Where did the title ‘Threads’ come from? It began with a story about a mother. A teacher, she immigrated to Canada from a bustling international city and became a farm wife on the Prairies in 1963. Unsurprisingly, it was a big adjustment. On summer visits to Saskatoon, her children would rummage through their mother’s things to discover little gems, simple things they once took for granted. Like their mother’s thread jar, as she called it. She was an avid seamstress, having learned the art from her aunt. Raised during WWII, she experienced food rationing and saw bombs in her skies. She learned to save everything. Her clothing was made from her aunt’s old clothes, curtains, or whatever was available. So it is not surprising that she did the same for her children’s clothing. She never threw anything away. Each of the saved threads--carefully plucked out of older garments--was stuffed into an old Blue Ribbon spice jar for reuse, only to be laboriously resewn into a new garment. A tedious process, indeed. Her children said of her spice jar: “In some odd way, this is art.” She had never thought of it that way before.
Metaphorically, aren’t those saved threads the spice of life? Each colour represents a culture, a journey, a unique story, removed from one place or garment and sewn into another. Not unlike Newcomers. Each thread a seed, in need of water, sun, and earth, merely looking for a chance to grow. And don’t our lives intertwine like threads? In the places where we work, in the communities where we live, in those we befriend or marry. Although we seem like garments made to order--each distinct from the other--when we dig deeper, might we not unravel multiple identities and experiences, inextricably linked? After all, a garment is held together by threads. Without threads, we’d be naked. Culturally, around the globe, we are woven together like carpets and tapestries, needlework of all kinds. These arts stubbornly fight to exist in a time of technological facility, mass production, and mass migration. “We will not die!” these arts proclaim. The craft of culture! The spice of life!
This elderly mother now lives an increasingly isolated life due to COVID-19, one of countless individuals who devoted their life to helping others flourish. Might we take a moment to reflect, respect, anticipate, and hope for what the newer threads-- Canada’s Newcomers--will look and feel like against our skins of many colours, as they are resewn into another garment and space?
Threads: Cultural Conversations explores the issues, challenges and desires for Newcomers, Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures to live in harmony, to settle and belong anew, in a time of unprecedented migration around the globe. Participatory sessions weave together knowledge, art, film, storytelling, philosophy, dance, music, poetry, games and more, to discuss and explore issues around what it means to flourish and belong as diverse peoples. Join us.