Ji zoongde’eyaang opens with a strong heart

Mother and daughter dig up old works to tell a story on Indigenous heritage in new MAI exhibition

Montréal, arts interculturels, or MAI for short, opened Ji zoongde’eyaang on Oct. 22. The exhibition features work from Lara Kramer and Ida Baptiste, an Anishinaabe Oji-Cree mother-daughter duo. The title, in Anishinaabemowin, means “to have a strong heart”.

Baptiste is a visual artist, traditional pow wow dancer and Ojibwa language teacher based in Rama, Ontario. She is a member of the Berens River First Nation, Treaty 5 territory. Many of her works, consisting of oil on canvas, weaving and printmaking, were famously shown between 1975 and 1990 in Ontario.

Lara Kramer, her daughter, is a performer, choreographer and artist of many disciplines from Oji-Cree and settler descent. Her work is grounded in intergenerational relations, intergenerational knowledge and the impacts of the Indian Residential Schools in Canada. 

Most of the pieces in this exhibition touch on generational practices as well as experiences involving memory, loss and reclamation. Some of the works by Baptiste are from the early ’90s and have never been seen before, representing her experiences from her time at Brandon Indian Residential School in Manitoba.

Baptiste worked as an Ojibwa language teacher at Mnjikaning Kendaaswin Elementary School in Rama, Ontario from 2011 to 2019. “There’s a big language component in all of these works and it’s reflected here with the audio recording of them learning together, but the exhibition of all of these blankets actually started during the pandemic,” said MAI head of communications Jaëlle Dutremble-Rivet.

Much of Baptiste’s works consist of oil paint on canvas. Many of these paintings depict young Indigenous children superimposed over backgrounds thematically tied to residential schools. 

In addition to the language component of this exhibition, Kramer and Baptiste collaborated to gather several trade blankets representative of Kramer’s memories growing up and connecting with her Oji-Cree culture. “Gorgeous Tongue,” one of the blankets on display, represents Kramer’s memories of growing up in poverty. She also touches upon sentiments of rebirth and family lineage. 

“Emily” is a trade blanket that represents Kramer’s relationship to her lineage. She speaks of her “nookomis,” her mother’s mother, and the brief relationship they had. Kramer recounts witnessing her nookomis’ anguish through a series of seemingly paranormal interactions. The piece has heavy tones of generational trauma and the ways in which they shape intergenerational relationships. 

The trade blanket has a lot of meaning. It was used during colonization, spreading smallpox to indigenous communities — a devastation in the genocide against Indigenous people. The blankets were also used in trade between different communities. Kramer and Baptiste are reworking and tasking that symbol, adding regalia from traditional jingle dresses and beading work. 

“The paintings were an addition because at the beginning it was only supposed to be the blankets and a projection,” said Dutremble-Rivet. For instance, the painting titled #64 is a triptych of a young child on a swing set, with a background composed of different numbers. 

“All of the children in residential schools were given numbers, and 64 was Ida’s number,” said Dutremble-Rivet. “There’s a lot of residential school history in Ida’s work. [Ji zoongde’eyaang] is a really important work to show, especially that it was truth and reconciliation day a month ago, so it’s the real history.” 
For more information about the exhibition, please visit the MAI’s website.


‘les liens’ explores relationships and queerness through entangled knitwork

Thierry Huard’s newest project is an expansive exposition on identity and the limitations of relationships 

Entering les liens feels like stumbling upon a labyrinth of knitted sweaters and yarn. The MAI’s transformed art gallery is draped in cotton strings from wall to ceiling. Warm lighting and ambient soundscapes make for a space of introspection and comfort. It’s as if the threads function as safety netting from the exterior world.

As described by the exhibit’s creator, Thierry Huard, the intention behind the exhibit is to portray “A queer and kaleidoscopic vision of friendship, of one’s relationship to the self and to others.”

The walkthrough is organized into 10 sections, each offering a new perspective of Huard’s artwork. Cushions are scattered on the floor, inviting visitors to sit and rest while contemplating concepts around relationships and identity.Multiple screens accompany the strings, showing footage of Huard and his colleague, Nate Yaffe, as they explore what is and isn’t possible while entangled in threads. They stretch together, wrestle, and suspend in time as they hold each other.

