THE POWER OF GATHERING – A guest entry by Farheen HaQ

Karolina Bialkowska and Tomas Jonsson

Last week I travelled from Victoria, Coast Salish territory to Kelowna, Okanagan territory, my car packed with my family along with sculpture and equipment for my upcoming exhibit at the Alternator Gallery. I was cursing having a summer show.  I was bracing myself for the tensions of feeling torn between installing, juggling childcare, and creating space for family time.  All the struggles I was feeling were related to an idea of “me” and “I”.   But the timing could not have been better as my exhibition coincided with the O k’inādās residency at UBCO.

On Day 2 of my install process I headed up to the weekly round table (part of the residency and the summer indigenous art intensive at UBCO) with grad student and research assistant Karolina and immediately I felt a sense of gathering energy.  Karolina came to pick me up, extending hospitality in her text msg to me: “It’s so much nicer to turn up to an event with someone.”  She’s right.  Immediately as I entered the auditorium, I saw faces I knew and was introduced to new people. I was becoming part of a larger body.  Hearing the panel presentations and chatting with folks afterwards brought home the sense that we are all part of this collective body of indigenous artists and artists of colour. When we get together and share our work, stories and food, we begin to feel and know this truth in our bodies.

Before my opening on Friday evening, I IMG_8124created a public event offering a feast and group  reflection on nourishment, place and honouring maternal bodies.  I invited the O k’inādās residency artists to join me along with the general public.  I sat at the dastarkhan, the long tablecloth I had spread on the ground, and looked around happily.  What had gathered around this cloth out in a public plaza were the many parts of my life that often seem at odds with each other:  family, children, work, fellow artists, strangers, food, my artist self, my mother self, my connection to my mother and ancestors and new friendships.

As Karolina and I were discussing earlier in the week: friendship is an act of resistance. This is the gift of the O k’inādās residency and the community and relationships that it renders visible. Part of how colonialism works is by keeping us separate.  In briefly joining the community of artists gathered in Kelowna, my small sense of self, the one worried about juggling a show, family life and tech issues, diminished and a larger sense of myself grew. I started looking at connections and shared experiences between others and myself.  I was curious about my new friends.   I was being the expansive self that is in relationship to everyone and everything.  The power of this gathering reminded me that we are better when we are together.

My heartfelt gratitude to all the people that I was able to spend time with in Kelowna last week.  Thank you for your hospitality, support and friendship.

Farheen HaQ’s show, Being Home, is on at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art through August 27.

Visit her website: www.farheenhaq.com

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