what type of shape am I looking for?

Finding the right yarn for your skin is important, because no matter the style, the balaclava will touch and brush against your face. I know that I have acne-prone skin, so wearing balaclavas can be a big risk factor in making my skin act up if I don’t pick the correct material.

When thinking of what colour balaclava to make or purchase, it’s important to consider your wardrobe: do you wear a lot of neutrals? Or more bright colours? Are you the type to only wear black, grey and white?

If you wear neutrals, maybe pick one that stands out slightly more — like burnt orange or khaki green to bring in a pop of muted colour. If you wear lots of colours, stick with a staple: yellow, blue, red, white or black. You want something that will complement any outfit without clashing.

Finally, the shape. The main consideration is how tight you want it — think of your hair and skin again. Do you have a tendency to get frizzy? Do you lose volume easily? If so, maybe a little looser.

If you want a specific cone shape or specialty ears, it’s pretty straightforward. Find someone who can do that on Etsy, or even try it out yourself! You can always knit stand-alone customizations that can be woven in and out of your balaclava.

No need to freeze for fashion — you can now stay fashionably warm all winter long. You’re welcome! 


Feature graphic by James Fay


Larry Achiampong’s Relic Traveller is a meditation on race, diaspora and historical preservation

The artist’s first solo exhibition in the Americas offers an immersive, thought-provoking experience for visitors

Early on a Thursday morning, I eagerly waited outside the PHI Foundation to see the new Larry Achiampong exhibition. The artist’s latest work, Relic Traveller, is a multidisciplinary exhibition that features sculptures, murals, four short films and more. Relic Traveller is the British-Ghanaian artist’s first major solo exhibition in the Americas.

Upon entering, Victoria Carrasco, one of the co-curators for the exhibition, led me through the first section. Carrasco explained to me that the relic traveller is a sort of alter ego for the artist, one that has allowed him to explore his African roots and to confront issues pertaining to race, postcolonialism and more. This exhibition, especially the films, also explores how some spaces appear to be reserved for certain individuals, namely europeans. This leaves the relic travellers to be in a constant state of movement as they attempt to find a home and to also find a place where they can leave a historical mark.

In a white-walled room with a red floor that had a clay-like texture to it, I observed seven black, faceless figures, all wearing similar navy green jumpsuits. Two of the figures were suspended from the ceiling, one with both arms positioned in front of them, and the other with one arm reaching out. Behind these figures on the wall were several flags, which closely resembled flags from existing African countries. In this room, visitors may feel as though they have been momentarily transported to space, with the two figures dangling above them, the space helmets these figures wear, and the red ground in the exhibition room bearing a striking resemblance to Mars’ sandy landscape.

The next room showcases the relic traveller in 2D form through colourful mural paintings. Achiampong utilizes every inch of this room to document the traveller’s journeys to what appears to be a land based in the future. Each wall, and even the ceiling, offers a visual narrative that can be appreciated.

The final room contained four short films, all featuring a breathtaking landscape in each one. This room was, without a doubt, the highlight of the exhibition for me. Sitting in a chair as overhead bright lights slowly dimmed to a deep red, I invested all my focus into the first film, titled Relic 0. This film follows the traveller as they wander through lush, green hills, and is Achiampong’s response to the prolonged period of time that the artist went without seeing his children due to the pandemic. In several of the films, the artist uses his two children as actors, both dressed as the relic traveller. The artist addresses his children directly, by sharing stories about their ancestry, but the film still resonates with all viewers. The pandemic presented the world with a novel form of isolation, one that won’t soon be forgotten, and this film is a stark reminder of that.

While this exhibition is deeply personal, it is also a meditation on current and past issues pertaining to race, diaspora, history and more. The pieces ask viewers to reflect on who gets to participate in the making of history, who and what deserves to be at the centre of ethnographic study, and how memories and cultural materials are (or aren’t) preserved throughout time. The very first exhibition, with its dangling mannequin-like figures, showcases a disturbance in the way ethnographic collections are presented. Typically, those who visit museums, especially ones in the West, will notice that ethnographic figures and even many objects are displayed vertically. Visitors who enter the first room will undoubtedly first notice the figures that appear upright, not the ones above them. I soon realized that the ones above head could easily be forgotten due to the fact that they do not presume the same position as the others, that they do not conform.

