Since 2021, Embassy Cultural House has partnered with Words: The Literary and Creative Arts Festival in London, Ontario, to collaborate on a range of events that have been timely and inspiring. This year, Words is celebrating its 10th anniversary, with an amazing lineup on the way! Congratulations to Josh Lambier, Artistic Director of Words and the volunteer team for their commitment and efforts to bring this creative interdisciplinary program to London.
Words returns to Museum London for the 10th anniversary festival, featuring a hybrid program of onsite and online events to build resilience as we confront the crises of our moment with creativity and care. Embassy Cultural House (ECH) has partnered with Words on some key events, in order to highlight Canada’s finest artists, performers, and authors.
Taking place in November of 2023, the festival will host over 40 writers and artists and will revolve around the theme of “Crisis, Creativity & Care."
Words is open to everyone, and most events are either free or by donation.
With Words, we're pleased to host bestselling author and Globe and Mail health columnist André Picard at our November 3rd opening event. André is a leading voice on the impact and consequences of COVID-19 in Canada. He has reported on the pandemic from a wide range of perspectives concerning public health. How strong is our healthcare system? What challenges can it withstand? What lessons have we learned from COVID-19? Journalist and filmmaker Janice Zolf will join André to talk about his award-winning coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath.
On Saturday morning, November 4th, we are also pleased to feature a conversation between Don McKay and Sally McKay on their new children's book, The Rock Box. Larry Towell will join us for a performance, accompanied by Mike Stevens and Anne Lindsay, in Museum London's auditorium later that night at 7 PM. Sunday afternoon, November 5th, Don McKay will join Jane Munro for a poetry reading and conversation.
There is an exciting lineup of readings, interviews, talks, and other interactive events with some of Canada’s most recognized thinkers, writers, and artists. While some events are either strictly online or onsite, the majority have a hybrid option for in-person or online participation! Follow the appropriate registration links below to join ECH and Words!
Get Your Tickets for Opening Night!
Embassy Cultural House and the Words Festival are pleased to present an evening performance with acclaimed photographer, poet, and performer Larry Towell, who will be joined by harmonica virtuoso Mike Stevens and award-winning fiddler Anne Lindsay!
This one-hour performance of original ballads employs Larry’s photographs, video, and songs of protest and conflict from Central America, Palestine and Afghanistan to Ukraine, Standing Rock and Mexico, tied together by the theme of dispossession.
Mike has played at the Grande Ole Opry more than 300 times and toured with world renowned musicians from Nashville’s Jim and Jessie to Canada’s Matt Anderson. He is founder of ArtsCan Circle bringing music to First Nations children in the north.
Anne Lindsay is an award winning fiddler/violinist, vocalist, and a master of diverse styles who has recorded and toured with bands and musicians from Led Zeppelin to James Taylor, Jim Cuddy, Blue Rodeo and others in a long and diverse career. She brings a breath of her own fresh air to the stage of live music.
The event is also a book signing for The Mennonites, the recent re-print of Larry’s classic book, as well as "The Man I Left Behind", a three vinyl record set of original songs. It is also the name of his soon to be released feature length film.
Larry is the only Canadian member of Magnum Photos, founded in 1947 by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa.
Register on EventBrite to Attend In-Person Free
Embassy Cultural House and Words are pleased to present a visit with acclaimed poet Don McKay and artist and illustrator Sally McKay, who will join us for a lively discussion of their collaboration on a new children's book, The Rock Box.
You might be surprised by a piece of quartz next to the butter in the fridge, or a lump of peridotite between the cushions on the sofa. There was sandstone in the hall and lava in the bathroom. It was, Petra thought to herself, a lavatory, after all.
Petra loves rocks, and collects them with a passion. She keeps them in her bedroom, in the kitchen cupboards, between the cushions of the living-room sofa, even in the bathroom medicine cabinet. Petra’s parents do not love rocks. At least, not as much as Petra does. To convince her to winnow down her collection, her parents offer her a wonderful treasure—a rock box, with a selection of the rocks and minerals found in her home province of Newfoundland and Labrador. But, wait, is one of those rocks winking at her? Acclaimed Canadian poet Don McKay creates a charming tale of geology, deep time, and connection in his first children’s book.
Register on EventBrite to Attend In-Person Free
Register to Attend Online Free: Zoom Webinars
Words and Embassy Cultural House are pleased to host a visit with the artists and curators of GardenShip & State for a launch of their exhibition catalogue.
