Reno International Dance Expo 2019

Tim Weinzirl, June 2019


The Reno International Dance Expo made its inaugural debut at 
the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada, USA over May 10-12.  
The event was hosted by the world-famous Rodney "Rodchata" 
Acquino (http://www.rodchata.com/).  
This was primarily a bachata festival, though salsa, kizomba, 
and zouk were also featured.

rdxposter

The weekend opened with a preparty on May 9.  
Early arrivals were able to mingle with each other and 
the instructors.

From Friday to Sunday, there were daily workshops taught 
by 40+ instructors from four continents. 
Attendees of the preparty met the instructors early and 
could better navigate the multiple parallel workshop tracks.

My favorite instructor was Marcela Cardenas of Sweden.  
Her Saturday class was about how to be a better leader in bachata.  
She likened the hand-hold connection between the leader and 
follower to a joystick in a video game; the position of 
the arm tells the follower what to do.  
This is useful for steering the follower forward or backward, 
as shown in the figure below.

marcela-forward-backmarcela-forward-back

Marcela also emphasized the importance of the leader's 
firm connection with the follower's shoulder blade, 
such as in circular movements.

marcela-around

One of the most popular classes was the Saturday bachata session 
by Alex and Desiree. Below is a photo from the class.

classes-alex-des

The pool party happened on Saturday afternoon at the Grand Sierra's 
large outdoor pool. Below are some pool party photos.

pool-montage

On Friday and Saturday night were performances by amateur 
and world-renowned professionals. 
Below are snapshots from my favorite performances.

perf-montage

Photo above: In clockwise order, the performers are Anthony & Carla of Spain(dancing bachata), Alex & Desiree of New York (dancing bachata), Alejandro & Erica of Los Angeles (dancing bachata), Marcela Cardenas of Sweden (dancing bachata), Alex & Kim of San Francisco (dancing salsa).

Finally, and most importantly, social dancing took place in
four separate rooms (salsa, bachata, kizomba, zouk) until 6am.
The guest instructors did a great job dancing and interacting
the social dancers throughout the night. social-montage

Photo above: A sample of the social dancing.
Bottom left: Alex and Desiree leading a late night line dance.
Bottom middle: Alejandro and Erica dancing.
Bottom right: Marcela Cardenas is dancing with a lucky guy.

 

Based on crowd reaction, this event was a huge success.
The party resumes next year, May 15-18, 2020.
Passes are already on sale at http://www.RenoDanceExpo.com.
Within 48 hours of passes for next year going on sale,
over 20% of the attendees rebooked for next year.

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Get hyped. Pennywise is on his way back!

The sequel to Stephen King’s It, remade two years ago, will be hitting the cinemas this September.

Here’s the promo trailer:

IT: Chapter Two trailer

In the trailer, Pennywise’s daughter, an old woman now, appears to be sweating excessively. Many fans expected Pennywise to burst out of her chest.

Old family photos of Pennywise and his children have his sunny disposition of undertones in his character.

This time, he is not hooking into fears. The adults mastered how to manage them.

He is after broken hearts, going much deeper into the psychological impact of trauma in adults.

Even if the movie was released in the middle of the summer, I would still surely escape to the darkness for a couple of hours for what appears will be an indescribable dark viewing.

Curatorial proposal

From the Contemporary Art in the Global (MSc School of Oriental and African Studies)

WE.LIVE.INDARKTIMES

Artists: Derek Walcott, Mark Rothko, Frank Bowling, Atsuho Tanaka, Sammi Baloji

The project visits the theme of darkness as it is approached by the selected artists through painting, poetry, installation art and photography. Dark times have for centuries been associated with the Dark Ages, the victorian times, the plague, III Reich, and the Crusades. Is darkness created in the name of God to entice a journey in reflection?
Darkness in this exhibition will be visited through the artists’ own periods and reflections of darkness. Starting with the more recent Baloji’s photographs have a strong post-environmental sentiment, yet all artists reflect on humanity’s over-consuming framework of aimless societal misappropriations maintained by irrelevance.
The artworks date from post-war period, aligned with the more recent works of Baloji’s diptych, for the provision of a bridging point on perpetual concerns about the loss of communities, citizenship and human rights that have been exaggerated, yet feel less visual, for the absence of blood.
The art on show reflects as much today, as they did at the time of making, that we are entering an autumn of social conscience exasperated by the informality and misappropriation of technology coercing the psyches onto a temporal loss and inaction.
Yet there must be resistance. Art is also a mirror up to the society, ourselves, in hope each individual visiting this exhibition will reflect a little and make a small step of resistance that translates into a big change.
When we don’t speak, we maintain darkness. Northwest indigenous communities have talked of ‘silence’ as a skill. ‘Silence’ used in diplomacy can present a show of arrogance or absence as in demonstration against what I’d said. Against that theory, words presented hide the things that happen in silence, including their potential to tell a different story.
Bringing artworks made by Rothko, Bowling, Tanaka, Walcott, and Baloji together distinctively plays to the audience responses, being of equal therapeutic importance as they were to the artists at the time of making. The five artworks have incredible ‘enlightening’ power’, offering a quiet introspective space for soul searching.
We would like visitors to individual notice which one artwork they are drawn to on their individual experiential pattern route, free from want and free from fear.