Additionally, in the films, the relic traveller is constantly moving, searching for a place to call home. All the while, they carry no materials with them. This makes it nearly impossible for them to leave a physical trace in history. Perhaps this is why the travellers rely so much on stories and memories, as emphasized during Relic 0 when the artist speaks to his children about ancestry. This exhibition is also, in many ways, a call to action for more Black voices to be acknowledged in cultural and historical discourses. These works highlight the racial inequalities that arise when it comes to documenting the physical and oral histories of individuals. Achiampong leaves visitors wondering, uneasily, who is worthy of being remembered?

Relic Traveller is on display at the PHI Foundation until January 9, 2022. For more information, please visit the Phi Foundation’s website.


Photo courtesy of Dahlia Cheng


“No pride in genocide” — Indigenous leaders lead thousands who marched to honour the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Among other communities across Canada, Montreal gathers to mourn and recognize the history of Canada’s residential school system.

On Sept. 30, Indigenous leaders and supporters took it to the streets to mourn the lives of the individuals who died while attending residential schools and those whose bodies may never be found. At the start of the event, ae crowd of hundreds came together at 1 p.m. at Place du Canada near Peel Ave. and René Lévesque Blvd. in front of the former site of the Sir John A. Macdonald statue, to symbolize the genocide orchestrated by the first prime minister, who introduced the residential school system to Canada. Macdonald had a significant role in the creation of the residential school system, and after his statue was torn down by an anonymous group of activists and protestors on Aug. 29, its former site remained a powerful reminder for attendees.

Organized by the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (NWSM) and the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, the event began with youth from different Quebec and Labrador communities chanting Indigenous traditional music.

To kick off the march, the group witnessed several Indigenous speakers share their stories. As they proceeded to march, the crowd grew to include thousands of people.

Marchers were encouraged to wear orange shirts to stand in solidarity.  Orange Shirt Day was started by Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor whose orange shirt was taken away from her at the St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia. The orange shirt symbolizes how the residential school system took away the identities of Indigenous students, and seeks to honour and remember the experiences and losses of every Indigenous community. 

With the recent announcement by Premier François Legault refusing to pass the legislation marking Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday, many voiced their anger. Among the many is Nakuset, executive director of the NWSM.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I think that if you’re going to deny this as a statutory holiday, you’re going to deny us, you’re also denying our existence, you’re denying systemic racism,” said Nakuset.

“Hopefully, when a lot of people show up, we are no longer in denial. This is the day that people have chosen to leave work, to leave school and come be with us, and maybe next year, we’ll change his mind,” she added.

Nakuset emphasized the importance of active reflection.

“The reason why I put this together is because I want this day to be a day of action. I do not want people hanging at home or at work reflecting on this particular day,” she explained. “I think when you come here and listen to speakers, then you actually learn about residential schools,” she continued.

When asked about her hopes and expectations for this march, she insisted on accountability with subpoenas.

“What I [would] like is for people that know about the law to actually start handing out subpoenas for all those residential schools. […] Come to court, share what happened and change the history books, because we need justice,” Nakuset urged.

Though Nakuset sees this holiday as gruesome, she says it is important to remember Sept. 30 as a day of action, a day to learn and a day to do something productive for the future. 

Chief Ross Montour of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke opened his speech by also acknowledging the day as historic.

“We are here to walk today to gather and to remember every life on this day who suffered through the colonization of this country… Those who never came home.”

Montour ended his speech by saying, “I’m happy to be here, but I had to be here.”

Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk activist and spokesperson from the Kanehsatà:ke Nation’s Turtle Clan also expressed her thoughts.

“Thank you all for being here […] to support the children of a genocide created by Canada, and the churches that allowed children to be murdered in these residential schools.”

Gabriel continued by mourning the lost lives of all the speakers, the artists, the singers, the musicians, the traditional knowledge keepers, and the medicine keepers that could have been standing with them.

“We are mourning,” she repeated. “We mourn the losses of lives that could have been standing with us.”

“This is our land, and no amount of roses and pavement and policies and lives can change that,” Gabriel added.

She proposed a solution of enforcement of education about Indigenous history in schools. Gabriel addresses this request to the government, and demands a change to educate the youth.