Yaffe fits into the themes of the exhibit as an experimental dancer who specializes in relational and queer-centred choreography.

While watching these individuals, I imagine they are attempting to break free from the tangled and restricting nature of heterosexual norms. Queer individuals are often tasked with unraveling these loose threads as they adjust to a world that feels new and undefined.

After recently entering my first queer relationship, I felt worried in the beginning I would have to adjust to new expectations. Eventually, I realized it was the total opposite, and found an openness and acceptance where I can be myself. I think that sentiment is what this exhibit is about.

Further to the back of the gallery hang two knitted silhouettes; their upper bodies are incomplete with loose, hanging threads. In fact, many of the handknit structures are unfinished, a testament to the continuous exploration of one’s queer identity.

The most magical part of the labyrinth is the hanging tent. Within the tent is a sleeping bag, drawings, and written prompts. While laying on the bedding with a friend, we asked each other questions like, “What would you want to be your superpower?” and “Do you believe everyone has a purpose in life? If so, what do you believe your purpose is?”

The tent has cutouts of strange symbols in it, and after further exploration, these symbols could be found everywhere – sewn into the tent, on the walls, and projected onto the floor. These hieroglyphic monograms speak a language which could only be deciphered by the two characters of the exhibit. 

Upon reading the gallery plan, it became clear that these symbols all represented themes of love, such as deep trust, self-forgiveness, and universal love.

The acrylic drawings at the gallery’s exit show two unfinished faces which seem to stare at each other through knitted bandages. Although these faces are incomplete, their gestures clearly show their affection for each other. 

Huard’s immersive experience brings forward a warm feeling. The same feeling as a loving embrace or a comfy armchair. The resulting ambience allows viewers to open their mind in peaceful reflection.


Visuals courtesy Curtis Savage



Trajectories analyzes diversity through archetypes

Élian Mata’s new show will be available to experience until Nov. 27

Élian Mata presents his new show Trajectories at the Montréal, arts interculturels (MAI) theatre from Nov. 24 to 27. Mata’s piece involves eight interpreters, each performing choreography inspired by an archetype that represents human defaults.

Trajectories explores diversity through the lens of mythologies and archetypes. Six characters are interpreted by eight performers. They each stand on their own small stage while the audience is spread out in the theatre space, a technique Mata used to recreate the feeling of an exhibition. For him, this organization of space is a comment on the place given to marginalized groups in modern society. “The initial idea was a proposition inspired by museums, inviting the audience to come and watch living art works that are still relegated to the idea of the museum. We accept them when they are at a distance and in the context of an exhibition since it secures us, but we are not ready to integrate them in society,” he said.

Mata’s creative process for Trajectories started with the conception of dresses and garments related to each of the themes he wanted to examine. The piece was then created with those costumes in mind. Mata recalled being passionate about clothing ever since he was young. He explained that as a teenager, he would draw dresses, and later dreamed of entering fashion school.

The artist started creating his own dance pieces in 2015, with his first show titled Forêt. This work reflected on nudity and diversity. For Mata, Trajectories is the continuity of this piece. In fact, Forêt  ended with the performers putting on clothes after they had been naked for the whole performance. With Trajectories, Mata continues his reflections on human nature, but this time performers are dressed, with each piece of clothing having a specific meaning.

Each of the six personas has a specific composition combining movement patterns and sometimes sounds or words developed in collaboration between Mata and the performers. Therefore, all the choreographies are unique and independent from each other. Mata explained that the process of creating this piece started with visual inspirations he had in mind. “I start with images and these images come alive,” he said.

The piece includes two duets respectively symbolizing the archetypes of Anima and Animus, each adapted in a dance duet. Anima, performed by Anne-Flore de Rochambeau and Gabrielle Surprenant-Lacasse, examines the idea of a masculine side that can be found in women. Jontae McCrory and Jérémie Brassard interpret Animus, the feminine part found in men. The terms Anima and Animus were developed by Psychiatrist Carl Jung. For Mata, the idea of categorizing male and female character traits is absurd, and these duets confront this. “They are two and they symbolize one person. They confront each other, they fight, but they also accept each other and live together,” he explained. For Anima, the two interpreters perform together in a dress made for two.

