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"J’écris, moi non plus : parait que les fleurs poussent en hiver"

Photo: © Maud Bousquet pour Exeko

Par Caroline Foujanet

 

“J’écris, moi non plus : parait que les fleurs poussent en hiver", comme une page de titre…

 

Voilà, nous y sommes...

après avoir imaginé plusieurs semaines durant, la texture de la couverture,

après avoir pensé la matière de ce qu’elle abritera et dévoilera le moment venu,

nous ouvrons ce cycle d’écriture, au doux et mystérieux nom.

 

Mardi dernier, 12 janvier 2016 : premier atelier d’une longue série, l’atmosphère conviviale et inventive a donné la teinte aux pages liminaires.

 

Tournons quelques pages, curieux de découvrir l’avant-propos.
A l’origine : l’envie de 3 partenaires, de faire pousser des fleurs dans les coeurs,  chacun y allant de son composant :

Il nous faut du terreau , comme terre végétale d’édition cultivant la poésie : Les éditions de la Tournure;

Ajoutons le  fertilisant, comme un engrais d’innovation social : Exeko et son accélérateur naturel inclusif qu’est  la médiation intellectuelle;

Veillons aussi à ce que ce que ce végétal s’épanouisse, en lui offrant un  tuteur, sorte d’armature éditoriale pour l’élévation de la plante,  Possibles éditions apportera son savoir faire artisanal dans la fabrication du livre.

 

Nous avions les substances essentielles, restait à trouver l’incubateur.

Quel serait le lieu au potentiel fécond pour  l’éclosion des fleurs ?

C’est avec naturel, que nos instincts nous ont conduit vers la Grande Bibliothèque. Et c’est avec un vrai plaisir que la collaboration a pris racine.

 

La création littéflorale est amorcée !

12 séances vont donner le corps au texte.  

 

Puis, c’est aussi quelques ramifications fortifiantes pour le Projet Biblio-libre d’Exeko, et quelques forces supplémentaires pour les lecteurs des 12 micro-bibliothèques implantées dans les refuges et centres de jour de Montréal.

 

Autant de coeurs joueurs de mots, faisons pousser nos idées !

Le joli mois de mai, verra éclore une création de caractère.

 

Les ateliers d'écriture "J’écris, moi non plus : parait que les fleurs poussent en hiver" s'inscrivent dans le cadre du projet Biblio-libre. Ce projet bénéficie du soutien financier du ministère de la Culture et des Communications et de la Ville de Montréal dans le cadre de l'Entente sur le développement culturel de Montréal.

From Icefishing to Plasticine: a year of workshops at the Northern Quebec Module

Photo: © James Galwey, Marie-Pierre Gadoua et Alexandra Pronovost pour Exeko

By James Galwey, mediator 

James, who began as volunteer before becoming a mediator at Exeko, speaks today about the idAction project at Northern Quebec Module.

Every year, Inuit of all ages fly down to Montreal for medical treatments not available in Nunavik. Usually accompanied by a family member, they are lodged at the Northern Quebec Module (NQM), an Inuit welcome centre housed in a downtown YMCA. Some of the Inuit are comfortable in Montreal, they know the city and enjoy it but for others, it is a source of stress. For periods varying from one week to several months, they have to deal with their illness in a large, unknown city, far from home and their community. They patiently wait their ticket back to the great outdoors up north: the sea, rivers, mountains and tundra... hunting, fishing, and their beloved ‘country food’, the muktuk or artic char.

At the beginning of 2015, Exeko started to hold cultural mediation workshops at the YMCA. The objectives of the workshops were to promote a space for reflection, discussion, creativity and positive socialization among Inuit participants, around the theme of a home away from home in Montreal. The residents have a lot of free time between the hospital visits so what is there to do? Do they feel welcome in Montreal? Is there anything they would like to see in the city? 

Thus, every Tuesday evening from 7.00PM to 10.00PM, two Exeko mediators and an NQM member, made a home in one of the YMCA rooms. We would set up the tables and chairs, get out the paints, crayons, modeling clay, maps and sewing kits, put on some Inuit music and go look for participants.