GardenShip and State: A Book is a World
Featuring: Patrick Mahon, Jeff Thomas (Co-curators),
Katie Wilhelm (Designer); Ruth Skinner (Editor) Tom Cull, Michelle Wilson (Contributors), and Marlene Creates, Patricia Deadman (Respondents)
How do art book publications represent worlds and propose world-making? This gathering of curators, artists, designer/editors and writers will address the ways art projects can lead to the production of catalogues and books as archives of cultural materials that act as references and touchstones for ongoing work towards positive change and transformation. Curators Patrick Mahon and Jeff Thomas will be joined by collaborators and book producers, Tom Cull, Ruth Skinner, Katie Wilhelm and Michelle Wilson, to trace the journey from the GardenShip and State exhibition to its published iterations as a book and an almanac. The conversation will be enhanced by responses and stories from Newfoundland-based artist, Marlene Creates, and Curator of the Woodland Cultural Centre, Patricia Deadman, who will share some of their own tales and evidence of other publication-making journeys.
For the full program of GardenShip and State events, please visit the event page!
Register on EventBrite to Attend In-Person Free
Register to Attend Online Free: Zoom Webinars
We have received a range of responses from the community in regards to the ongoing catastrophe in Gaza, and are grateful to everyone that has reached out to share their concerns, critiques, and support. ECH received this statement by Riwaa Abuquta, a young writer from Gaza, who sent her statement to Deborah Root here in Canada.
From Deborah Root
October 17, 2023
Riwaa Abuquta is a 29-year-old writer in Gaza, living in Rafah along with her family. She became a writing mentee a few years ago and we've since become friends, staying in regular touch. We’ve continued to speak over the last few days, via What’sApp (when she’s able to get a signal). Conditions are increasingly dire, with some people trying to desalinate water by soaking potato pieces to draw out the salt (it doesn't work). She wrote in a message: "Every morning we get up feeling like we're drowning." Yesterday Riwaa asked me what people in Canada are saying about Gaza, so I sent her the October 16 ECH statement. That ECH statement is giving her and others in Rafah the hope that they are not as alone as they feel in the midst of the siege. Last night she wrote her own statement, an amended version of her Facebook post of October 12, editing the piece through the sound of falling bombs. She asked me to pass it along to ECH, so we can understand how someone on the ground in Gaza is thinking. For Riwaa, writing is a way of giving, and of communicating with people outside Gaza as she does her best to survive.
Essay on Gaza by Riwaa Abuquta
October 16, 2023
As we mourn, we are committed to educating and raising awareness about our challenges.
What would happen if you built a refuge for persecuted people in a place where other people already live?
In the next few minutes, you'll understand why this moral dilemma lies at the root of the struggle. The moral dilemma of building a refuge for persecuted people in an already inhabited place leads to conflicts like the Israeli-Palestinian situation. In this case, the foundation of Israel as a Jewish state resulted in the displacement of indigenous Palestinians. The conflict continues today with millions of Palestinian refugees longing to return to their homeland.
Many Jews fled harsh persecution in anti-Semitic Europe, notably during the Nazi Holocaust. Zionists encouraged massive immigration to Palestine, at that time a British colony where Jews had an age-old connection and where small Jewish communities had long existed among larger groups of other indigenous peoples. When the UN offered the Jewish immigrants the majority of the land for a new state called Israel, for the indigenous Palestinians who already lived there, it was the massive destruction of life. They rejected the UN's partition plan, and several Arab states invaded the newly established Israel. By the end of the struggle, Israeli forces had erased over 400 Palestinian villages and towns. Israel controlled 78% of Palestine.
When over three-quarters of a million Palestinians who fled or were expelled during the fighting tried to return to their homes, the Israelis permanently barred them. Over 100,000 of their relatives and neighbors who had not left became second-class citizens of the new state called Israel, alongside the new Jewish majority. Today, the number of Palestinian refugees and their descendants is in the millions, with most residing in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Jordan. Many are dispersed across the world, with millions still living in refugee camps, longing to return to their homeland. To sum up, while one group of Zionists founded their home as they claim, in the process, a new group of refugees was created.
