Roundtable on Loss, Art, and Intimacy
Healing, wholeness, claiming birthright and recovery from loss
Vicky Boldo, Concordia University
In this paper Vicky Boldo describes her personal narrative of adoption and assimilation, loss of identity, and eventual healing through unification with my birth family and my Cree/Métis heritage. She shares the key elements of my healing journey. In telling her story, she draws on correspondence and documents from my adoption file and lived experiences which provide a vivid image of the political and social climate of the Sixties Scoop era, and following decades. Recovery was the result of connection to land, language and ceremony and guidance from wise and loving Indigenous women and Elders. She also discusses her eventual reconnection with my biological family and the ways in which that provided healing, restoration and recovery from loss. Finally, she describes how giving back to community led to further understanding of origin and empowered me to provide space for youth to stand strong in their identity. Hers was a spirit filled journey of deep healing.
Angie Arsenault, Concordia University
On February 22, 1996, the family member Angie Arsenault was closest to took his own life. My uncle, Stephen, was from a tiny and isolated rural community in Northern Cape Breton. He was also gay, and as a young man he was raped by a Catholic Priest. I was 15 when Stephen killed himself and it turned my world upside down. This paper and performance is an in depth, poetic exploration of my experience with loss and grapples with the tangible and intangible traces left behind by sudden and tragic death. Although I have lost several other people in my life from suicide, I have been struggling to come to terms with the loss of Stephen for 22 years. His death has haunted me throughout my life, following me as I've journeyed nationally and internationally. Now that I am older than he ever lived to be, I find myself taking stock of the things that remain. Using images, objects and places as prompts for memory, combined with song, poetry, social criticism and theoretical reflections on grief, loss and longing, I attempt to crack open and examine my first experience with suicide and the consequent search for understanding.
Re-Creating Memory: Strategies of Metissage
Kesso Saulnier, Concordia University
For a long time, Saulnier was without memory of my origins, having been separated from her father (dead) and mother (living in Guinea while I was brought to Quebec) before the age of two. She learned to deal with loss through storytelling and embroidery work, using traditional indigo dyed textiles from West Africa. Her presentation aims to express the ways in which my artistic practice re-creates (auto)biographical narratives through a "metissage" aesthetics which also embodies cultural identities.
A Conversation with Survivor's Stories
Zeina Ismail Allouche, Concordia University
Throughout her own long journey, Allouche witnessed many wars and associated social challenges. She was engaged with displaced, refugees, and those abducted, raped, and tortured children forced into separation and transracial adoptions. Only now, when she is an immigrant in Canada, is she learning how to unfold my stories. Unfortunately, such an exercise entails demystification that establishes an ongoing and still outstanding question whether her experiences have helped to change the life of others, or it was about a survival escape. Allouche asks the question, "What did I lose and what did I gain?" Allouche's presentation proposes an analogy between her journey as a war survivor, her activism, and her life now as an immigrant researching forced separation from an Indigenous perspective. It is an auto-ethnographic and self-reflexive exploration of the meaning of loss in conversation with survivors stories that sculpted her emotional awareness and formed her political commitments.
A Posture or Maybe a Movement
Lisa Ndejuru, Concordia University
Every year since 1995, Page-Rwanda the group of family and friends of the victims of the genocide against the 1994 Tutsi in Rwanda, Montreal's survivor community and their allies, organises the genocide commemoration activities in the city. In 2014, Page Rwanda invited me to do research with them. They had found that 20 years after the genocide, time was not healing their wounds. Survivors were struggling to cope. Here, in Rwanda and wherever they were across the world. They had found that many fared far worse than right after the event. They wanted to sit with their elders and neighbours (ie. other survivor communities in Montreal who had gone through genocide before them: armenians, survivors of the shoah and cambodians) and ask if it gets better, easier to cope with loss. This paper explores their stories and how loss is interwoven through their sense of community.