ARTWORK SELECTION

  1. Rothko. M, ‘Orange and Yellow’, 1956:

Rothko “Silence is so accurate.”
Yellow and orange make green; green the colour signifying life, renewal, growth, fertility, harmony, nature, freshness, energy, and safety. Rothko never wanted association with any art movement however he was pigeonholed as an abstract expressionist. The simplicity of Orange and Yellow cannot go without noting the technical challenge of keeping the colours separate so they don’t produce green. Is the artist pointing out that we are in the process of exploring our spirituality, and have not reached a harmonious existence yet?
A quest for ascension, Orange and Yellow has a ritualistic quality to the universe framed within the shuttle golden Buddhist orange outline. His work has often been described for its meditative qualities whilst remaining large, and non representational.
Barney Newman, the man inspired title of Frank Bowling’s work in the exhibition, saw himself as a political artist who has also shown his work outside Rothko’s Chapel in Houston, Texas.

  1. Bowling. F, ‘Who’s afraid of Barney Newman’, 1968

The painting is another major African flag colour representation Bowling is known for. Bowling is of Guyanese descent, a descendant of a slave, still surrounded by racism and race assumptions with participation in the First World Festival of Negro Arts, whilst being the first black artist elected in the Royal Academy of Arts with the artist recently receiving an OBE, continuing the colonial mode of tradition. His work was also shown at Afro Modern exhibition at Tate Liverpool in 2010’s, for significance the port of Liverpool having hosted the largest number of slave trade shipments in England.
The question is does Bowling rebel or commercialise further the idea of Africa in a place of exoticism and colonial frames? ‘Who’s afraid of Barney Newman’ was made in 1968, placed two years after the Guyanese independence from the British. Was Bowling raising awareness at a time when slave trade destinations were gaining independence from colonial rule?

  1. Tanaka, A. ‘Electric dress’ 1956

Atsuko Tanaka had one said “I wanted to shatter stable beauty with my work,” highlighting how domestic objects are but beautiful and disruptive from the lack of presence, yet plethora of being.
Tanaka’s silence covered by the bulbs in the original artwork, from a position of an emerging arts movement, could have represented silence as an imposition for a projection of power. In international relations frameworks, silence is mostly imposed by psychological violence, affecting the corporal of the most vulnerable, women, people of colour and those not integrated in the functionality of post Colonialism, and neoliberalism in the global and constitute political discourses and practice. (Dingli, Bhambra and Shilliam, 2009)

  1. Walcott, D. ‘Love after Love’, 1948–1984

Undoubtedly there is a pause in Walcott’s ‘Love after Love’ poem. Who inspired the poet to write this? Is it advice, or as I have always read this, as a love poem to oneself?
Derek Walcott passed away two years ago and his sea breeze of poetry is a timeless reminder to leave the insecurities we all carry, behind, and just be.
The meditative quality in the thought of spending time with oneself is not unlike Rothko’s iconographical ‘Orange and Yellow’.
Does it really matter who’s heart is broken or who broke whose heart? If anything, the world would become a better place if each and everyone reflected on the poem a little every day. After all, through love there’s light and the light lost in things that don’t work, is light lost.

  1. Baloji, S. ‘Kumbuka’, 2003

Stylistically ethnographical, the photographer has removed the orientalism and exoticism of indigenous communities, removed the smiles and colours and yellow grey toned the landscape, to represent Congolese as the Congolese see themselves. In this diptych he has interestingly kept women seperate to men. He plays with the Primitivist Theory of the artist as an ethnographer, whilst placing it in a contemporary context.
Artwork Labels

orange-and-yellow(1)6721995702035878555.jpgImage from eu.art.com
Rothko’s goal was “the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer.” Rothko was known to suffer depression, reflected by the frame as a limit to happiness. Rothko was Latvian and Russian who went to primary and high school in Portland, Oregon – the ‘weird’ US city because of its rebel inquisitive population. His work invites the viewer to explore ‘metaphysical realities of their own consciousness’. The red a reflection emotional forces fighting nature a sea of blood at sunset, framed in limitation, stopping time, a photograph. The mesmerising quality of this work, is attracting attention even for non believers. The quality of light and Rothko’s interest in creating light reflects his religious iconographic approach to his frames.