Narcissus is another character, performed by Stevens Simeon. Mata believes narcissism is very much present in our current culture, inspiring him to reference the tale of Narcissus in this solo piece. The large gold reflexive cube placed on Simeon’s stage symbolizes the Greek figure’s drowning as he stared transfixed at his reflection in the water.

The choreographer also included the figure of Androgyny, who he describes as a ghostly presence, one that is ignored by all. Interpreted by Thomas Wilkinson Fullerton, this character occupies the performance space without having his own stage to stand on for most of the presentation. With this dance piece, Mata comments on the marginalization of people like Androgyny in our society.

In the centre of a black box stands Mohawk performer Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo. The artist performs solo dance based on the greeting Skennen’kó:wa, which translates to “do you carry the great peace?” in Mohawk. In English, it translates to “how are you,” though this doesn’t carry its spiritual or historical significance. “For me, it was evident that, through all the themes I touched on, I had to talk about the problematic relationship humans have with nature and the current ecological problems. So, I had to work with an Indigenous artist, because I have always been fascinated by the link they maintain with nature,” said Mata. This dance performance comments on the current relationship humans share with nature. “If we considered the Earth at the same level as us, we would nurture a different relationship to it,” he said.

The sixth choreography is inspired by Magna Mater, or the Great Mother, an archetype that relates to fertility in Greek mythology. Jacqueline van de Geer embodies this persona. Mata wanted to question the roles related to pregnancy and motherhood that have historically and continue to be imposed on women, and the burden it generates for them. “The dress she wears is a reference to the weight of this historic iconography. She suffocates because of all these roles,” explained Mata.

Each of the performances have their own soundscape and lighting. Through a variety of visual organizations and movement propositions, Mata encourages visitors to reflect on diversity. “I invite the audience to take a path to meet with the other. This ‘other’ is a manifestation of the human psyche, and some character traits or personalities that still today are perceived in the wrong way.” In the MAI’s entrance, audience members can read a preamble to the show written by Mata in which he explains the richness he observes in human differences. “Pluralism generates a healthy evolution of cultures because a society is not petrified in time, it evolves by feeding itself with exchanges and the creativity of people who have known how to think differently,” wrote Mata.

Trajectories is presented at the MAI at 3680 Jeanne-Mance St. Tickets are available through their website


Photo courtesy of Vanessa Fortin and David Wong




ONE KIND FAVOR: Working together for a clear picture

Collaboration and kindness do not always go hand in hand

Two figures stood in translucent neon shirts, a third stood beside them in your average button-up, blowing pink spotted feathers. On their feet were sequined slippers, and around their wrists or in their shirt pockets hid sequined eye masks.

ONE KIND FAVOR, performed from Jan. 21-25 at Montréal, Arts Intercultural (MAI), brought together three very different artists. With a background in West African dance, Karla Etienne is Zab Maboungou / Nyata Nyata Dance Company’s administrative director. Her movements were poised, controlled and professional. Choreographer George Stamos received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in contemporary dance and performance art in Amsterdam and went on to continue his graduate studies in communications at Concordia. His background in performance comes through in his theatrical and expressive manner of movement in ONE KIND FAVOR. Lastly, moving simply and naturally is Montreal-based Omani musician, Radwan Ghazi Moumneh.

“Experience, have faith in discomfort,” said Moumneh in the Q&A following the final performance at MAI on Friday, Jan. 24. “Discomfort doesn’t always mean it’s wrong, leads to trust and surprising results.”  

While Etienne and Stamos slid across the floor in their sequin slippers and blinded by their sequin masks, Moumneh sang in Arabic; some understood, some didn’t, but feelings of nostalgia and kindness were transmitted nonetheless. Behind them, on the black wall in chalked Arabic, Moumneh wrote;

رائحة الهواء بعد المطر

رائحة البحر بعد المطر

The smell of the air after the rain 

The smell of the sea after the rain  

This set the tone for the performance to follow.

Designing such an intimate group performance requires harmony. The collaborative process, led by Stamos, wasn’t always a kind one. It was frustrating, they had to be patient with each other and trust that it would flow smoothly. 

