A year of turmoil, ecological anguish and a return of the artworld

Another year has come and gone, and, as we always do, The Source Newspaper reached out to the myriad individuals living, visiting and working in Metro Vancouver to learn about their plans, ambitions, hopes and dreams.

Throughout the year, the reporters of The Source Newspaper asked members of the community what they have been working on or talking about. Many of those we interviewed were pleased that they were able to perform shows, unveil exhibits and meet people face-to-face and in-person as the community learned to live with and adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, hosting events that were, since 2020, either cancelled or performed online.

Let’s take a moment to revisit some of the stories we covered over the year.

Mind and body

The beginning of 2022 saw the country undergoing the omicron variant of COVID-19. The stressors of two years of COVID took a toll on people’s minds and bodily well-being. In the first cover story of the year, reporter Geoff Russ spoke with researchers Gulnaz Anjum and Paula Allen on the topic of mental health issues. Anjum and Allen told Russ that great strides have been made to inform people of mental health issues in recent years. One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been for schools and hospitals to increase their budgets for mental health support, which they hope will help eliminate the stigmas surrounding these issues.

“Lack of knowledge breeds fear and suppression,” Allen said. “With more information we have less fear, and understand the importance of broader awareness.”

In February, George Sun examined the impacts of biowearable technologies, such as smartwatches, on children with SFU researchers Alexandra Kitson and Alissa Antle. While these devices worn on-body, can offer significant benefits to children, such as monitoring heart rate and body temperature, they caution that the constant feedback could be deleterious to the child’s self-esteem and sense of autonomy, especially if the child is not optimizing their food intake levels or meeting their exercise targets. This could lead to children developing ‘stressed-out’ identities and inhibiting their coping skills.

Ukraine crisis

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February caused increased world tension, food shortages and precipitated a devastating humanitarian crisis. In May, reporter Curtis Seufert spoke with pianist Ian Parker who performed a relief benefit concert at the Kay Meek Centre. For Parker, music has a way of stirring the human spirit, fostering a sense of hope to those afflicted by war and inspiring pride and triumph to those sympathetic to the Ukrainian plight. Proceeds of the concert went to the Canadian Red Cross Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal providing healthcare and emergency relief aid to the displaced.

“We’re doing this because we want to make music that can maybe do something much more powerful than what finances can do,” Parker said. “I find it to be our way of prescribing some sense of relief, either for those who are from the Ukraine who are here, or who have Ukrainian heritage who are here.”

In light of refugees fleeing their beleaguered homeland to safer places in Western countries, including Canada, reporter Xi Chen covered an exhibit at the ACT art gallery which covered the history of Ukrainian immigration to Canada, exploring the subject through various artistic mediums like sculpture, books and images. Since the late 19th century, the Ukrainian peoples have fled war and famine and many of them have settled in Western Canada. Despite facing discrimination and prejudice, the members of the community strove to make a hard-working and prosperous life for themselves. The curators hope their exhibit inspires their patrons to reach out to new Ukrainian arrivals and help them feel welcome in their new home.

Mere Phantoms: Shadows Without Borders. | Photo by Leila Shifteh and Harun Yasin Tuna

Trees, animals and climate change

Climate change continues to be one of the most pressing problems affecting our world today. In March, reporter Isha Ohri examined how trees play a crucial role in maintaining ecological stability. In Canada, Indigenous peoples have been stewards of the forests since time immemorial. They employed a technique called ‘culturally modified trees’ enabling them to extract materials from trees without cutting them down, allowing trees to heal naturally over time. Ohri suggests that Indigenous cultural techniques can play an important role in informing modern forest management.

In November, reporter Raman Kang spoke with director Adam Paolozza about the Cultch’s latest play, The Cave, which explored the effects of climate change through the point of view of animals whose home is being engulfed in flames. Through overwhelming adversity, the animals in the play try to find hope and joy amidst the tragedy of the fire. By making the characters affected by climate change animals instead of humans, Paolozza hoped that the play inspires dialogue and conversation and engages people emotionally about a topic that people have a lot of different emotions about.

In-person exhibits and performances

Many COVID-19 restrictions were lifted this year because of increased vaccinations and lower transmission rates, leading to a ‘return-to-normal’ feel in social and public events. As a result, this year saw many exhibits and performances return to a primarily in-person format.

Resilience and The Moon by Sonya Iwasiuk. | Photo courtesy of Sonya Iwasiuk

In June, reporter Rafael Zen talked about the Surrey Art Gallery’s exhibit Mere Phantoms: Shadows Without Borders, an interactive show by Montreal artist duo Maya Ersan and Jaimie Robson exploring the refugee crisis using shadow art as the medium. Patrons can pick up flashlights and shine light on the installation; other patrons can see the shadows cast by the light and experience the various stories of displacement. The stories come from various refugees from Greece and Turkey who fled their homes in Syria, Afghanistan and other places. The artists hoped exhibit patrons can empathize with the complex issues and struggles of the displaced.

Reporter Elaha Amani covered a production of Kathak, a traditional Indian dance, by the Edmonton’s Usha Gupta Dance Entourage at the Firehall Arts Centre in September. Kathak uses intricate footwork and sharp pirouettes to tell a story and the intensity of the bodily movement and facial expression technique made the dance very popular in India. During the medieval period, the dances were performed for kings and moguls to entertain and spread culture throughout the Indian realms. Today, the dances are open to all and Gupta uses the dance to tell timeless stories of the search for inner spirituality, romance and embrace of nature.

We will return in the new year continuing to report on the people living and working in our city, creating art, promoting understanding and enriching our community. On behalf of everyone at The Source Newspaper, we wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season and a happy new year!