t12244_10190182530184748032.jpgImage from https://www.wikiart.org/en/frank-bowling/who-s-afraid-of-barney-newman-1968
Bowling has expressed his frustration in an interview with Laura Barnett for the Guardian: “It seemed that everyone was expecting me to paint some kind of protest art out of postcolonial discussion. For a while I fell for it.”
The Rastafarian flag of green yellow and orange, signifying the displaced africans living in exile as a result of the slave trade. Unlike Rothko’s clearly defined frames, Bowling’s use of colours is blending into one, another around the edges and without affecting or altering the core of the three colours. Could the merging of colours also point to different ethnicities merging into one in the Caribbean and South America, as a result of colonial rule. Think of the children of Chinese, Indian, Syrian and Spanish immigrants on post-colonial lands, the ‘dougla’, the ‘koolie’, the ‘red skin spanish’.
Or did he attempt to define frayed around the edges, maybe from wear and tear?
The impact of slavery remains as unaddressed as it was in 1968 as it is today. Microaggressions are all apparent. The artist, a slave descendant, opposed the idea of representing Caribbean art.

Electric DressImage from youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUV-v3xI7Lw
Atsuho Tanaka’s electric dress, still lighting gallery spaces and discussions across the world, even after the artist’s death, in a timeless manner, originally the bulbs laid to cover her body, now exhibited without it.
In the West, a Christmas tree is something beautiful, pretty and a tacky representation of a happy time.
Tanaka was one of the more influential Gutai art movement artists, believed by many to deserve the leadership position within the rebellious post-war Japanese artist group, a but hindered from it due to her being a woman.
Tanaka’s work is symbolic to false light, untruth, prettiness by misrepresentation, a wonderful objectification of many beliefs changing and evolving in the years the work was created.
When the artist wore the artwork, around 200 light bulbs flickered every two and half minutes, like a pulsating body, inviting the viewer to view it a ‘living’ being without consideration of the being inside. Gutai translates as ‘concreteness’ born from a society that advocated for the loss of individualism.

love-after-love7742550341063638439.jpgImage from https://www.christystich.com/blog/2016/2/4/my-most-treasured-poem
Derek Walcott passed away less than two years ago, a Caribbean child of a slave, lived most of his life in Trinidad and St Lucia, and was awarded with the Nobel Prize in 1990’s.
Walcott’s poem is a reminder of being one with ourselves, salvaging ourselves with acts of faith ‘Give wine. Give Bread’ playacting Jesus proclamation of memory in the act of sharing love towards a progression towards oneself to a place where our reflection in the mirror doesn’t feel ugly or drained anymore, but celebratory.
Walcott’s exploration of European and African cultural adaptations within the Caribbean, and the multiculturality of the West Indies is reflected throughout his work. Walcott’s poem has a nostalgia about the mistake of trying to fit in other people’s shoes, and when ‘The time will come’ as in the time we will be ready or will be forced upon us to reflect in being at peace with oneself reminding us it is entirely achievable as ‘Sit. Feast on your life.’ is one of the few things in life left we have entire freedom to do on our own.

1-sammy-825x5106533298255495888239.jpgImages from #sammybaloji instagram page
Sammy Baloji is a Democratic Republic of Congo born photographer working internationally, with photographs represented in a wide range high profile african art fairs and collective exhibitions.
Born in a country known for the inherent political fragility, threat to human life, animal habitat and near extinction of species. His work is very much representing a colour code for how DRC is seen abroad and how it feels to Congolese people from within the country.
Baloji having participated in Venice Bienalle in an exhibition on Belgium’s colonial rule, he notes sharing and learning about a specific time period “To talk about our reality, and also to dream.”

Checklist:

  1. Mark Rothko, (b. 1903, Daugavpils, Latvia), Orange and Yellow, 1956, 231.1 x 180.3 cm, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, US
  2. Frank Bowling, (b. 1934 , Bartica, Guyana), Who’s Afraid of Barney Newman, 1968, acrylic paint on canvas, 236.4 x 129.5 cm, Tate
  3. Atsuho Tanaka, (b. 1932, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan), Electric Dress, 1956, 165 X 80 X 80 cm, courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo
  4. Derek Walcott (b. 1930, Castries, Saint Lucia), Love After Love, Collected Poems, 1948–1984
  5. Sammy Baloji (b.1978, Lumumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo), Kumbuka!, 2006, Photo collage, various venues)

Bibliography:

  1. Foster, H., Marcus, G. and Myers, F. (1995). The Traffic in Culture. California: University of California Press, pp.302-309.
  2. Bishop, C. (2006). The Social Turn; Collaboration and its Discontents. Artforum International.
  3. Project, S., Bourn, J. and Bourn, J. (2019). Meaning of The Color Green |. [online] Bourn Creative. Available at: https://www.bourncreative.com/meaning-of-the-color-green/ [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].
  4. New.diaspora-artists.net. (2019). Diaspora-artists: View details. [online] Available at: http://new.diaspora-artists.net/display_item.php?id=928&table=artefacts [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].
  5. En.m.wikipedia.org. (2019). Frank Bowling. [online] Available at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Bowling [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].
  6. Artnet.com. (2019). Atsuko Tanaka | artnet. [online] Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/atsuko-tanaka/ [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].
  7. Dingli, S. (2015). We need to talk about silence: Re-examining silence in International Relations theory. European Journal of International Relations, 21(4), pp.721-742.
  8. Haus Der Kunst. (2019). Electric Dress. [online] Available at: https://postwar.hausderkunst.de/en/artworks-artists/artworks/electric-dress [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].
  9. Liverpoolmuseums.org.uk. (2019). Ports of the Transatlantic slave trade – International Slavery Museum, Liverpool museums. [online] Available at: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/resources/slave_trade_ports.aspx [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].
  10. visibleproject. (2019). Kumbuka!. [online] Available at: https://www.visibleproject.org/blog/project/kumbuka/ [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].
  11. Barcio, P. (2018). Achieving Luminescence – Mark Rothko’s Orange and Yellow. [online] IdeelArt.com. Available at: https://www.ideelart.com/magazine/mark-rothko-orange-and-yellow [Accessed 9 Jan. 2019].

Informalisation of labour in Developing Countries, the case of Sierra Leone

In autumn 2018, I made an in-class presentation at the SOAS, University of London Faculty of Law & Social Sciences Department of Development Studies for the GLOBALISATION AND DEVELOPMENT module on the topic of the informalisation of Labour in Developing Countries.

Contrary to expectations, informal labour relations have not disappeared but have been reproduced and incorporated into globalised production circuits.

The presentation covered the main theories on the topic with a focus on the case of Sierra Leonian mining work.Informalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentationInformalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentation (1)Informalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentation (2)Informalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentation (3)Informalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentation (4)Informalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentation (5)Informalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentation (6)Informalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentation (7)

 

 

Chefchaouen, the blue pearl of north Morocco.

Chefchaouen is the perfect day or weekend trip on your travels in Morocco.

Famous for the blue painted buildings, more recently featured on French Montana’s ‘Famous’ videoclip

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNHkxOU7zz8 that was filmed in the souks and circular main road around the town sitting on the mountain side. The 33 year old  moroccan-american artist is from the Casablanca and often pays tribute to his love for Morocco.

Back to Chefchaouen, the town is easily navigable by foot, but not wheelchair users, or for those with mobility difficulties. Built on the mountain side, souk and town streets climb up and down through the mountain curves, offering exquisite views over the town and the landscape beyond.

Chefchaouen is one of the easier villages to travel through Morocco. It is small enough to walk through in a day, and big enough that you can find another photogenic corner to help you on your dream-scape of what life may be like in the town, or in-fact to those that grow up in the alleys and buildings, protected by the elements and near everything else.

Here are some of the photos from our visit, we arrived on a cloudy and rainy day, yet it was also wonderful to see the town in non-postcard conditions, a different, and what felt more genuine side of life there. Rain gently encouraged us to go into the local cafe, not the tourist ones, and to get lost around the back streets to a school, trying to find a way through to the main square.

Chefchaouen’s location is equally impressive nesting on the mountain feet, reminds you of the perspectives on life which is so easy to forget when bouncing about between places in a city.

You could say Chefchaouen becomes the little blue light, twilight, dream-scape of adventure.

Back in education

I am back at the university studying full time twenty years after the last time I was in formal education.

There are some things that have changed since. I’m not lacking of confidence. And I have work experience on the subject. Did I think I would be an alien, at least a decade older than the majority of the students? Yes. And I can see some twenty years old students talk the theory but weak in joining the dots. Then there are exceptions, the smart ones. That put the hours in and build coherence across perspectives and layers. And the professors the Bank of knowledge of recalculations across parallel universes, the poets that make you laugh, worry, question, empower.

Do the 20 something year olds see what I see?

I’m emerged, taken, absorbed.

The weight of information is frying my brains, I can feel the heat emitting. I feel like a Nick Cave song. Poverty, testosterone, rebirth, death, crisis, grouping, introspection, self and sense check.
I can see again and with that I came to find a purpose for the frame I hold in my hands as I type.

Here are the shots from the first month in uni. After 20 years. Just as my memories from the first time, fading away in the distance, this somehow has poured new colours on to it.