 

 

One of the major hurdles was the fact every week new people would arrive and others would leave so the workshops could not benefit from familiarity; it was difficult to build upon the workshop from the previous week. One week we would have lots of eager participants and the next week, they had returned to Nunavik. The challenge therefore was to find new participants every week, and to put on workshops for people that knew nothing of what happened the previous week.

It should be noted that the YMCA also houses PRAIDA, an organization that helps recently arrived refugees. It is their first port of call before taking an apartment in the city, looking for work and making a new life. Whenever possible, we would try for a cultural mix and integrate some of the refugees in our workshops.  Many of the refugees spoke no French and very little English but gathered around the table, they would interact with the Inuit participants and talk about different ways to sew, war in their country of origin, the cold (this is Quebec, after all), musical traditions and food. The workshops always seemed to run much better when refugees joined the group.  

One of the first things we became aware of was that many Inuit did not feel particularly welcome in Montreal. The city does not have a glowing reputation; there exists a certain amount of wariness about coming south. The Inuit miss their tightknit communities, the food, and the landscape. It does not help that although the NQM workers are receptive and warm, the YMCA building is not: similar to a hospital, it is made up of long corridors, beige paint schemes, locked doors and closed rooms. It was decided to sew a number of colourful, inclusive welcome banners for the entrance hall; have participants stitch words of welcome and pictures onto a large piece of cloth and hang them up for people to see. This was something that could be an ongoing project, allowing people to make something that could be easily added upon by future participants. 

 

 

Many Inuit women are very good at sewing, as many still make their own clothes, so it was felt this type of activity would have an appeal. The idea would also feed perfectly into the Exeko mission of intellectual mediation.  It is a relaxing moment where people get together in a circle around a group project, chat and exchange ideas. As the months passed and the banner took shape, recently arrived Inuit participants working on the cloth would notice a previous message or drawing and recognise its author. 

Looking with amusement at the stitch work of one of the female mediators, an elderly Inuit woman joked that with sewing skills like that she would never find a husband. 

At the same time as one of the mediators managed the room, the other would show documentaries in the nearby TV and Internet room, reserved exclusively for the Inuit. Usually, people simply watch the usual television programming but we screened NFB films shot in the Far North and held discussions about them afterwards. Is the portrayal of their culture accurate? Has their lifestyle changed since the film was made? The NFB began to take an interest in the Canadian artic during the very first years of its existence. As early as the 1940s, film crews were sent to capture images of the Inuit people. More than two hundred films were produced but sadly, many Inuit have not seen these films. It was joy to watch the films with them. There was always someone in the room who would know one of the faces in the film. On a more personal note, I believe the participants were quite proud at seeing themselves and their culture portrayed on film.

 

 

During the summer months, the mediators would take tables outside, in front of the YMCA building and set them up with crayons, paints and pads of paper. Many Inuit at the YMCA hang around outside and smoke so we thought it would be a good idea to join them. And maybe get to talk to some Inuit men. For the most part it was women and children who would come to our workshops. Men would poke their head inside, see the women and children, and then leave. Outside, however, while smoking a cigarette, it was easier to mingle and discussions were easier to come by – especially with the teenagers. I learnt about life in the North, living conditions, hunting expeditions, what it means to be a teenage boy in Nunavik, video games, the social challenges facing people up North, films, and food. Another positive point was that Inuit people living in the Montreal (and who are not allowed into the YMCA) would drop by to see friends outside. Their presence would often make conversations between the mediators and the recently arrived Inuit participants easier as the Montreal Inuit were on friendly terms with the mediators.  

Exeko would also organize trips outside of the YMCA. Participants were taken ice fishing on the St-Laurent and Inuit art exhibitions at the museum. The second to last outing took place at the Museum of Fine Arts. We took thirten people, including a recently arrived Kurdish family of five, to see Inuit throat singers performing with an Iranian drummer around ceramic works made of Nunavik clay. It was a true meeting of cultures, the perfect social mix. 