Now, here's the second thing to understand:
The Vision of Palestine
Israel was founded as a Jewish state, but now ask yourself! What exactly does that mean? People had lots of ideas about what a Jewish state should look like. Some called for equality for all citizens, but what was created in practice was institutional discrimination against non-Jews. In other words, Israel ended up being built on a blueprint of exclusion; the Israeli government wants maximum land and resources for Jews but not the Palestinians living already there. That's why inside occupied Palestinian lands, Jews get special privileges including rights to land and housing that are denied to the Palestinian citizens who already live there. This exclusionary blueprint also led Israel to avoid defining its borders. It continues to hold on to the West Bank and Gaza, occupied in the 1967 war. Since then, Israel has built Jewish settlements throughout the occupied West Bank, building Jewish-only cities and supplying them with infrastructure like; roads, army camps, schools, and colleges.
Military occupations are meant to be temporary, yet after over 70 years, this one appears permanent and unjust. In the West Bank, Israeli Jewish settlers and Palestinians share the same land but live under two entirely separate and unequal systems of Israeli law. Jewish settlers dominate natural resources, such as water and agricultural land, with the support of the Israeli army, while Palestinians experience the demolition of homes, land confiscation, and subjugation in Gaza. Resistance is met with raids, arrests, and assassinations, all aimed at; expanding land while making life so difficult for Palestinians that they will either leave or be too afraid to resist.
Palestinian Resistance and the Quest for Peace
Palestinians have fought back for decades, they tried to achieve national liberation through armed struggle. Some support popular protest instead of fighting and see this cycle of control, repression, and violence deeply harmful to Palestinians living under occupation. To reach a peaceful and secure future for us as Palestinians, they want this cycle to be broken.
Now that we have explored the problem, what about the solution, What about peace talks!
So far, over two decades of US-backed peace talks have actually made things worse by supporting Israel to continue the occupation. It's been years of talking while Israel massively expanded the Jewish settlements and literally redrew the map. Peace talks are good if they're real, but not when they're a theatre to cover land confiscation.
So, what's next?
The United States has been a terrible friend, enabling Israel's expansion onto Palestinian land by funding the Israeli military—the world's largest recipient of US foreign aid.
However, there's another superpower that can make a difference—You. Hundreds of thousands worldwide are engaging in protests, education, divestment, and boycotts.
Gaza's Humanitarian Crisis
Since the 7th of October, a dire situation has engulfed the people of Gaza. The region has been plunged into darkness as electricity remains cut off, making daily life an arduous challenge. Access to the internet is limited, water is scarce, and life-saving supplements are out of reach. Amidst this grim reality, a mass evacuation has been initiated, with many from the northern areas seeking refuge in the south. The streets have become makeshift bedrooms for countless families, exposed to the ever-changing weather conditions. What makes this ordeal even more heart-wrenching is that most of these displaced individuals have no relatives in the south to turn to for support.
Schools, now overflowing with people seeking shelter, offer a meager six bathrooms each, an unimaginable predicament given the sheer number of occupants. In these cramped spaces, men, women, elderly citizens, children, pregnant women, and the sick all share these facilities. Adding to the misery, there is no water or electricity in these overcrowded sanctuaries, and food is in short supply. Despite the adversity, there is a glimmer of hope as people rally to help one another. Neighbors and communities surrounding the schools are pooling their resources, scraping together money and food to provide nourishment for those in need. Certainly, it's impossible to fathom the situation in the coming days. The uncertainty and challenges continue to mount. In the face of these hardships, people are displaying remarkable resilience and solidarity. They're sharing whatever little they have with one another, whether it's food, water, or any available resources. However, as the supplies deplete, the situation becomes even more critical. When the limited resources are exhausted, and desperation deepens, the community comes together with a collective plea for help.
It's a heart-wrenching reality where the people of Gaza find strength in unity, knowing that their survival depends on the compassion and assistance of others. In previous attacks, the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) had taken control of the situation and provided assistance, but this time, their resources are severely constrained, leaving the people of Gaza more vulnerable than ever. The struggle for basic necessities has become a daily battle. Families must spend entire days searching for water, even finding just a small gallon is a victory. In previous conflicts, aid and support arrived quickly once hostilities commenced, but this time, it seems that the flow of assistance has been stifled, leaving the people of Gaza in a precarious and dire situation.