Our Society is under attack

If it wasn’t for the neo liberalism that is driving vacant messages with questionable ethics, the alt-right and visibly present far right are continuously on attack of the basic principles that make us human, and therefore civilized.

There is a lot of anger, and even more so the internet and free flow of information has opened Pandora’s box. Corrupt regimes and individuals have been revealed, whilst governments have their resources diminished and police and health services struggling to deliver fairness. Law maybe the only dynamic challenge to all of this.

And now art is under attack, again.

I remember when following the financial crisis local government budgets were slashed letting thousands of staff go.

Youth services and cultural activities were the first to go and the arts council was told it has to raise the funds itself and from corporations. This the sector frowned upon and questioned the viability of independence in the circumstances.

Luckily the arts sector, used its creativity, and survived.

However we now have another attack under the wider hostile environment agenda.

The Guardian newspaper reported dozen authors who were planning to attend this year’s Edinburgh international book festival have had their visas refused. The ultimate right to creativity, refused. 

How does this hostile policy justify this? For they really believe we will silence our human nature to this extend? And what next, will they shut down the Internet so we can no longer share? 

What is the cost of this to society and why they feel the need to isolate? 

The ones kept inside, as always are the ones that have the key. 

I’m pretty sure this isn’t the way. 

Social Movements in Canada: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Canada’s Indigenous population has endured 500 years of abuse. Canada is attempting to make amends publically by issuing national apologies and working on various calls to action outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. However, 500 years of abuse cannot be undone by the actions of one generation. The Indigenous peoples of Canada are still struggling to overcome the cultural genocide they survived and navigate institutions that perpetuate injustices. The lack of support for Canadian Indigenous populations is most evident in the female population. The number of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, as stated by the Royal Mounted Police (RCMP), is estimated at about 1, 200, while the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) estimates that number to be closer to 4,000. The NWAC also states that Indigenous women are 3.5 times more likely to experience violence compared to Non-Indigenous women. Not only do these statistics confirm the racial, gendered targeting of a minority in Canada, it also illustrates a disconnect between Indigenous communities and the Canadian government.

Canada is a large, diverse country with many different Indigenous groups. The Indigenous peoples need unique solutions that account for their “local wisdom and traditional knowledge”. While community action is effective, government can still play a role by implementing policies and providing vital services. This is an incredible task for federal policymakers because governmental action cannot be pan-action based, which is why few solutions have been implemented. Thus, several social movements began in response to the lack of justice for Indigenous peoples. The social movements outlined in this paper show the strong desire for justice, truth, and respect for Indigenous women and girls. While each movement may vary in its methodology, their struggles are paralleled, allowing them to find solidarity.

To understand why this gendered, racial targeting occurs, it is necessary to understand the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Relations with the Indigenous peoples began in the 1500s when European explorers came to Canada and began the fur trade. The fur trade was heavily commercialized with the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670. What once began as a mutually beneficial relationship turned into an exploitative endeavor. Europeans introduced alcohol and brought devastating diseases that negatively affected Indigenous populations. In 1876, the Indian Act was passed by the Canadian government to legally enforce assimilation policies and reaffirm the inferiority of the Indigenous peoples in formal legislation. In 1883, the first residential school was opened and the last one would not close until 1996. The schools were government funded and ran by Catholic and Anglican churches that 150,000 Indigenous children would attend. These schools were places of assimilation, cultural genocide, and death. The verbal, emotional, and physical abuse in these schools perpetuated into the next generations creating not only a cultural gap but fractured communities. As a result, Indigenous communities, defined by their physical boundaries of ‘reserves’, have been left to deal with issues such as domestic violence, substance abuse, and poor education.

In “Child Maltreatment and Intimate Partner Violence Among Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Canadians,” by Douglas Brownridge, Tamara Taillieu, Tracie Afifi, Ko Ling Chan, Clifton Emery, Josee Lavoie, and Frank Elgar, they concluded that “Indigenous peoples of Canada face an elevated risk of intimate partner violence (IPV) compared to Non-Indigenous Canadians….largely due to effects of historical trauma from past and continuing colonization.” The study found that Indigenous peoples are 2.5-3.1 times more likely to experience IPV. Colonization theory states that historical traumas endured by generations of Indigenous groups contribute to their susceptibility of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as well as the internalization of their oppression. These post-traumatic effects are passed between generations, perpetuating colonization and assimilation. Further, the inability to cope with these experiences and the knowledge gap caused by residential schools has left many Indigenous parents unable to parent well, resulting in child maltreatment and intergenerational violence. According to the developmental model, growing up in an abusive environment inhibits a child’s ability to develop healthy relationships of their own, increasing the possibility of continued generational violence. This, coupled with low education, high unemployment, and drug use, increases the likelihood of IPV.