 

 

 

All in all, the workshops were an extremely positive experience and the mediators learned a lot about Inuit culture.
For a majority of Inuit, the only people they meet outside of their community when travelling south are the NQM and hospital personnel.  They stay then go, and rarely do they mix with the general Montreal population. As we quickly understood, the Inuit are slightly wary the city and and us, the Qallunaat (Inuit word for white people) and our strange Western ways. But whatever else the Exeko workshops may, or may not have achieved, I can honestly say that they allowed for a real connection with the visiting Inuit and complemented the excellent work of the NQM. Hopefully, memories and images of our interactions will remain and when the participants do back to Nunavik, they will have a few favourable things to say about their stay. There is so much misunderstanding between the cultures but from small seeds, big trees grow and maybe, just maybe, word will spread that not everything in the south is necessarily bad.

 

 


The most surprising and significant aspect of our workshops in terms of social mixing was that whenever the refugees did participate, the Inuit would assume a different role. Their demeanour changed; they were more talkative, curious, and they would pose questions (something they rarely did when talking to the mediators) and tell the refugees about this country and how best to survive its winters (this is Quebec, after all!) They became the official welcoming committee; they were welcoming the refugees to their country. As one of the Inuit workshop participant’s remarked: it seems only fitting that the first people with whom the refugees come into contact are the first inhabitants of this land, the Inuit.

 

Le projet idAction @Module du Nord Québécois est soutenu par l'Arrondissement de Ville-Marie.

A summer of writing at the PAQ Native Shelter of Montreal

Photo: Gaetan Nerincx

By Jeff Roy and Marie-Pierre Gadoua

 

Last summer, Exeko had the opportunity to hold a series of literature workshops at the PAQ Native shelter of Montreal. We decided to organise writing sessions, during which we would explore different ways of expressing ourselves and of developing our creativity with words. 

In the first workshop, we warmed up with automatic writing, a method inspired by the surrealist movement in arts, literature and poetry. The idea was to write down every thought coming up in our minds, without any control, censorship, or restraint. Although it might seem easy to do, it was not. This exercise made us realise that we are very much conditioned by different forms of discipline when we write: discipline about the content, the syntax, punctuation, etc. 

With automatic writing we let it all go; we set our minds and pencils free. After the exercise, we compared our creations with each other, and we could see how our thoughts flow differently, and we realised that they also transform differently into words. For many of us, this was an opportunity to free ourselves from the constraints that are self-imposed and that sometimes impede our process of creation. 

“Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz. Several suspicious snakes slowly slithered southwards. Several suspicious silver scaled snakes slowly slithered southwards. The leather feather withered in the rainy weather. Several suspicious silver scaled snakes slowly slithered southwards.  The ground made a profound sound all around. The ground made a profound sound all around. The ground made a profound sound all around.” (Jeff Roy, playing with words during the automatic writing session)

 

For the second workshop, we did the exact opposite: we worked with the constraint of texts already written by others. Using newspapers from all over the world, we cut down words and segments to create new ones (see photos). Again, each participant created very different kinds of texts: humoristic, serious, dramatic, scary, political, poetic… Each participant’s personality and mood of the moment was tangible in the creations. 
 

     


We also worked with a political text describing Aldous Huxley’s dystopic view of society (from the novel Brave New World), and we decided to re-write it in our own words. Some of us were so uncomfortable with the content of the text that we decided to invert its meaning, in a way to create our ideal view of society (changing the dyspotia into an utopia). Others took the difficult task to hold on to the original content and give it a personal literal twist. 

“In order to prevent a rebellion, intimidation must be avoided. Allow the masses a certain amount of enticing liberties, which can only be considered as privileges. Restrict individual desire towards progression of both biological and intellectual tendencies. A multitude of remedial distractions interloped with limited access for procuring sustainable stability, simultaneously establishing a steadily growing gap between classes. Ridicule and emphasize specific profitable concepts within all forms of public media.  Indirectly persuade people to reject notions of any form of self-conscious awareness through comical media. Emphasizing on playful or lethargic tendencies. Inebriation must be reinforced within the fully developed domain, while suppressing any notion against the current social norm. When encountering any individual who may have developed a tolerance, immunity to most forms of persuasion, just simply offer wealth and a position of power.” (Jeff Roy, re-phrasing a philosophical text inspired by Huxley’s dystopia)

