Land(ing) is a project that was born out of a story shared with us by a newcomer. It is a powerful narration of a journey that started in one home and ended in the search for another. For many newcomers, the story of their landing in Canada is one that they never forget. But it is also the memories of their home land that continue to bring them comfort and hope as they navigate their land(ing) in their new home. 

“As she told me her story, I thought of identity and belonging and I thought of what her home, her house, and her land all meant to her, and how she’s still trying to find her place, still trying to “land” if you will. For me, Land(ing) speaks to that continuing process of trying to land on your two feet in a place you can call home, and it also speaks to the value of the land itself, wherever that might be.” – Reem Ali, Workplace Integration Liaison, New Canadians Centre

Earlier this year, the New Canadians Centre (NCC) joined forces with a multi-arts ad-hoc collective of Peterborough artists to create a radical and joyous expression that reflects and honors this story and the incredible journey that New Canadians face when coming to Canada. The Common Threads Collective (CTC) represents emerging and established artists, New Canadians and settlers; most of whom are women. These artists are connected through their belief in using art for social change, and a passion for investigating how to activate artistic skills to directly benefit members of our community facing barriers and lacking accurate representation in the arts. 

Following a series of meetings last winter/spring, CTC developed an approach to activate this newcomer story, which will initially include facilitating a series of workshops over the fall of 2020 and winter of 2021 in partnership with the NCC. This will then form the planning phase for an interactive multi-disciplinary installation performance slated for the summer of 2021. To support this project, the Collective was successful in applying for and receiving one of this year’s Artist in Residence spots at Public Energy Performing Arts as well as independently securing funding from the Ontario Arts Council Artists in Communities and Schools Projects to compliment this planning phase.

Now the fun begins!

As we move ahead with planning our workshops, our goals are to:

  • engage NCC clients with professional arts programming
  • offer New Canadians an artistic expression that is representative and honors their stories
  • creatively educate the greater public about the complexity of seeking refuge and the challenges New Canadians face in Canada
  • create an engaging, challenging, multi-disciplinary immersive performance that animates aspects of the newcomer experience. 

Land(ing) will offer the following workshops:

  • text as a graphic in performance textile design by textile and multi-disciplinary artist Leslie Menagh
  • two-phase introduction to puppetry by puppet artist Brad Brackenridge
  • movement and text by theatre artist and writer Kate Story
  • dance and expression by dance artist, movement therapist, and newcomer Mithila Ballal
  • community-engaged storytelling by theatre artist Peyton Le Barr.
Photo by Brad Brackenridge

We hope that the workshops delivered in the various fields offered by the Collective’s artists will build the skills and forge the connections that will then become the basis for the larger presentation in 2021. Newcomer participants and youth will be prioritized, with participation also open to non-newcomer community members. The artists also hope that this phase will offer them an invaluable education from which they can move into the production stages with a deep and complex understanding of the communities this project is serving, and a fuller vision for the final project.

Emerging youth filmmaker and newcomer Shahed Khaito will create a filmed documentary of the project for an extended act of social awareness, with a focus on displacement and mental health. A film screening and Q&A with the artists will be planned early next year.

Land(ing) will engage all the senses to bring audiences into the newcomer story that has been shared, and further activate a sense of compassion, gratitude, and unity. The project will also offer newcomer participants a strong and uncompromised voice, forging and strengthening relationships with settlers during a time when many in our community face racism and xenophobia. This project will be educational for some, validating for others, and necessary and impactful to all of Peterborough.

Our gratitude and appreciation go to the artists of the Common Threads Collective whose efforts in securing funding and passion for Peterborough and the arts will now make Land(ing) possible. We would also like to thank Public Energy Performing Arts for hosting CTC as one of their Artists in Residence for 2020/2021, assisting with the delivery of the workshop phase of Land(ing), and supporting the Collective through and during the production of the final installation performance. And of course, to the Ontario Arts Council – thank you for your financial support and for believing in the importance of this project for our community. 

Stay tuned this fall for workshop announcements on Public Energy’s and the NCC’s social media.

Written by Kate Story, with contributions from Reem Ali.