There is an evident risk taken in moving blind, “c’était pas évident comment on passait d’un état à une autre” said Etienne, “Le bruit, on le fait, on l’entend.” Which translates to, “It was not obvious how we passed from one state to another, the noise, we make it, we listen.”

Forcing to make things fit sometimes just doesn’t work. Stamos made it his goal to remove boundaries.

“Nothing really connected without an audience, the show didn’t click, there was no one to be kind to,” said Moumneh, who was the most out of his comfort zone, claiming that he doesn’t really know how to place his body in the context of dance.

Moumneh used elements from his own work, based on excerpts from Stamos’ initial text, which was removed from the performance to balance “cohabitation.” First, based on Stamos’ personal story, he saw the need to create space for his fellow performers’ voices. Most choreographers approach dancers as blank slates, but Stamos wanted to meet them in dance without changing them. Instead, he invited Moumneh and Etienne to come as they were, heavy with their own stories, cultural background, artistic practices and languages.

“Le text, c’est ressentie. Communiqué, pas de traduction,” said Moumneh. 

They recited words and acts of kindness in English, French and Arabic, and transcribed them onto the stage’s wall and floor.

Kindness among the performers lay in their commitment and their limits, what they could each take on before going into an unhealthy place. They moved erratically with each breath, marking them with a harmonica stuck between their lips as they shook their shoulders, chests, and eventually their whole bodies.

“On part avec ce qui compte pour nous, c’est une manière d’être,” (we take away what we choose, it’s a way of life”), said Etienne.


For more from these artists, visit

and Radwan Ghazi Moumneh on Youtube, Google Play or deezer.


Feeling, touching, and hearing performance art

Art is and, for the most part, always has been a feast for the eyes. It is delightful to look at a painting and recognize the emotion in the subject’s facial expression, to experience a multicoloured light show at a concert, and to watch costumes glittering as dancers sway and leap during a performance. But what if you could not see? How does one experience art if they cannot see?

Blindfolds are required throughout the performance and audience members are directed through the performance, through touch, music, and narration.

This is a question that Audrey-Anne Bouchard wants to answer. Bouchard is a multidisciplinary artist, performer, and professor at Concordia and the National Theatre School of Canada. Her latest show camille: un rendez-vous au délà du visuel is currently being presented at Montréal, Arts Interculturels (MAI) in the Plateau.

“I asked myself, what do people who cannot see at all retain from a dance performance or theatre?” said Bouchard. “They were telling me that they are always aware that [they are] missing a part of the show, so I came up with the hope of creating a piece where they wouldn’t be missing anything.”

camille: au délà du visuel, a performance piece which tells the story of a loss of friendship, aims to create an immersive, multi-sensory experience.

“I knew from the very beginning that [the show] was going to be immersive,” said Bouchard. “For me, it meant that the spectator would be immersed in the set of the piece; they would be able to understand through space, touch, sound, and texture, the environment in which it takes place.”

Inspired by her own disability, Bouchard created au délà du visuel, or beyond sight, a project aiming to enable a new audience-one who normally wouldn’t be able to access theatre and dance shows-to experience performance art.

“[The loss of my eyesight] came very progressively,” explained Bouchard, who suffers from Stargardt’s disease. “I started losing sight when I was around 17 but it took several months before they could find out what the origin of the problem was.”

Bouchard, who has always worked within the performing arts, noted that it only occurred to her about 10 years after the fact that her practice is very visual.

“It’s interesting because I created a job for myself where I can work with my eyes closed; I created a context where my disability is not a disability at all,” she said. ‘“I did a lot of research on the visual aspect of theatre and dance and I realized that this is kind of a paradox, that I’m losing sight and working with such a visual discipline.”

This inspired Bouchard to further her research and discover what it is that artists share through their art that does not necessarily have to be shared through sight.

“It was obvious then that the piece had to be immersive,” explained Bouchard. “To share with people, I need to be close with my performers.”

camille: au délà du visuel allows for the spectator to be fully immersed in the set, alongside the performers. Blindfolds are required for those without any visual impairments and audience members are directed through the performance, through touch, music, and narration.