 

In our third workshop we wrote fiction stories, with narrative outlines and characters. We had to pick randomly three characters: one protagonist, one helper and one opponent. We also picked one physical and one psychological characteristic for each. Then we wrote a story, which had to happen in a specific place and time, with an initial situation, a trigger event, the rising action, a climax and a resolution. There were Native characters, non-Natives, animals, natural elements, stories from the past, in the future, brave and weak people... and most of all, there was the pleasure of creating stories and telling them to the other participants. 

“While trodding through a dense forest, a young traveller unexpectedly stumbled upon an unusual clearing. The trees were hewn and discarded along the perimeter’s far side. The sun’s rays were scorching the old anthropologist’s back, with what felt as pure fury, while surveying the newly excavating site. Apparently, he presumed, there was evidence of an old gathering place, which was rumoured by some of the local Mohawk tribes. The anthropologist’s tall stature resembled his mentality, stern and impatient. Simultaneously, where the freshly discarded hewn trees laid, a Mohawk fur trader perched himself on a log while the excavation proceeded.” (Excerpt from Jeff Roy’s fiction text)

 

We also tested these different writing techniques at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, in the Inuit art gallery and with the paintings of Cree artist Kent Monkman. We practised our automatic writing, triggered by the visual observation of Inuit sculptures. This gave us a mixed sense of freedom (through the very act of automatic writing) and of constraint (the writing had to stem from our visual perception of the sculptures). Facing other forms of art, notably Monkman’s paintings, we wrote stories, narratives about the images we were looking at. These exercises were probably the hardest of all, because in front of such powerful works of art, our eyes didn’t want to stick to our papers and pencils: we just wanted to admire these masterpieces and talk about them. But instead, we disciplined ourselves, and wrote our thoughts about them. It was a way to honour the artists and their works, and to transform our perception of their art into a different form of creative expression, a written one.

“Je vois un morse en souliers modernes. Je vois aussi un peuple qui évolue au fil du temps.” 

“Le joueur de tambour qui voit la musique à travers les esprits, qui partage les traditions d’avant, pour le futur, l’avenir.” (Christine Vachon) 
 

 

Writing workshop at the PAQ Native Shelter of Montreal are part of the projet Libre-library.

Les ateliers d'écriture du PAQ (Projets Autochtones du Québec) s'inscrivent dans le cadre du projet Biblio-libre. Ce projet bénéficie du soutien financier du ministère de la Culture et des Communications et de la Ville de Montréal dans le cadre de l'Entente sur le développement culturel de Montréal.

Have you met... Martin ?

Exeko ne serait pas grand-chose sans les bénévoles qui s’impliquent chaque jour avec nous.

Nous avons plus de 200 personnes qui chaque année viennent donner de leur temps et de leur amour à nos projets. Pour nous, il n’y a pas de petite implication. Qu’ils/qu’elles viennent régulièrement ou ponctuellement, chacun d’entre eux joue un rôle essentiel au développement de notre organisation.

C’est pour cela que nous aimerions leur rendre humblement hommage, en vous présentant certain-e d’entre eux/elles. Une série de petits portraits nouvelle génération (nous n'avions plus partagé de portraits depuis 2014!) pour que vous puissiez découvrir la richesse de celles et ceux qui vont tous les jours sur le terrain avec nos médiateur-e-s.

La première de ces belles personnes que nous aimerions vous présenter, c’est Martin.

Quand nous lui avons demandé s’il voulait bien qu’on écrive sur lui, Martin a accepté sans problème. Il nous a tout de même avoué qu’il se demandait ce qu’un article sur lui pourrait bien raconter.

Cet ingénieur informatique de 39 ans, père de 4 enfants, membre d’Exeko depuis un an, a pourtant de bien belles choses à nous conter.