“They tell us our academics can take care of that. Well, education was used as a tool against Indigenous people. Now, we want to use that to turn the tables and use education so you can be assimilated on our terms.”

When discussing the government, Gabriel said the imposed laws are not helpful but rather a form to further oppress them.

“Your laws, they are not for us, they are to oppress us. Your laws, your justice system is to make sure that there is an erasure of Indigenous history in this land that claims to be a human rights defendant.”

Gabriel ended her speech by encouraging everyone to take more action after the demonstration.

“Don’t make this the last thing you do for those children who never came home.”

The speeches ended with a poem addressed to Legault shared by Elisapie, an Inuk singer and songwriter.

Her poem read, “You continue to defend Quebeckers against these accusations of racism from a few individuals, but where are we, the Natives of Quebec, in your speech?” 


Photo by Catherine Reynolds.


Tearing at the threads of a romanticized history: crafts and women of ancient Cyprus

How unpacking the history behind the art of my home country led me on a path of self-discovery as a native Cypriot

It was an average winter day in 2006 at my gothic revival-type apartment in Budapest. My former Cypriot boyfriend and I had only been dating for three months and brief discussions of moving in together loomed out in the open. Well, that was until he exclaimed to me with fury that we needed to break up. The reason? His belief that I wasn’t good enough of a homemaker.

His irritation did not come as a surprise to me. He would often shame me for my cooking, cleaning and all around lack of classically defined “homemaking skills.” At first I thought this was an absurd reason to end our relationship. Eventually, reality set in and I began to feel shame and question my self-worth. “Are all the other qualities and skills that I bring to the table invalidated because I do not know how to make moussaka and clean dishes the proper way?”

I thought of the women in my life. Looking at my Cypriot friends and family, all I could see were “worthy” women that were perceived by many as perfect homemakers. These women did it all and never complained.

Part of me envied their ability to multitask and manage it all perfectly; a real prize for any man out there. I had no other real-life examples of what a healthy relationship was supposed to look like. I wasn’t even quite sure about what it meant to be a woman. Based on what I had been told, our role as homemakers was to take care of the house, cook, sew, take care of the children and be willing to have sex at all times. At first, I considered these ideologies relics of the distant past. In my attempt to develop my own identity, I subconsciously equated the word homemaker with my self-worth.

My family held the same belief. “How else are you ever going to become a mother and take care of your children?” I told them that I would meet somebody that loves me for the way I am. I also expressed, with conviction, that homemaking should be a shared responsibility and not just mine. Although no words were spoken after that, their expression said it all. Disappointment, pity, contempt. Cracks with my family ties had just begun.

In an unexpected opportunity to revisit the past 14 years later, a research scholarship offered to me during my art school studies led me down a crucial path of self-discovery. One that forced me to question my identity as a Cypriot woman, my life, and the day my ex-boyfriend broke things off for my unwillingness to accept an oppressive reality that I was expected to conform to.

I chose to centre my research around crafts and practices in ancient Cyprus and Cypriot women were at the centre of my focus. The topic of women and crafts in Cyprus during the 19th and 20th centuries was one that interested me. Growing up, I heard several stories about women and crafts of the past from my family. These stories were meant to teach us about weaving patterns, finding materials, and about the necessary labour-intensive process of homemaking with “primitive” tools on a daily basis. However, it was important for me to draw information from factual existing research to inspire my art practice.

I sought to develop a deeper understanding of how these women chose threads, colours, and materials to dye their fabrics, and how they made ink as part of their everyday ritual and practice.

As I dove deeper into my research, I was in awe looking at the beautiful patterns and weaves that these women created using basic tools, since the majority of them were poor.

I discovered how multiple households would come together to help each other “dress” the loom that took up an entire 10 foot x 10 foot room. My research motivated me to complete my tea towel and play a part in bringing forward a beautiful craft that has been partially forgotten.

I was going to attempt to weave a tea towel, learn to make ink that I was then going to use to paint my artwork and possibly compose an installation. I spent the next few months taking weaving classes, ink making classes and purchasing the necessary equipment to dye fabric — thus, walking in the footsteps of my ancestors and their craft practices through my own lens.

