On Monday my friend Esther and I met in Assiniboine Park to sketch. Esther had picked a spot with a great view of The Pavilion. We spent an hour and half or so creating our own versions of the scene.
My friend Esther’s sketch.
Assiniboine Park has a special significance for my family. My parents got engaged in the park close to seventy years ago. My Dad was in the middle of his proposal when a guard knocked on the window and told him the park was closing for the evening. The Pavilion was also the site for my brother and his partner’s wedding over a decade ago.
My rendition of the park pavilion.
Assiniboine Park was a great place to sketch. Esther and I have decided we will try to sketch together once a month. I wonder where we will go next?
I’m Trying to Draw Cartoons
When Did You Stop Drawing?
Don’t Be Scared to be Creative
Filed under Art, Winnipeg
One of the things I really liked about the Nelson Mandela display at the Canadian Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg is the way it provides the visitor with a variety of experiences to draw you into the story of the fight to end apartheid in South Africa.
You can sit on a park bench clearly labeled For Europeans Only and read information about what it was like for a black woman to work as a domestic servant or a black man to be a miner in Johannesburg. Photos show how they were given unsanitary cramped living quarters and made to wear an identification bracelet with a number assigned by their employer.
You can stand in a cell like the one where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for twenty- seven years. As silhouettes of Nelson appear on the walls you almost feel like you are with him on Robben Island where he was imprisoned because of his activism and leadership in the anti-apartheid movement.
You can sit on chairs in a secret hideout and watch Nelson Mandela do a television interview with a British journalist at 2:00 am in 1961. Mandela had gone underground after been convicted of treason for his peaceful protests against apartheid.
You can make a poster. A display features a whole variety of posters that helped to advance the ideals of the anti-apartheid movement. On an interactive board you can choose from many different options to create a background, wording and illustrations and create an anti-apartheid poster of your very own. If you take a photo you could even print up your poster at home.
You can write a letter. As you leave the display you watch young South Africans share their hopes and dreams for the future of their country. After being inspired by what Nelson Mandela did to bring about change in his community you have the opportunity to write a letter saying what you will do to change your community for the better. Letter writing paper, felt markers and even colorful envelopes are available and once you have written your message you can either keep it or ‘mail’ it to the world in the mail slot provided.
The Nelson Mandela exhibit is informative and thought-provoking and provides opportunity for hands on involvement. Since experiencing the exhibit I’ve been thinking a lot about how the South African colonizers knew ending apartheid would also end their comfortable and successful way of life. Their story reminds us that people are always susceptible to following their basest instincts of self-survival and self- promotion even if that damages others and is not fair or ethical. Sadly it is still a timely message in our present day.
Images of Apartheid
Not the Harlem I Expected
I went to the Humans Rights Museum to see the new Nelson Mandela exhibit. There are images there you won’t easily forget. This wall of signs illustrated how whites and blacks were segregated in everyday life in South Africa. This public notice about relationships between whites and non-whites reminded me of Trevor Noah’s autobiography Born a Crime. Noah grew up in South Africa. He and his black mother had to walk on the opposite side of the street from his white father when their family was going somewhere so no would suspect his parents had a relationship with one another. This armoured truck was used by the South African government in the 1980s to stop apartheid protesters.These are the coffins for some of the victims of the Sharpville Massacre. In March of 1960 thousands of people protesting apartheid practices went to a police station in Sharpville, South Africa. The police fired into the crowd killing 69 people and injuring nearly 300 more including some thirty children. Today March 21 is a public holiday in South Africa to commemorate this massacre.
I felt so proud of Canada as I watched this video. Stephen Lewis, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations in 1988 describes a ground breaking speech Brian Mulroney, Canada’s prime minister made to the United Nations that year. Mulroney declared that his country would impose tough economic sanctions on South Africa unless they changed their apartheid policy. The United Nations assembly rose to its feet to applaud Mulroney at the end of his speech. Of course the exhibit tells visitors all about the important role Nelson Mandela played in ending apartheid in South Africa and includes his famous 1962 quote……”I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Born a Crime
Racism Pure and Simple
I had read about the new pop up toilet on Graham Avenue in the Winnipeg Free Press so I wasn’t exactly surprised when I came upon it while walking to work the other day. Access to washrooms is a problem in the Winnipeg downtown. Not all businesses want people who aren’t customers to use their washrooms and so people have been answering the call to nature in public spaces much to the consternation of folks who own property, walk, work and shop in the downtown. As a possible solution to this concern Down Town Winnipeg Biz decided to build a pop up toilet in an old shipping container and set it up in four different locations in Winnipeg over the summer. The goal is to offer a clean, accessible place to ‘use the facilities.’
The pop up toilet is managed by attendants who are there twelve hours a day. The washrooms are closed when they aren’t there which means the toilets can’t be used twenty-four hours a day, which is unfortunate. I talked with the young man who was on duty the day I walked by and I chatted with him about the project. The kiosk beside the pop up toilet sells water bottles, cards and even T- shirts and all proceeds go to the work of Siloam Mission which offers beds, food and support to Winnipeg’s homeless citizens. I asked the attendant if I could just make a donation to Siloam Mission but he insisted I take a package of art cards when I gave him some cash.