“We also welcome people who have different kinds of disabilities,” said Bouchard. “We can guide you through a show if you’re in a wheelchair.”

Bouchard noted that the distance between the stage and the audience is what makes performance art very visual, by default.

“If we eliminate that distance then we have access to all of [the spectators’] tools,” she explained. “[We had to find out] how can you share the performance of an actor when you don’t see him.”

The development of the project took over three years and was very theoretical. “We created a new creative process methodology with this project,” Bouchard said. Through working with people who are visually-impaired and through research, Bouchard created a new way to work.

“To share with people, I need to be close with my performers,” explained Bouchard.

This new process methodology inspired Bouchard and the team of performers and artists she works with to develop a series of workshops.

“We designed a workshop to teach students or other artists how to work that way,” Bouchard said. “I think that now we have to keep working and creating work altogether for an audience living with visual disabilities and other disabilities that we would like to address as well.” Bouchard’s workshops, which will be both interactive and theoretical, are in the works and will be further developed over the course of the upcoming year.

“I see a desire from the arts consult to encourage more accessibility […] to all kinds of audiences who don’t normally have access to the arts,” said Bouchard. “It is becoming more and more present, and it’s changing. I’m benefiting from it, but I’m also hoping to help make it happen in the future; I hope that my work is also a great example of how the creative process that we use everyday works, but that there are so many other ways to create art that can be explored.”

camille: un rendez-vous au délà du visuel is being presented until Sept. 22, at Montréal, arts interculturels, at 3680 Jeanne-Mance St., suite 103. Further details regarding showtimes can be found at


Photos courtesy of Laurence Gagnon Lefebvre


Reimagining identity through participatory storytelling

Birds Crossing Borders creates a collective memory

Home and identity are important themes concerning one’s individuality. So how do people displaced by conflict deal with the deep-rooted trauma that arises from events such as war? How do victims reclaim their identity and find a safe space?

Khadija Baker’s Birds Crossing Borders, a multimedia installation that includes sound, video and a performance involving falling water, aims to develop consciousness and remembrance through storytelling, with the ultimate intention of creating a collective memory.

Photo by Mackenzie Lad

A multi-disciplinary artist of Kurdish-Syrian descent, Baker’s cultural identity is present in her works. She shares the stories of refugees who have been displaced by the current conflicts in Syria. Her performative, video and sculptural installations explore socio-political themes, specifically in relation to identity, displacement and traumatic events such as war. Recurring themes in her works delve into unsettling feelings associated with the idea of home and aim to promote an understanding of cultural complexities.

Consisting of multiple screens highlighting the collective stories of refugees, Birds Crossing Borders reflects on the shared memories of home, particularly in relation to the identity shared by Syrian refugees.

“We are used to estrangement in many places. Even in my own country, I felt the estrangement,” shared one of the men featured in Baker’s compilation of recordings.

Addressing these sentiments of estrangement from one’s native land or hometown allows the viewer to further recognize the importance of home and the significant impact displacement has on those affected by war.

The exhibition creates a space of understanding and empathy by leaving room for discussion. The sharing of these collective stories serves as the representation of refugees and victims of war.

While the stories in the exhibit describe various individual struggles, Baker’s performance highlighted a unifying theme present among their experiences, by shedding light on the struggles of integrating into a new community.

Her performance focused on the identities of newly arrived refugees. With no distinct description, its primary purpose was left to the audience’s interpretation. Moreover, the nature of the piece demonstrated the prejudice associated with immigrants and refugees.

The centrepiece of the performance itself consisted of 14 transparent boxes. Each box contained varying amounts of water. A balloon filled with black water hung above the first box as a symbol of the common judgement of refugees as “contaminated.”

Photo by Mackenzie Lad

Barker began by squeezing the black water from the balloon into the first box. The water began to travel through a tube that connected each box to one another, and the remaining 13 boxes slowly began to fill with the black liquid. This illustrated what could be perceived as “contamination.” By the end of the performance, each box contained the same amount of water. The black liquid mixing with the water in the boxes is meant to demonstrate the integration of refugees, Baker explained. Although at first, they can be seen as “disrupting” the flow of society, in the end all will balance out. Society will equalize over time, Baker said; refugees want to contribute to society, and they do.