Women are even more at risk of IPV because of their socioeconomic status. According to “The National Inquiry on Murders and Disappearances of Indigenous Women and Girls,” by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, socioeconomic factors include: “Inter-generational poverty; lack of adequate housing; limited food security; inferior educational opportunities; under-employment; a racist child welfare system; over- incarceration; and limited availability of reproductive health services.” Moreover, Indigenous women simultaneously experience racism and sexism. Indigenous women have been sexually stereotyped as ‘disposable savages’. Their inferior status is a direct result of colonization as their original matriarchal societies became patriarchies, resulting in the loss of female leadership and respect. Their exclusion from the patriarchal legal system has left Indigenous women without protection from sexual exploitation and abuse. Further, the ambiguity in the Canadian political system over jurisdiction of Indigenous peoples has contributed to institutional discrimination and violence. Unable to seek justice and economically unable to escape, Indigenous women are forced to stay in their homes or risk migrating to cities. The ruminants of colonialism, socioeconomic inequalities, and continued discrimination all contribute to why Indigenous women go missing and/or are murdered.

Indeed, government officials are beginning to acknowledge the ongoing discrimination within Canadian societies and institutions and, more importantly, they are addressing why it is still happening. The previous Minister of Status of Women in Canada, Patty Hajdu, agreed with the NWAC estimate that there could be nearly 4,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. However, Hajdu admitted that this estimate cannot be backed-up by hard data which explains why the RCMP’s estimate was so much lower. According to Hajdu, the higher estimate is “more believable because there is a history of police underreporting homicides, or failing to investigate suspicious deaths”. Further, many Indigenous peoples are reluctant to come forward with reports of missing and murdered women for fear of facing their oppressors. The distrust between Indigenous peoples and the government explains the discrepancy in data, especially when an activist group, Walk 4 Justice, was able to enter Indigenous communities and count over 4,232 missing and murdered Indigenous women. This data inconsistency also suggests a failure of the RCMP to properly investigate.

Police gain their legitimacy and power from those they protect. If people do not see the police as legitimate, then the people are less likely to obey the police and attempt to build a trusting relationship. Indigenous peoples have low confidence in the police because they enforced colonization, backed assimilation policies, and disrupted communities. Police officers would forcibly take children to residential schools, creating a relationship of hatred and fear, not confidence and protection. This is a problem in Northern communities especially because police departments are geographically stretched and have a high turnover rate. This system does not allow police departments to foster a relationship with Indigenous communities or to understand their unique cultural and historical circumstances. Moreover, officers’ often have their own biases and stereotypes about ‘squaw’ women and contribute to their abuse. Today, police abuse against Indigenous women defines their relationship. In “Those Who Take Us Away: Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia, Canada” by the Human Rights Watch, countless cases were documented of Indigenous women being detained and enduring inhumane conditions in jail cells, including sexual abuse and rape. The lack of trust that Indigenous women have for police enforcement has led to violations going unreported and a lack of responsiveness to IPV and missing women. Further, women do not want to call the police for help because they fear being blamed for the abuse or judged. It is difficult to file a complaint against the RCMP with the Commission of Public Complaints because the process is lengthy. The other option, the Independent Investigations Office, does not handle all complaints, such as rape and sexual abuse. Bridging the gap between law enforcement and Indigenous communities is complicated by negative memories and inconsistent, discriminatory police enforcement.

There have been many complaints of inadequate investigations, poor quality of searches, and the general inconsistent application of justice in Canada for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. Families and activists are asking the RCMP to reopen cases while some families are still waiting for an investigation to be launched.  One example is Tina Fontaine who was reported missing before her body was found in the Winnipeg Red River. The instance of police misconduct in this case was neglect; Fontaine was reported missing, the police found her, but she was not taken into custody. Her body was discovered one week later. The RCMP called it a systematic failure. Fontaine’s death inspired the creation of the organization Drag the Red. Concerned community members frequently ‘drag’ the Red River, using hooks and chains to search for bones in an attempt to bring closure to families who reported a loved-one missing. This location-specific social movement proves that when institutions fail to deliver adequate services, citizens will come together to find justice.

Social movements take many forms, from active to passive, short to long, or quiet to shocking. At a rally in Vancouver asking for an inquiry into the Pickton Murders, Lorelei Williams, an Indigenous woman whose cousin’s DNA was found on the Pickton farm in 2002, started the movement Butterflies in Spirit. Her social movement took the form of a dance group. Their uniforms were shirts displaying photos of their loved-ones who had gone missing or were murdered. At the end of their performance, the members of the dance group whose loved ones had been murdered laid down and were covered by a white sheet while those loved-ones who were still missing stayed standing. The visual scene of bodies in the streets and faces of missing women had shock-factor. William’s movement was intended to be a one-time event but carried on into 30 performances. She explained that the power of dance raises awareness while simultaneously acts as a healing process for the dancers. People unite to find justice in creative ways and this gives social movements more dimension.