Son aventure avec Exeko commence l’année dernière. Martin traverse alors une petite « crise existentielle » comme il l’appelle. En quête de sens, il se lance dans différents projets artistiques : improvisation, cours de chant, cours de dessin… Il part également au Nicaragua avec l’association Habitat pour l’humanité construire des maisons. Un jour, il tombe sur le site internet d’Exeko. C’est le coup de foudre.

Sa première participation à un de nos projets se fait lors de la préparation d’un spectacle Trickster. Lui et son fils Jérôme viennent construire et préparer le décor pour le show qui a lieu le lendemain. La création commune devient alors le médium de création d’un lien social.

 

 

Puis, quelques semaines plus tard, Martin part pour la première fois avec idAction Mobile sillonner les rues de Montréal. Il est avec Marie-Pierre et Bianca, deux de nos médiateur-e-s. Marie-Pierre, anthropologue spécialisée dans les cultures autochtones, est récemment rentrée du Nunavut avec une vidéo bien particulière. Sur l’enregistrement, un message du frère jumeau d’un des participants en situation d’itinérance. Marie-Pierre l’a rencontré par hasard lors de sa visite dans une communauté. Elle a donc enregistré un message pour permettre aux deux frères de communiquer. Après une intense recherche, l’équipe finit par retrouver le participant en question. Martin assiste alors à ce moment magique, à une rencontre virtuelle entre deux frères qui se sont perdus de vue. Petit moment de grâce dans la rue qui lui donne envie de retourner régulièrement sur le terrain.

Depuis, Martin participe quasiment de manière hebdomadaire aux projets d’Exeko. Il est de tous les terrains.

S’il a eu un peu de mal à trouver sa place au début, Martin a depuis conquis le cœur des médiateurs et des participants. Réservé, mais pas timide, Martin préfère écouter plutôt que de parler fort. Calme et discret, il est ce qu’on pourrait appeler, une force tranquille. Ce qui fait de lui un partenaire parfait lors de la pratique de médiation intellectuelle.

Martin est également un de nos meilleurs ambassadeurs quand il s’agit de parler du rôle des bénévoles au sein d’Exeko. Il se voit lui-même comme un messager de l’inclusion sociale. Il se décrit aisément comme représentant de cette partie de la société impliquée dans la lutte contre l’exclusion sociale, qui fait la démarche d’aller à la rencontre de ceux qu’elle exclut. Les rencontres improbables auxquelles il participe avec Exeko l’enrichissent d’une connaissance nouvelle sur les questions d’inclusion. Cela lui permet ensuite de ramener cette vision dans sa vie quotidienne et de la partager avec son entourage.  

Martin est donc un bénévole épanoui. Il reconnaît d’ailleurs faire du bénévolat pour ce que cela lui apporte. Il se sent nourrit par ces rencontres, par ces expériences avec Exeko. Il sent qu’en travaillant avec nous, il laisse s’exprimer certains aspects de sa personnalité qui ne sont pas beaucoup stimulés dans sa vie professionnelle: la créativité, la réflexion philosophique et l’action sociale. Évoluer avec les gens passionnés qui travaillent pour Exeko (ça, c’est lui qui le dit, pas nous. Mais c’est vrai que nous sommes pas mal dans la passion), lui donne plus d’énergie, le stimule.

Mais comme tout ne peut pas être toujours rose dans la vie de bénévole, nous lui avons tout de même demandé ce qu’il trouvait difficile dans son rôle. Sa réponse a fait battre notre petit cœur encore plus fort. Ce qui est compliqué pour Martin, c’est de trouver du temps. Il aimerait pouvoir faire plus, s’investir plus souvent encore.

Et nous aimerions ça, nous aussi.

La fin de l’interview approche et Martin finit par nous dire : « si on m’avait posé ces questions là il y a un an, j’aurais eu beaucoup moins de choses intéressantes à dire ». Nous, quand un bénévole nous dit ça, qu’on le stimule, qu’on le dynamise et qu’on l’aide à créer du sens autour de lui, il n’y a rien qui nous fasse plus plaisir. À Exeko, on en est persuadé, un-e bonne bénévole est un-e bénévole heureux/euse.

Alors merci Martin pour cette belle énergie, cet investissement sur le terrain et pour ton envie de continuer avec nous.