The weaving of the tea towel was well underway and I was beginning to get the hang of using the floor loom. Although this is not something I had done before, I felt an enormous amount of joy throughout the entire process. “It must be the bloodline of women that came before me that is now manifesting/speaking through me during this process,” I thought to myself.

As minutes, hours and days passed happily finding myself on the loom, a sense of dread and melancholy arose in me. I could not explain why I was feeling this way, “it must be the labour intensive process of weaving that is taking a toll on my body,” I reassured myself. I decided to take a few days away from the loom and focus on the writing aspect of my work. It was this moment when my feelings for the art that stood in front of me took a darker turn.

Initially amazed by the intricacy and beauty of the art, I soon realized that my vision of ancient crafts from Cyprus and women from the past had been heavily romanticized.

I came across a research paper titled The dowry in Cyprus during the twentieth century (1920-1974): from the agricultural society to a commercial economy by Chatzitheocharous-Koulouridou Panagiota. The “dowry” or proika (in Greek), was a term that I was familiar with from a young age. By definition, a “dowry” is a property or money brought by the bride’s family to her future husband at the time of marriage.

I often remember my grandmother talking about this. She would tell me how she had made me a number of quilts, blankets, bed covers, baskets, etcetera for when my day came. Eventually, these items were going to be the dowry that my family would give to my future husband. Initially, I felt proud looking at the large stash of handmade items made with love for me when I got married. The truth is, I did not fully realize the truth behind the dowry system and its impact on Cypriot women of the past.

After emerging from my office having spent days reading this paper, I came out a different person.

The research paper focused on the dowry system that was taking place in Cyprus during the 18th and 19th century; as a contract between the village priest and the two families that arranged the marriage. According to Panagiota’s paper, the village priest was the dignified middle man that negotiated the terms between the groom’s parents and the parents of the bride. Once the contract was finalized, the bride’s family, and by extension the bride herself, were given a deadline to fulfill part of the dowry/contract.

The contract included land, money and animals in cases of a wealthy bride. It was a list of items that brides had to make in order to prove their ability as acceptable homemakers. The bride had to display the complete list of items required by the contract. Additionally, the entire village would have to come to her house to view her worth as a homemaker, which was later followed by a visit from the priest who would decide whether the contract had been fulfilled. Her fate was sealed, her worth was decided, her label as a homemaker was given.

These stories struck me like lightning. Although well hidden, the remnants of this relic belief system are still visible to this day. While a dowry may not be explicitly required and a contract is not formed, the idea of evaluating women on their ability to manage a home is a perspective that I believe is still prevalent to this day. I’ve faced the consequences of this mindset head-on.

I was taught from a young age about the expectations that I had to fulfill as a daughter entering womanhood. I was meant to have children and become a good homemaker. I can still hear my mother, aunts and grandma telling me and the other girls in the family — “Pay attention, you will need to learn these skills for when you get married.” I never heard them say this to any of my male cousins.

These parasitic ideas are woven into us since early childhood in more ways than one. It was a form of daily brainwashing performed by family members, teachers, politicians and even the media. Eventually you began to suppress yourself; their job was done. The stories that I came across revealed how these patriarchal ideals employed craft and material practices as means to suppress women. My findings expressed the reality that weaving and suppression went hand in hand.

Diving into the waters of my research led me on an unexpected journey. One that unveiled the darker reality behind historically romanticized pieces of art. One that unearthed the voices of those who had been suppressed for decades. Voices of women that were silenced by men and other women — such as mothers, grandmothers, aunts, etcetera — that were meant to protect them the most. The same voices that were meant to protect me.

The dread took over me as these stories occupied my mind. My weaving time at the loom began to feel like a chore. The act of weaving itself brought up conflicting emotions along with more questions than answers for my art practice. “How can I love something that was used to suppress women? How can I identify with a culture that takes the freedom and artistic expression of women and transforms it into a weapon against them?” These were questions that I asked myself over and over again.

My tea towel was not complete when I chose its new identity. I named the artwork Weaving Blood. I named the artwork Weaving Blood, which reflects the idea of weaving until you bleed and numb yourself from the emotional pain and burden you experience. Weaving with joy that slowly turns into dread and blood, just like the transformation of my feelings during this research project. Weaving your way into womanhood, where you lose your virginity and everyone wants to see the blood on the white sheet to prove your purity. Weaving with the hope that you wake up from this play of fate that birthed you a woman. Weaving to prove your worth.