Please try to educate yourselves before posting/sharing viewpoints or being “Pro-peace." While advocating for peace is a universal desire, it is crucial to recognize that everyone shares this aspiration. It does not require an exceptional level of insight. However, it is vital not to engage in discussions without a comprehensive understanding of the matter at hand. The primary aim should be to enlighten the global community about the historical context and the events that have unfolded over the past seven and a half decades.
Don't stay silent or neutral.
Plan to keep reading and continue to educate yourself as well before making statements. Concerns about potential limitations imposed by social media algorithms, the possibility of posts being restricted, or the risk of losing followers should not dissuade individuals from voicing their support for the Palestinian cause. The paramount goal is to raise awareness and disseminate knowledge about the historical injustices that have been inflicted upon the Palestinian people for decades. These collective efforts are aimed at exerting international pressure to address and rectify the severe human rights violations that Palestinians experience. The ultimate aim is to advocate for justice and a lasting resolution to halt human rights violations against Palestinians.
As the crisis in Gaza rapidly deteriorates, we condemn the ongoing violence against innocent Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
From Jewish Voice for Peace, comes this alarming news; “In the past week, Israel has dropped more bombs on Gaza than the U.S. did in a year of war on Afghanistan." The continued siege of Gaza and the withholding of food, water, electricity, and humanitarian aid is in total violation of international law. These acts amount to an imminent genocide that must be stopped.
We stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza.
We stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine.
We continue to receive news on this issue and we would like to highlight this statement from Dar Yusuf Nasri Jacir for Art and Research, a grass-roots independent artist–run initiative based in Bethlehem:
Vigils, marches and protests are taking place on our street on a daily basis which are met with violent aggression incurred by Israel’s army and their war machines. Our space has sustained damages as a result of this. We have secured Dar Jacir for the time being and remain off-site. The situation in the West Bank remains under lockdown, with Israeli incursions nightly, and settlers roaming around armed and killing innocent people.
At this time all the focus and solidarity must be with Gaza. We urge you all to support Gaza. For those asking for trusted organizations to support our people in Gaza, we recommend looking through this list.
and these poignant lines by Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008):
Where should we go after the last frontiers?
Where should the birds fly after the last sky?
(From “The Earth is Closing On Us")
We encourage further reading to give context to this catastrophe:
- From Yumna Patel and Mondoweiss Palestine Bureau at Mondoweiss: “'Operation Al-Aqsa Flood' Day 9: Water is running out in Gaza, Israel continues to prevent humanitarian aid"
- From Faisal Bhabha, Faisal Kutty, Muneeza Sheikh, contributors to Toronto Star: “The right side of Mideast crisis is that of humanity and international humanitarian law"
- From Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME): “Responding to Misinformation and Hatred"
- From Jewish Voice for Peace: “Jewish Voice for Peace calls on all people of conscience to stop imminent genocide"
- From Al Jazeera: “Which countries have criticised Israeli attacks on Gaza?"
- From Friends of Sabeel North America: “Statement from the Sabeel Ecumenical Palestinian Liberation Theology Centre"
- From Jewish Voice for Peace: “Genocide, ethnic cleansing, and another Nakba in Palestine"
- From On Canada Project: “Israel's apartheid against Palestinians is a crime against humanity"
The Embassy Cultural House expresses our profound grief as we mourn so many lives that have been lost since Hamas launched its horrific attack on Israel on Saturday October 7, 2023, which led to the massacre of Israeli civilians, and the kidnapping of hostages. Israel's subsequent retaliation on Gaza, has also led to the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians.
The magnitude of Israel’s devastating response and the impact of this war on both populations, including innocent children being killed and injured, will have lasting consequences. Both Israeli and Palestinian innocent lives have been lost to this senseless violence in this latest conflict.
We hope for an immediate release of the hostages held by Hamas and a ceasefire, so that a dialogue can begin towards establishing peace and stability for all those affected by this conflict both on the ground and those who are further away.
Please consider giving to the Canadian Red Cross efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the violence: Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories - Canadian Red Cross
In the words of Francesca P. Albanese, United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territory:
“I am profoundly convinced that while we cannot turn the clock back and make fully right the wrongs punctuating the past of that tormented part of the world that we learn to call Israel/Palestine, there is a just way out." - “Protecting Human Rights in Occupied Palestine: Working Through the United Nations", Richard Falk, John Dugard, Michael Lynk, 2022
From Maya Pontone at Hyperallergic, “After Hamas Assault, Israeli Strikes Destroy Mosques and Buildings in Gaza."
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