“Each human has to be an effective person. If we all long for and become attached to our identity in its limited meaning, we won’t reach any place,” said one of the refugees highlighted in Baker’s videos. “You chose a place to live in, and you have to be loyal and integrated and positive and interact within [it].”

Birds Crossing Borders is on display at Montréal Arts Interculturels (MAI) until Oct. 13. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.


Where stories and histories meet

Do you remember your childhood imagination? Mine was a vibrant mix of superheroes, nightmares and the stories told by my grandmothers, both Italian immigrants.
From their terrifying narratives of leaving behind a war-torn country to their folktales about wolves that would eat disobedient children, their stories were entertaining, imaginative—and scary.
Personal Mythologies, a new exhibit on at the MAI gallery until Feb. 18, explores exactly that kind of personal, imaginative headspace. Featuring two Montreal-based artists, Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo, whose work is inspired by his family’s escape from El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s, and Marigold Santos, whose work reflects her family’s emigration experience from the Philippines to Canada, Personal Mythologies is intellectually and emotionally engrossing.
Hanging before the gallery’s windows like haunting dreamcatchers are several installation pieces by Santos featuring braided artificial hair, stapled paper and knotted cords, reflecting her fascination with ‘the woven.’ She says in her artist’s statement: “[The woven] becomes a form of talisman” with the “ability to invite, and repel.” Taking note of the whimsical and eerie elements included in Santos’ pieces—a braid, a jewelled necklace—viewers construct and weave their own stories, connecting the pieces.
“When I was looking into my own culture and paralleling my own experience of history with that of a culture and folklore that existed before me, it was a way to experience this mixing of eastern and western culture,” Santos said of her art. “I came to the idea of an identity based on a combination of different cultures that I could re-create.”
War, death, the afterlife and the lives left behind by war are all themes that Personal Mythologies invites readers to contemplate. In the centre of the room, Monument, an installation work by Castillo, incorporates earth, dolls, shoes, moss and plants to create an organic-looking space paying tribute to those left behind by war. Facing Castillo’s installation, Santos’ HEX (Secret Signals Hands), a series of large, finely-detailed illustrations of hands forming letters spell out: HOW DO WE TALK TO THE DEAD?
Across the room, Castillo’s illustration and painting piece My Tyrant, My Protest, My Myth showcases his finely-detailed drawing and ethereal execution of watercolour-like paints, depicting soldiers, priests, men with tattooed faces, muscled and contorted dogs, beasts and war imagery of all kinds. Bathed occasionally in red and always rendered with the same amazingly precise lines—Castillo cites Albrecht Durer as one of his influences—each individual face invites the viewer to look closer and appreciate all the subtlety those fine lines create.
One of the great triumphs of Personal Mythologies is the mix of intriguing subject matter and spell-binding execution: both Castillo and Santos trained in print-making, and it’s a joy to walk through the exhibit admiring their skillful drawings. From Castillo’s postcard-sized portraits of Canadian soldiers, civilians and bizarre beings, to Santos’ series Secret Signals: 1, 2, and 3, featuring otherworldly-looking women in pastel and acid tones and incorporating string and braiding motifs, most of the artworks in Personal Mythologies are so detailed—and the lines so fine—that it’s almost impossible to believe that someone has drawn them so precisely.
“I draw in a very organic way that really fits my style, and I don’t tend to plan out my pieces,” says Castillo. “Mylar allows me to draw and paint on both sides of the sheet,” he says of his use of the polyester film medium, which seems to make the paper glow with a pearly sheen, “and it creates a different effect than paper does.”
It’s clear that curator Zoë Chan has put together the ideal exhibit: works by Santos and Castillo seem to speak the same visual language, but the viewer is able to see each artist’s style and techniques as distinct and appreciate their uniqueness, creating an exhibit that is both harmonious and dynamic.
I don’t usually write this personally about exhibits, but I left the MAI thinking about Personal Mythologies all day long. If you’ve got love or want to think up your own stories, Personal Mythologies is a must-see exhibition.

Personal Mythologies is at the MAI gallery (3680 Jeanne-Mance St., suite 103) until Feb. 18. Admission is free. For more information, go to

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