Further, social movements are shaped by geographic location and individual experiences. In northern British Columbia, the 724 kilometers of Highway 16 have been named the ‘Highway of Tears’ because it is where many women have gone missing and/or were murdered. According to the ‘Highway of Tears’ website, nine Indigenous women have gone missing or have been murdered, but estimates from northern communities say this figure could be closer to 30. These tragedies sparked a symposium that later published recommendations to stop the violence. Recommendations coming from these neighboring communities and these people are based on “the understanding that the communities along the highway share a situation of colonization resulting in experiences of poverty, violence, cultural genocide, residential school impacts, addictions and displacement from land”. Incorporating a local perspective increases the chance that the recommendations will successfully stop the violence. For instance, this organization is currently educating each neighboring Indigenous community on safety, illustrating the advantage of organizing locally.

Community organizing also prompted the creation of the RCMP’s project, E-PANA, started in 2005 to review murder cases from the Highway of Tears. Currently, E-PANA is investigating 13 murders and five missing persons cases. According to the Indigenous communities, however, this still leaves over one dozen cases unaddressed and unsolved, likely because they were either mishandled or unreported by police. For instance, the Human Rights Watch found that Indigenous women who had a criminal record or had reported domestic abuse repeatedly were not taken seriously. The appeal of community organizing is its customizability and attention to detail, so unlike governmental institutions, no case will go unanswered.

One social movement that is bringing injustices to the surface is Walk4Justice. It began in Vancouver in 2008 as a grassroots initiative when a group of people organized a walk for missing and murdered Indigenous women. Walks4Justice was just a local movement, but now they walk on behalf of all the missing and murdered people in the world. In Canada, their objectives are to raise awareness for the changes needed in Indigenous communities and address the dangers that Indigenous women are facing. Their goal is to bring these injustices to parliament’s attention and make Canada safer for all Indigenous women. Walk4Justice’s global success is thanks to social media and its various platforms for social organizing.

Social media plays a big role in social movements today. The movement for missing and murdered Indigenous women gained a lot of momentum with the use of a hashtag: #IdleNoMore. Not only is this hashtag representative of the violence against Indigenous women, it also addresses the 500 years of injustice that the Indigenous peoples have been facing. The movement began with four women organizing to discuss Bill C-45 (proposed legislation to remove protection over forests and waterways in Canada) and grew to tackle struggles such as sovereignty. #IdleNoMore was the main mobilizing factor that sparked a transnational movement. According to authors Vincent Raynauld, Emmanuelle Richez, and Katie Boudreau Morris of “Canada is #IdleNoMore: exploring dynamics of Indigenous political and civic protest in the Twitterverse,” this movement has no “centralized leadership, loose membership, [and] diversity of interests”. Social media enables organizers and participants to communicate more easily. Further, as noted by Raynauld, Richez, and Morris, social media enables its participants to establish a shared identity which is particularly important for diasporic Indigenous communities of Canada. The hashtag was not only used to discuss aspects of the movement, but to show solidarity and make reference to varying epistemologies of indigeneity. The hashtag went viral and started the National Day of Action on December 10th. #IdleNoMore was “the largest Canada-wide social action movement since the civil rights movement of the 1960s,” according to CBC News. It resulted in the creation of a website outlining the movement, further actions, and stories of #IdleNoMore activists both nationally and globally. The movement also serves the global population by providing a database of all upcoming events near to the user. People speaking together produces results and this is aided by social media.

One major step toward a resolution is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Ultimately, it suggests needing to work on the cohesion of Indigenous communities and fostering new relationships with Non-Indigenous peoples and institutions. As a nation, Canada must acknowledge the ongoing structural violence Indigenous peoples face. As Canadians, we must acknowledge our historical roles as settlers and unpack our own prejudices. However, recognizing past injustices is not enough. This process of healing goes beyond deconstructing colonization – it is about revitalizing Indigenous self-determination and liberating them from generations of oppression in the form of land reform and judicial rights. For the Indigenous peoples, having autonomy is a necessary step toward communal healing.

The Government of Canada started the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in 2016. The inquiry is a response to community calls for justice, various social movements, and a call to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This national inquiry is autonomous from the government so it can be open and honest. The inquiry was allocated $40 million by the federal government. It is set to finish by 2018 and will include accounts from victims, families, communities, and more. The aim is to honor the missing and murdered women by finding the truth and stopping the problem. The inquiry was in Edmonton, Alberta last month and is making its way across Canada. The inquiry was a victory for many activists and will hopefully deliver effective results.

