Editorial: art as an act of defiance

Open Source image taken from: http://theamplifierfoundation.org/

Canada woke up on Monday morning to be flooded by devastating news. As the world is now aware, six innocent men lost their lives in an act of terror on January 29th between the hours of 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. The fatal shooting occurred at Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. The attacker, 27 year old  “white nationalist” Alexandre Bissonette was fuelled by his anti-immigration ideals, among other problematic views that led to this cold blooded massacre. He opened fire on individuals who were at their place of worship and prayer; a sacred space that is one of the many facets of what makes up the diasporic and fluid Canadian identity.

The value of Muslim lives have become contested in this post- Trump North America, rather, the narrative of the value of Muslim lives has perpetuated into a dangerous realm. We had to remove ourselves from this sensory overload, turn off our computers, phones, and sit down at a café with a newspaper to take in what had happened in a tangible way, while trying to maintain sanity.

This news was all too reminiscent of last year, when Masjid- Al- Salaam was set on fire after the Paris attacks. At the time, the media and politicians were hesitant to call it a terrorist act. The words, “arson” and “hate crime” were used when describing what had occurred, all the while insisting that this was not a reflection of Peterborough, that this was not Canadian.

Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cites the word terrorism when denouncing the murders of the Quebecois Muslim men. Today, the feeling of security and safety Muslims feel living in Canada has changed permanently. Today, “even those who are staunch Conservatives….” are voicing their concerns over far-right extremists, as reporter Joshua Skinner writes on page 7, quoting PC MP Michael Chong, “demagoguery is leading to cesspools of hate on social media and it’s leading to an increase in hate crimes.”

Last year, a severed pig’s head was left at the very mosque where this shooting took place with a note reading “bon appetit”. Hate crimes fester and boil until the lid blows off; we are only now opening our eyes to a nation that is suffering from severe Anti-Semitism, with over 100 hate crimes against Jews reported in Quebec alone in 2016, and multiple cases of crimes committed due to rampant Islamophobia.

The first month of 2017 has been unpredictable, with one breaking news story after another; from the onslaught of Trump’s executive orders that no one actually thought he would implement, to the inspiring marches led by women globally, to the wave of alt-right extremism that has permeated our own backyards and resulted in senseless acts of violence has left us reeling. This is a question of identity, and how we will respond.  How will we shape our moral future? Will we learn from history?

This is our annual Arts Issue, so we were ready to dive into production with the many beautiful works of poetry and visual art of local Peterborough folks. Nothing prepared us for the news that Monday morning would bring, and the reality set in that though it’s Arts Week, our coverage would not be a simple, light-hearted issue exploring local art as we originally thought it would be.

It quickly became clear to us how interwoven the state of the world and Canada was with the fact that it was our Arts Issue. What can speak more accurately and intrinsically to pain, suffering, and hope, than art? Poetry reads between the lines and stream of consciousness visuals remind us of our roots.

The cover we chose this year for Arts Issue is by Trent Alumn Laura Evans. When applying to postsecondary institutions, Evans was accepted by various prestigious Universities all over Canada in Art and Art History programs. Upon coming to Trent, she fell in love with our beautiful campus, and wound up graduating from the Trent Indigenous Studies Program, which she credits as intrinsic to her success as an artist. “My method of making art reflects the way I approach and understand the world around me. I use my art to explore and gain understanding of a subject – reflect upon it, its relationship to the greater world, its relationship to me, and my relationship to the world.” The cover art is titled Kana:tå.  Evans describes the piece as, “exploring the idea of community, as all encompassing.” Evans calls into question how we perceive identity and the space around us.

In light of the Muslim ban by Trump, and the horrific attack on Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, many people have voiced how important immigrants are to the community, and how without immigrants, we would be nothing. As much as this is true, and as much as these statements are genuine and well-intended, there is an inherent erasure of Indigenous peoples within these statements. We must remember our commitment to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women within the chaos of what the alt-right surge will bring, along with the distraction the media being commandeered by every Trump antic for the foreseeable future will entail.

This issue of Arthur is about highlighting Peterborough’s talent, and ensuring proper news coverage while reflecting on what role art plays in all of this. We have come across so many wonderful open source art campaigns in response to Trump’s Muslim ban. Artists and activists are being bolstered and encouraged by the threat on civil liberties and the possible effect it may have here in Canada.

Some of the most powerful and timeless art is created during times of upheaval. We hope that the art in this issue brings you some peace and introspection, and inspires you to express whatever insights 2017 has fostered within you so far. As Arthur writer Lubna Sadek writes in this issue’s feature piece, “Peterborough’s character seeps through the art that can be found all around the city whilst exploring its streets. The art in Peterborough demonstrates the relevance to current issues that are happening both domestically and internationally.”