A principle stands out to me when I look at my art pieces: we control our body, we control our craft, we control our threads. My journey of unravelling my identity as a Cypriot woman has just begun.

I began to unravel — and will continue to unravel for a very long time — romanticized relics from my fabric of life. I am beginning to heal the parasitic thoughts that poisoned my mind as a young child by weaving my own ideas and perceptions. In doing so I am re-writing the stories of and for many Cypriot women of the past as well as the present. Stories that unveil their resilience while being minimized into mere objects, ready to manufacture craft goods and children. While these may have been uncovered stories of the past, their impacts loomed heavily on my experiences in the present.

I met my husband in 2014. He is tall, kindhearted and a better “homemaker” than what my family ever expected me to be. What struck me the most when we first met was that he was not your “typical idea” of what you would expect from the category of “man” in a relationship; at least compared to some of the guys that I’d been with in the past.

He knew how to take care of himself and kept things tidy, which was no longer left as a job for me. He had a profound joy for cleaning and organizing. It was refreshing to meet someone like him. Even though I exhibited confidence in finding a partner with such noble qualities, deep down I never deemed it to be possible.

My husband never placed traditional expectations on me or pressure me into changing who I am as a modern woman. He accepted me for who I am while embracing the idea of homemaking for the both of us. It was a match made in heaven.

By the time we got married, the rift between my family and I had grown bigger. I kept my marriage a secret. While I was happier than ever to have met the love of my life, my family didn’t hold the same approach. When a whistleblower eventually informed my family that I was married, they callously and dispassionately announced that I was “his problem now.”

I didn’t hear much from them after they found out about our marriage. To them, I was just a piece of property for sale that had “finally” been sold and taken off their shoulders.

At the time, I could not understand why having an additional X chromosome gave anybody the right to dehumanize me to a mere burden. I often contemplated how my external physical attributes “made me” a woman and laid the fertile ground to manufacture disheartening ideologies about what exactly a “woman’s place” was.

I rejected my family’s given identity and embraced my new life and the beginning of a journey I could never have imagined.

We welcomed our daughter into the world in 2017. Today, it’s become imperative for me as a mother to show my daughter on a daily basis what it means to be a woman and embody the potential of womanhood.

Expressing how historically rooted gendered oppression has impacted my life experiences through my art is important to me. Turning to my art is my way of creating something new with my life and showing my daughter that our history does not define us.

The stories that I’ve shared are only a tiny fraction of the suppression and abuse I endured growing up. The reality is much more stark and complex. That is why I choose everyday to do the work and strive to heal, and re-write my story while re-discovering my identity and being a role model for my daughter . I do it to heal and I always strive to be an example for not just my daughter but for all women out there who are actively and maliciously being suppressed by their “benefactors.”

Accepting the suppression is normalizing it, and normalizing it means more of it. I urge women and anyone reading to create your own ideals, to work towards healing, eliminate and replace these ideologies that infested our minds on the grounds that others are superior to us. Our handlers no longer have power over us. We hold the keys to our own innate power within us. Seek it, find it, embrace it — and above all, embody it.


Visuals by Catherine Reynolds

The unplanned lessons of historical tragedies

“World War II started on a Sunday afternoon when I was on my way to the movies.” -Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Masks, social distancing and self-isolation have all become mundane, even exasperating words in our daily vocabularies. Nightly newscasts religiously report new positive cases and updated death tolls, the weather isn’t the main subject of small talk anymore, and even the smell of cheap alcohol from grocery store hand sanitizer is a bother we have become accustomed to.

Every day when I take the crowded metro home and come across a child no taller than my waist clad with an oversized face covering, I wonder what kind of world the coronavirus will create for them. The new generation is currently navigating through hyper-vigilant and germaphobic circumstances, and I doubt many will remember the days before daily STM cleanings — a frequency which most preferred to stay blind to.