Acknowledging the problem and actually working to solve it are two different things. The Canadian government is fulfilling the former, but the nation must wait for the final report of the Inquiry in 2018 to see if Canada will fulfill the latter. The issue is bigger than police investigations and educating Indigenous communities on safety. Helping the Indigenous women of Canada will be the responsibility of many generations and politicians. The Indigenous peoples of Canada need a commitment from the government and Canadians to support reconciliation efforts until the levels of inequality are reduced. This includes addressing Canada’s inadequate criminal justice system and other socioeconomic factors facing Indigenous peoples, especially women and girls. Further, for the Indigenous peoples of Canada, healing is a holistic process and cannot happen when the state has control over their lands and governs their institutions.

The idea of holistic healing is shared by many Indigenous groups globally, but their idea of ‘holistic’ can vary. When considering the various social movements that other Indigenous peoples are engaged in, the Zapatista movement in Mexico stands out. Similar to the Indigenous peoples of Canada, the Zapatistas are also victims of colonization, assimilation, and ongoing discrimination and violence. However, unlike the Indigenous peoples of Canada, the Zapatistas are not seeking power from the state but instead are organizing themselves into a collective identity and defining their own autonomy. Attaining autonomy from the federal state as a subordinate group is still oppressive, they argue. Alternatively, the Zapatistas have declared their own autonomy as an ongoing process, allowing them to construct their own institutions as a form of ‘anti-power’. This includes not accepting any support from the state. The Zapatistas subscribe to the idea that Indigenous communities should “define their own practices, their priorities, and their relation to the land and to natural resources.” The idea of neoindigenism, the ability of the state to acknowledge indigeneity but continue to restrict their cultural identity, is rejected by the Zapatistas. Neoindigeneity does not create a space of recovery for Indigenous identities, instead it continues to oppress them. Perhaps the Indigenous social movements in Canada could benefit from adopting a similar attitude toward autonomy or a more global perspective.

Drawing inspiration from other social movements can be effective, powerful, and create global solidarity. Social movements matter because they are the checks and balances that uphold justice when institutions and people do not. In Canada, Indigenous women have been fighting for their own justice and it is due time that Canadians helped.

 

LITERATURE

Brownridge, Douglas, Tamara Taillieu, Tracie Afifi, Ko Ling Chan, Clifton Emery, Josee Lavoie, and Frank Elgar. “The National Inquiry on Murders and Disappearances of Indigenous Women and Girls.” Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 28, no.2 (2016): 607-619.

Family Violence Initiative. Available at: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/fv-vf/annex-annexe/p87.html (16 December, 2017).

Grabish, Austin. 2017. Drag the Red searches get grim lesson on finding, identifying bones. Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/drag-the-red-bones-1.4166029(16 December, 2017).

 Highway of Tears. Availabe at: http://highwayoftears.org/about-us/highway-of-tears (16 December, 2017).

 Human Rights Watch. “Those Who Take Us Away: Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia, Canada.” (2013): 1-90.

 National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Available at: http://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/ (16 December, 2017).

Puxley, Chinta. 2014. AFN calls for independent review into Tina Fontaine case. Available at: https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/afn-calls-for-independent-review-into-tina-fontaine-case-1.2031486 (16 December, 2017).

Raynauld, Vincent, Emmanuelle Richez and Katie Boudreau Morris. 2017. Canada is #IdleNoMore: exploring dynamics of Indigenous political and civic protest in the Twitterverse. Information, Communication & Society 21 (4). Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/1369118X.2017.1301522?needAccess=true (16 December, 2017).

Sinclair, Niigaan. 2014. Idle No More: Where is the movement 2 years later? Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/idle-no-more-where-is-the-movement-2-years-later-1.2862675 (16 December, 2017).

Stahler-Sholk, Richard. “Constructing autonomy: Zapatista strategies of indigenous resistance in Mexico.” New Global Politics 1, (2017): 13-28.

Sterritt, Angela. 2015. A Movement Rises. Available at: https://www.opencanada.org/features/movement-rises/ (16 December, 2017).

Tasker, Paul. 2016. Confusion reigns over number of missing, murdered indigenous women. Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/mmiw-4000-hajdu-1.3450237 (16 December, 2017).

Zerehi, Sima. 2016. Carolyn Bennett says pan-aboriginal approach to MMIW inquiry won’t work for Inuit. Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/carolyn-bennett-says-pan-aboriginal-approach-to-mmiw-inquiry-won-t-work-for-inuit-1.3426222 (16 December, 2017).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Original post copied from Stories of Struggle

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