The sign in the kiosk said that the pop up toilet was created especially with the elderly, disabled, women and children and those with care attendants in mind, since they may struggle to find accessible toilets in the downtown. Downtown Biz is hoping to lead by example with this temporary facility so there will be public support for secure, well-maintained public permanent washrooms. Working at the pop up toilet creates employment for people from Siloam Mission who want to gain work experience to help them transition out of homelessness and poverty.
One of the reasons I like living and working in downtown Winnipeg is you never know what interesting things will pop up as you go about your day. It might even be a toilet!
Gender Neutral Washrooms
The Eaton’s Catalogue- Toilet Paper and Shin Pads
An Evening at the Forks
My husband Dave became a guerrilla gardener last week. According to the online definition guerrilla gardening is the act of gardening on land that you don’t have an actual legal right to. Last summer Dave noticed a woman from our condo building working in some of the raised flower beds around our parking garage and on our street. He stopped to chat and she told him she was a guerrilla gardener. She enjoyed gardening and had planted things in our neighbourhood on her own. He asked if the following spring he could put a few tomato plants in one of the beds.
Dave checks out his tomato plants
She figured that would be just fine so on Saturday he planted his tomatoes.
Dave and me on the tractor on the tomato farm where Dave grew up
Dave grew up on a tomato farm and although he swore he’d never grow tomatoes again after working so hard on the farm as a kid, by the year we celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary he was digging up a patch of grass in our backyard to plant tomatoes. He’d become nostalgic for the crop whose care and tending had occupied so much of his time during his growing up years.
When we moved to Hong Kong and then to a condo building in Winnipeg he thought his tomato growing days were over……. that is until he discovered guerrilla gardening. I’m looking forward to seeing how his plants do.
A sign left by a guerrilla gardener in a flower bed on our street
The Tomato Capital of Canada
They Don’t Grow Tomatoes The Way They Used To
Filed under Nature, Winnipeg
I read in the Winnipeg Free Press on the weekend that Roland Penner had died. He was a high-profile lawyer, a professor at the University of Manitoba, member of the Manitoba legislature, and served as the province’s attorney general. I knew him however as a storyteller.
Photo by Joe Bryska/Winnipeg Free Press
In 2012 I took a course from Roland at the McNally Robinson Community Classroom called Winnipeg Fact and Fiction where he told stories about events from Winnipeg history and then introduced us to books that had those same events as their focus. I remember three of the classes in particular. One in which he taught us about the Winnipeg strike and we looked at Margaret Sweatman’s novel Fox. Another where he described famous criminal cases tried in Winnipeg and introduced us to Heather Robertson’s biography of robber Kenneth Leishman The Flying Bandit and another where we examined the Winnipeg immigrant experience and Fredelle Maynard’s memoire Raisins and Almonds.
In 2012 I had just moved to Winnipeg and taking the course from Roland was a great way to connect with the history of the city that was to be my new home. He made every class so interesting. He was 86 at the time. In one of the blog posts I wrote about the course I described Roland as an ‘octogenarian story teller extraordinaire’. It is clear from his obituary Roland Penner lived his life story to the fullest and left an extraordinary mark on our province’s and city’s histories. He was 93.
Winnipeg General Strike
The Flying Bandit
Winnipeg Mennonite Immigrant Fiction
Last week on a beautiful summer evening I pedaled my bicycle down to The Forks to pick up a book I had ordered from the new McNally Robinson store there. As I rode through Steve Juba Park another woman pulled up beside me on her bike. “I love your bike,” she said to me. I told her I had won it in an Arts Junktion raffle and she was impressed. “I know all about ArtsJunktion,” she said. We talked about the important work they do. She wondered where the bike was from and I told her White Pine Bicycle Company had donated it. We chatted about the lovely weather and then parted ways at the ‘under the bridge’ path that leads into the Forks. “Enjoy your bike,” she said as I drove off. “It’s a beauty!”
After picking up my book I decided to have a chai latte and read for a while. The barista at Fools and Horses was interested in my book which was about Impressionist Art. I talked about working at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and told him how much I liked having a McNally Robinson branch at the Forks. He really liked that too, but said he still enjoys going to the Grant Park Store for events and meeting friends. I told him my writers’ group meets at McNallys and I still love going there too. We chatted a bit about why we like McNallys so much.
On my way outside I saw an older woman in a colourful sari sitting with a tiny newborn in her arms. I smiled and said, “What a beautiful baby.” A young woman in shorts and a T-shirt nearby who I assume was the baby’s mother pointed to the woman holding the baby and said, ‘grandmother.’ I pointed to myself and said ‘grandmother too’ and then showed the women a picture of my grandsons on my phone. They smiled. Before I left the younger woman pointed at us both and said, ‘grandmothers.’
I sat on a park bench reading for a while and a woman came to sit beside me. She was clearly frustrated, sighing and reading messages on her phone. She asked me where a certain Winnipeg street was and I gave her directions for getting there. She told me she was in Winnipeg with a couple of girls from out-of-town who are in foster care. They were in the city to see their mother whom they had met at the Forks. They weren’t supposed to leave the Forks but they had anyway, going to a place in the city the woman beside me thought might be dangerous for them. I wished her well as she set off to find her charges.
Later at home when I got out my pencils to do my daily drawing, I thought about the people I had just met and how interacting with them had made for an interesting evening.
Canada Day at The Forks
Sun Dogs and Steam
River Boat Tour