The post-COVID world is going to be a lot more different than we anticipated, though. For one, the structure of the 9-5 job and mandatory class attendance has been shattered. We’ve suddenly been introduced to the unfamiliar idea that people can still be just as productive without the added stresses of day-to-day life, like long commutes and cramped cubicles. In another sense, this crisis has been a breakthrough in regards to our use of technology; new social rules have made many tools a necessity rather than a luxury. Contactless payment, online banking, smartphones, computers, working Wi-Fi connections, and, of course, Zoom, all became indispensable tools as we witnessed the exodus of in-person working, schooling, and shopping. The coronavirus has fast forwarded the world’s dependence on technology by years.

We use the hopeful phrase “once Corona is over” as if the pandemic hasn’t already changed our values, habits, and traditions. No one thought quarantine would last so long, that it would bring back the advent of hobby culture—most have reconnected with their affinity for hiking, knitting, reading, etc.—or that many would suddenly catch up on years of neglecting their New Year’s resolutions to be healthier. Having said that, the aggravation of substance addiction and the hike in cases of domestic abuse have also been distressing side-effects of self-isolation. But it seems that throughout generations, global tragedies have always changed the lives of ordinary people in unexpected ways.

Everyone from my generation either has (or knows someone who has) an extraordinary story about what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001. My father was a firefighter. My fourth grade teacher turned on the TV to a live image of the Pentagon being hit. These stories transcend borders; the Earth kept turning, but the whole world stopped to remember what they were doing during the few seconds after the breaking news broadcasted.

Innumerable articles and research papers documenting the aftermath of 9/11 denote the sharp rise of Islamophobic ideas. With “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” as the Western world’s new favorite dictum, division and otherization became common defense mechanisms.

The union of the media and the image through the recent accessibility of television quickly made the Vietnam war an international concern. From the sight of a Vietnamese girl crying as she ran from a napalm attack, and from nightly broadcasts showing the true face of American liberty, erupted a global anti-war movement. With protests in Tokyo, Amsterdam, and Auckland, the public was slowly recognizing how technology could become a tool for connecting with our world. During 9/11, this same idea went even further as millions turned to the Internet to communicate with their loved ones, to find out about the newest updates, to share their thoughts and prayers. In the era of COVID, society can’t do without digital.

Nuclear power built a reputation for itself in 1986, when a faulty reactor in Chernobyl exploded, directly killing an estimated 30 to 50 people. Radiation became an entertaining comic book character backstory, but in the years following the disaster, just as we had seen after US troops left Vietnam, it also became a lesson not to mess with chemicals. This isn’t the scientific development we would’ve wished to see.

It’s not very uplifting to look back on atrocities that happened barely a century ago and that have left wounds still open today. But in the present, I think it can be grounding to think of history as something that happens to individual people, one day at a time. Maybe that’s just me.

I’m too young to remember the voice on the radio announcing terror attacks south of our border, but I can describe exactly what I was doing and where I was on the day I first heard of the “Wuhan virus.” History is made up of the stories we remember, and I hope that my memory can conjure up something positive, for a change—once Corona is over.


Photo Collage by Christine Beaudoin


The importance of Feminism in the 21st century

Officially recognized since 1977 by the UN, the goal of Women’s Day has always been to pay tribute to the achievements of predecessors in the labour movements and the feminist movement that succeeded it.

The history leading up to International Women’s Day is rich and full of brave women who fought for more rights and equality in the societies they lived in.

Though it’s a day to celebrate the achievements of women and how far we’ve progressed, we need to stray away from patting ourselves on the back and becoming passive in the status quo.

I am honestly grateful to have access to education, voting and having rights in general. I am my own person and I have a say in matters that involve my body and choices. But the heartbreaking truth is that reality isn’t like this for every woman around the globe. Just because we’ve progressed, doesn’t mean that we can’t do more to finally achieve gender equality—the same dream that fuelled so many feminist icons in the past to fight for all women.

International Women’s Day is a celebration of feminism and how brave women took to the streets of New York to ask for rights and less detrimental working conditions in 1908.

This year’s theme, which was  #EachforEqual  is wonderful to me because it is reflecting on what we should all be doing and pondering during the rest of the year. The goal of challenging stereotypes, fighting bias, broadening perceptions, improving situations and celebrating women’s achievements is what we all need to be doing. Why do we have to celebrate women’s achievements only once a year? And why does it have to become another marketing ploy abused by corporations?

