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Screening and conversation with artists: INHABITING THE NORTH
Hosted by e-fagia visual and media arts organization

Thursday, October 29 at 6:30pm
Yyz Artists’ Outlet
#140-401 Richmond St. W, Toronto, Ontario M5V 3A8

E-fagia is pleased to host a screening of the performance video Inhabiting the North followed by a conversation with Gita Hashemi and other participating artists on Thursday October 29 at YYZ Artists’ Outlet. The video is part of Voz-a-Voz, currently on exhibit. We’ll screen it from beginning to end (1hr 26m).

When Sayyida Salme bint Said (a.k.a. Emily Said Ruete, 1844-1924) published her memoirs in German in 1886, Germany was only fifteen years old and Canada was nineteen. A daughter of the king of Zanzibar and Oman, Salme had left Zanzibar of her own volition at age twenty-two following an affair with a German merchant with whom she later married and had three children.

From her entry into German society, Sayyida Salma became the object of curiosity and rumour. Hers was one of only two inter-racial marriages in the public eye. She was represented as having been rescued from harem life, and held up as an example of how an “uneducated” and “backward Oriental woman” could be transformed into “a respectable German woman” through conversion to Christianity and European dress and education. Sayyida Salme wrote her memoirs for her children to learn about their mother and her culture of origin in the “East/South.” She decided to publish it to bring in necessary cash after her husband died in an accident. She used her memoirs as a platform to critique the culture in the “West/North.” When Sayyida Salme left Zanzibar, only ten percent of Africa was under European control. By the time her memoirs were published, European powers had colonized nearly eighty percent of Africa. She did not see European ways as superior to her own culture’s, and questioned European states “forcibly imparting their civilization” on other people.

Inhabiting the North is the second in a series of embodied reading and writing performances in Gita Hashemi’s larger project Passages ( that consists of a series of site-specific collaborative performances incorporating 18th and 19th century writing by travelers from “the East” to “the West.” Inhabiting the North was performed on March 27, 2015 at Beit Zatoun (, a Palestinian cultural centre in Toronto. It was staged as a dinner gathering, collaborative performance and participatory conversation, bringing collaborators from treaty and indigenous communities together with an audience of women and trans women invited through community networking. The feast was prepared by diverse artists, activists and community groups and was an integral part of the performance that also included a reading of Sayyida Salme’s memoirs against the backdrop of a video projection journaling my travels through a winter landscape on Turtle Island. The reading was punctuated with critical questions that prompted cross-generational and cross-cultural conversations among the participants about critical issues in Indigeneity, migration, settlement, education, culture and gender in Canada.

The performance was broadcast live on the internet and recorded. Also projected were videos of the food preparers as they worked and talked about the cultural significance of the dishes they brought to the feast, and the role of food in social relations and communal welfare. The evening ended with a short video of the 2015 Toronto Strawberry Ceremony for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls ( as the event raised funds for It Starts with Us ( project.

Inhabiting the North video combines the different elements of the live event into a stand-alone narrative.

Written, produced, directed and edited by Gita Hashemi

Readers: Sarah Abu-Sharar, Zainab Amadahy

Food artists: Salma Al-Atassi, Claude Awad, Azar Masoumi, Nicole Tanguay

Discussion moderator: Diane Roberts

Additional food by women of Regent Park Catering Collective and Johl Ringuette (Nishdish).

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About The Author

MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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