Blog 4: International Women’s Week at Vanier

Briana Panaccione

On February 6th 2020, I attended an assembly called “Appropriate This!: The Slav & Kanata Debacles.” It spoke about a man named Robert Lepage who was making documentaries based on false historical background. Robert Lepage is a “Canadian writer, director, designer, and actor known for his highly original stage and film productions.” The Panel discussions spoke of two of his cultural plays; one called Slav that was about African American history and the other called Kanata about First Nation history.

The two speakers shared their unappreciated experience with Robert Lepage. For both of his plays, he demonstrated both cultures stories falsely and each of his plays didn’t even include African American or Indiginous actors. When he was confronted about his cultural appropriations, he reasoned by saying that his films are “artistical” and he can portray them as he wants. The issue here is that indigenous and African American people have been mainly excluded from society and they have a lot of background and sentimental information about their story. If their story is to be told, it should be told in the most honest and truthful way and it should be demonstrated by people of that culture. It is their experience, their history and their story to tell.

When I spoke to other students, they expressed the same feelings of injustice as everyone else. It isn’t fair or right that this man could portray a play with such false background and even after being approached about the situation, still neglect their opinions.

There have been many articles written about these plays; it stirred up a lot of tension from people defending the representation of their culture.

Here a article speak about both the Kanata play and Slav play, it quotes: “Another one of Quebec director Robert Lepage’s productions is mired in controversy, following an uproar over SLĀV, his show about black spiritual slave songs sung by a mostly white cast and headlining Betty Bonifassi, a white singer, that was cancelled by the Montreal International Jazz Festival after a few performances.

Lepage’s upcoming show Kanata, about Indigenous people, once again without any real representation or artistic input from the very communities it is about, prompted 20 Indigenous artists and activists to write a letter that was published in Le Devoir.”

I enjoyed listening to this speech because I wasn’t aware of this issue and I hope Robert Lepage becomes wiser regarding the issue and doesn’t happen again.

Blog 4

This week I went to two presentations for Women’s week. The first one that I attended was on “The Importance of Collective Care in the Helping Profession,” presented by Anuska Martins. She discussed the serious topic of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and what she does in order to help women that are victim to this type of abuse. There are so many types of IPV and it can sometimes be hard for you to realize you are being victimized or you also might be in denial.Situations like these usually start of like normal relationships but then slowly tension starts to build and then one day your partner just snaps. Sometimes the love is so strong between the two people that the abusee often goes back to their abuser. When the women realize that things are wrong there are places that they can go to for help.  

The woman that was speaking works at a shelter that looks like a big house so that it blends in with the other homes and not get any extra attention drawn to it. Nine women can stay at a time for up to three months and are allowed to bring their children. They get support and advice from the professional helpers. The location is confidential so the women don’t have to fear that anyone will find them. 

It was interesting to hear that even though the professional helper’s job is to help the women in need, it sometimes gets too much for them too. They can be so focused on wanting to help the others out that they forget about their own feelings and may start to get burnout. They can start feeling resentful that they help people out with their problems but no one’s there to help them out with their own. 

I always knew domestic abuse was a thing but this event really opened my eyes on what happens behind the scenes. It’s scary to think that someone you love can turn into someone so violent and take over your life and wellbeing. Myself and other people in the crowd definitely enjoyed the presentation but were also shocked on how often and how scary IPV actually happens. It was definitely a learning experience and something I would like to know more about.

The second presentation I went to was the Art in Response to Backlash presented by Sonya Stefan. She showed the crowd many images and videos of the things that she found interesting throughout the duration of her life. She has created clubs like La Lumiere Colllective in which people share films they’ve made to others for a low price, Telepresence is another club where she uses and collects old camera equipment to make mini films, Kids Pop is a service for young kids and Lux Magna where they celebrate culture and art. 

This woman was a dancer and was insecure about her body, she knows that that is a struggle for a lot of women too. Growing up, it was hard for her to like her body and appreciate it but once she turned 35, the expression of art helped her love herself. Dance is an industry where the women had to “shut up and obey” and once she learned that it was actually an artform she began to be the best version of herself as she could. 

Sonya defines feminism as someone who is honest, open and willing to learn, she was born a feminsit and believes she will die as one too.

I enjoyed listening to her speak and I hope to see her again next year.