Female empowerment isn’t properly celebrated with cutesy merchandise that may take the form of a bright pink t-shirt with the slogan ‘Woman Up!’ written across it or with a BrewDog pink beer ‘‘for girls’’ (it was in poor taste, even if it was ironic). It’s all feeding into sexist advertisements—and we’re in 2020. Do we seriously need to continue having this conversation and continuing to treat stereotypical gender roles as social restraints?

The world isn’t all sunshine, rainbows and unicorns and I’m aware of that. This is why corporations need to do better and invest money in the cause all year long, not only showing support on March 8 to be trendy.

International Women’s Day should always be about realizing how much we have progressed but also recognizing our shortcomings, and how much we can improve and continue to pave the way for less privileged women. There are still 132 million girls who don’t have access to education and are forced out of school worldwide.

In fact, many of these girls are refused opportunities due to sexism and outdated gender stereotypes, where girls are perceived as being housewives and don’t deserve an education, unlike their male counterparts, as reported by World Vision.

These biases against women aren’t only happening in underdeveloped countries.

On March 5, the United Nations Development Programme came out with a report with findings that 90 per cent of men and women alike hold a bias against women especially in areas such as politics, education and business. These results are upsetting and show that there are still invisible barriers blocking the achievement of equality.

Feminism isn’t only a trademark to show off once a year.

The advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes needs to be kept alive in 2020 and the years to come—so that all women around the world can accomplish their dreams and are finally seen as worthy of holding titles that were traditionally held by men.

We all have a role to play in making this a reality. 



Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Jojo Rabbit: a comedy about nazis. What could go wrong?

Director Taika Waititi teaches us to laugh at the idiotic nature of war


No, this isn’t a review for Peter Rabbit 2… Today we’re focused on Taika Waititi’s nazi comedy Jojo Rabbit.

Jojo Rabbit is a film focused on a little boy named Jojo who idolizes his country and its ruler, Adolf Hitler in the midst of World War II. As he trains to one day become a soldier, Hitler appears to him as his imaginary best friend and Jojo dreams of being in his inner circle. However, Jojo has to question his values and priorities when he discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their house. Written and directed by Waititi, it is certainly an interesting movie when you think about its subject matter in relation to its genre; a comedy about Nazi Germany. Yet, somehow, Waititi pulls it off.

Waititi portrays Hitler with no regard for historical accuracy and instead plays an eccentric figure who encourages Jojo to be the best of the best. He’s exactly what a little boy’s imaginary friend would be, with no relation to the real person. This creates a distance between the actual historical figure and the version of Hitler Jojo has in his mind. This distance makes it clear that Jojo does not really love Hitler, but simply thinks he does. We never see the real Hitler, only the man interpreted through Jojo’s imagination. In that sense, the film poignantly explores ignorance and blind patriotism from the perspective of an impressionable young boy, a theme that carries weight today; through social media, many young people are encouraged to hate others before they even have a chance to learn about them. This can be seen on something as simple as a plethora of hate comments on a YouTube video to entire websites dedicated to hate groups. Jojo Rabbit follows this idea. It does not focus on nazism more than it needs to, it instead focuses on the outcome of its existence. Jojo Rabbit is a comedy with a purpose; to take a child unaware of what he really stands for and to put you in his shoes.

Along with its hilarity, Jojo Rabbit is also a very innocent film because of its perspective. There are many joyful moments as we see the world through a child’s eyes, and only as adults can we think of the repercussions of the situation around him. Roman Griffin Davis gave an excellent performance as Jojo, with great comedic timing and an ability to emotionally connect with the audience. At the age of 12, he’s got a huge future ahead of him, and I look forward to seeing where he goes next. Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson and Thomasin McKenzie also had notable performances in this film and made for a great supporting cast.

There were frequent and jarring tonal shifts throughout the film, where you would laugh one minute then feel completely shattered the next. Although these shifts were striking, I believe that they were necessary thematically. As Jojo’s perception of the world around him and of himself changes, so does the film.

Jojo Rabbit makes you laugh at the absurdities of hate but still forces you to look at the suffering that comes from that animosity. In that sense, Waititi is a genius. He’s able to make a hilarious comedy about Nazis that retains emotional resonance about its subject matter. Keep an eye out for Waititi in the future, I have a feeling he has tons more in store.



Graphic by @sundaeghost

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