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Volume 28 Issue 6 | Summer 2023

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Fast start to the summer and it just keeps going: Luminato walks with Little Amal; the Historical Organ Society comes to town; composer Carmen Braden is keeping busy; Phil Nimmons turns 100; TSM's metamorphosis; and check out live links in ads, listings and our easy surfing directory of summer festivals. See you August 30 for Volume 29 no.1

COVER STORY Puppeteers

COVER STORY Puppeteers and school children rehearse for Little Amal's very first walk at the Boschendal winery in Franschhoek, South Africa, September 2020. “Don’t Forget About Us” VIDEO: ALIDE DASNOIS WALK WITH AMAL at Luminato Festival “Amal” is an Arabic name, translated to English as “hope”. “Little Amal” is a 12-foot-tall puppet of a ten-year-old Syrian refugee girl, created by Handspring Puppet Company. “Walk with Amal” created by The Walk Productions has made Little Amal into a symbol for human rights, and specifically refugee rights: since July 2021, Little Amal has walked 9,000 km in 13 countries looking for her mother, following the same tremendously dangerous route that millions of refugees of the global majority take by foot. Now Luminato Festival is bringing Little Amal to the Greater Toronto Area from June 7 to 11, for 13 Walk with Amal parades, spanning Brampton to Scarborough, and colouring Toronto’s concreteand-condos aesthetic with vibrant, celebratory arts of all forms. Each walk will tell a particular story in Little Amal’s quest, and every walk will be a unique worthwhile experience, with completely different arts. If you are lucky enough to go see them all, you will have the opportunity to know the full theatrical journey of Little Amal’s story. NATALIE FASHEH TAKU KUMABE Why bring Little Amal to Luminato? I chatted with Luminato Festival’s artistic director Naomi Campbell and producer Caroline Hollway about Walk with Amal. Campbell shares: “When I first heard of it… it had an attraction immediately to me, both as a beautiful art project that was obviously going to have a tremendous impact, and that was telling a really important story for our times. I got to experience the magic of the Naomi Campbell creature herself in New York in the fall. It’s transformative.” The other great appeal of the project, she says, is how many other people it can include. “We’re working with dozens of organizations and hundreds of artists. We can take her to different parts of the city. Anybody who happens to be passing by is just going to stop in their tracks and go ‘what is going on? Who is she? And can I participate?’ Professional artists, community artists and the general public can all be on the ground together at the same level, and be part of the same event.” Hollway points out that half of the world’s refugees (15 million people), are minors. “I think we as a society really need to be thinking about how we embrace people who come to our shores. They come here because we are lucky enough to have land and a society that can welcome them.” The public is increasingly questioning the value 10 | Summer 2023

of the arts in our communities. Walk with Amal’s grounding of art in life, art for everyone, and art as a medium for our communities’ sustainability, is a reminder of its value. Window into The Walks This is possibly one of the most widespread arts events Canada has experienced: Multiple organizations – almost 100 collectively across the five days – are involved in each parade. For Luminato, Walk with Amal shows the power of creating cross-organizational support networks, for more widespread audience engagement and for more meaningful service to our communities. Each parade has a lead artist who is curating it. Hollway described Luminato’s process of bringing together partners for each location. They started with identifying the areas where most refugee families live. Then they invited refugee-inclusive organizations there to collaborate. Inevitably, each invited organization would ask Hollway to invite several more in their network, and the list of collaborators grew. Hollway was amazed at the pre-existing network of social, and governmental organizations already working together to support people with refugee status. Rather than asking whether or not they could join, Hollway asked “How would you like to be involved?” paving the way for participants to envision their own artistic collaborations for each walk. This highly participatory, process-based approach to planning Walk with Amal is intriguing, in how it might allow more fruitful multicultural artistic collaborations. Radical Joy Joy and celebration are at the core of Walk with Amal, with energy and sheer artistic beauty. “She will be honoured with songs, gifts, and with flowers, and all sorts of things,” Hollway said, because most participating organizations want to focus on the joy: “Those who migrate here also need to celebrate their lives. They need to have music, they need to have friends.” This radical joy is what transports audiences to an alternative reality of what could be possible for our city. A Syrian refugee I connected with offered this thought: “Just like little Amal, I’ve been roaming this earth for ten years looking for a place that I can call home again…she represents a whole generation of people who, in spite of their will, left everything they had ever known, and had to rebuild themselves, taking pieces of the countries they visited with them, in the hope of finding peace…The label ‘refugee’ does not define us. We are citizens of the world despite what we went through and where we came from. [Amal] reminds us that what people call ‘casualties of war’ are not just numbers. We are your neighbours, your friends, and possibly your family. Having a symbol like her gives us hope and makes us feel seen and heard despite the politics and the agendas.” In keeping with this focus on joy, the more sobering realities of difficult refugee migration are less explicit in the parades. So is there a danger that audiences will misunderstand the full extent of the refugee crisis? Luminato Festival has an education kit on its website, which deepened my Migrant route to Germany compassion toward migrants. However, it does not offer insight into the difficulties, and particularly the racism, refugees of colour face. In some of the Walks, Luminato is also partnering with War Child and Médecins Sans Frontières to provide educational and action information, including Médecins Sans Frontières doctors occasionally demonstrating some of what they do in real time upon refugees’ arrivals. How do you find a balance between radical joy and struggle? What about Music? “There cannot be a parade without music!” Campbell says. “I’m interested in Toronto not just being downtown. The range of communities that we have is so often expressed through so many different kinds of music in Toronto.” She mentions the significance of having musical performances by professional artists with refugee status. Having racialized refugee artists on Luminato’s stage provides a sense of worthiness and respect for the wealth of culture they bring to Toronto, stretching racial barriers despite their marginalization. There is a great variety of musical genres and styles being showcased at each parade. There are various choirs involved in the walks, alongside instrumental ensembles and professional bands from across the GTA. The classical music industry typically assumes white eurocentric music-making to be the definition of excellence. Walk with Amal steps out of the holds of this white aesthetic idealism, with classical musicians being only a part of the overall professional music programming. This pluralism in artistic curation is a leap in the right direction, showing the possibility of leaning into what makes Toronto – the most multicultural city in the world – so beautiful. What is Little Amal’s legacy? This question is on the Walk with Amal website, so I posed it to Campbell and Hollway. “We’ve done some blind dating” Campbell gleefully shares, talking about how Walk with Amal includes them connecting organizations that would otherwise not meet, in the hope that this would spark future collaborations between them. How can hope, as a fine sentiment, translate into action for social legacy in the city, specifically in regard to the organizations in the 13 parades? Campbell points me to an insight expressed by Amir Nizar Zuabi, artistic director of the Walk: “There are places that this 12-foot-tall 12TH ANNUAL MAY 29 - JUNE 4 2023 NATURALLY 7 COUNTERMEASURE MEZZOTONO CELEBRATES THE MUSICAL ALL-VOCAL VERSIONS OF FAMOUS BROADWAY SONGS FOR INFO AND TICKETS AND MORE, VISIT: NO BOUNDARIES Summer 2023 | 11

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