“Red Night, Black Night” – Martha Batiz

the red coat_szente-szabo akos

The last thing I saw — Mother, torch in hand, racing back home at the skirts of the volcano.

The sky was dark and grey—an impenetrable shade of grey, darker than night yet cruel enough to let you see as if through a veil, fight for breath, scampering for your life.

I watched her leave me. Begged her to stop, to run away with me. The gods had made the earth tremble. Made the volcano spit out its burning-hot entrails. We’d been trained to read the signals in the sky and below our feet; we’d been taught to fear the gods’ wrath—to be ready.

Nothing prepared us for what happened.

It had all started many moons before, I was a child, yet I remember. When they arrived—foreigners with tall, four-legged beasts, wearing clothes stronger than obsidian knives and bones—we took them in. We admired their skin, rosy as a seashell, their hair like threads of gold, and the weapons they called “swords,” which we had never seen before.

You cannot carve anything that long out of stone.

We thought they’d been sent by the Feathered Snake, Quetzalcóatl, our long-lost god who promised to return bringing blessings.

We were wrong.

They brought sickness and pain; the urge to take away, to dispossess. Forced us to give up our land, our freedom, and our beliefs.

It was too late when we discovered they were not gods, because our gods had appreciated the gift of fresh beating hearts. Our gods had given us rain and sunshine; crops grew and we were satisfied. But, those creatures had skin that blistered up and turned red and vulnerable under our sun; they pushed us to the ground, took our bodies, and then despised us; they were thieves who dug holes in our land and took everything precious, offering nothing in return.

So, it was time for war. Our men fought while we danced. And we prayed for forgiveness, for we had been forced to betray everything we had been, everything we had believed in. Then, our rivers turned red, and so did the sky.

We were not absolved.

Smoke opened an endless night as the earth trembled. As I saw her leave me, torch in hand. Me and my red dress—made in advance to mark our victory—were left alone. Alone, and drowning in the dust of loss.

these words by Martha Batiz were inspired by the work of Akos Szente-Szabó

“White Paper,” by Keah Hansen

Endangered Bird #131.jpg

Brother Bird alights on the silver birch, branches siphoned off from the moons with the frazzle of leaves. Golden leaves that lace the night, and the crinkly coins of the newcomers seem mawkish compared to these yellow hands coursing with veins and sugars. They wave incomprehensible at the new hands, which are different, all white and papery, pockmarked and brine-stained after a journey in a strained wooden frame. These hands are weaving into the woods uncouth and unwanted, gesticulating with the urgency of papers that make crisp noises as they fall into neat stacks on a knotted wood desk. They are dizzying themselves amongst these leaves that are falling from the birch. They are blanketing the grounds in smooth white words all flat and stark. The leaves are browning and returning to the earth. Winter is setting in.

Brother Bird thinks the spindly limbs of the trees seem ethereal from way up in the vapour. The white sheets with marks blackened by some unfortunate quill feather read like an ambiguous pattern. And the voices, which nest among the trees, seem strangely silent. Brother Bird thinks he sees tracts of smoke creeping westward from the shores, though the gales of wind are moistening his eyes and humming auspicious in his ears. The season of snow is bound to pass, says Brother Bird, giddily to himself. The air is brusque and flapping papers up, loose from their death grip on the grounds. They dissolve within the frail wisps of sunlight hitting Brother Bird’s head.

Centuries passed and the smithy whiteness blew through the trees, prying the bark back with all the soft power of snowflakes. Sap soldered with this milky presence, which poured all its white ink into etching the soft underbelly of the trees. There are new names now and the first peoples are dogs that bark. Or stoic like the trees, so the papers say. Then a white paper descends from some federal courier and is acclaimed for its difference. This paper ought to be peopled with leaves from when the first storm blew through. Pulling the pressed leaves out of dusty yellowed spines of books and planting seeds in the margins. But the paper that is published offends like blots of lead, or clammy hands in a handshake. White hot rage settles and Brother Bird swallows another bitter seed.


this short story, “White Paper, was written by Keah Hansen 

and inspired by Juan Travieso’s “Endangered Bird #131”  

from the author: “I wrote this piece about the White Paper Act of the Trudeau government of 1969. I was inspired by different modalities of expression, represented in the layering of the artwork. The layering of the artwork also made me think of erasure and censorship, which occurs when cultural worlds clash, and the irony in a paper literally titled the ‘White Paper’ that was intended to give representation to Indigenous peoples.”

On Colonialism in Edmonton: “Here”


On First Life: “Here”

Look Here.  At the house in the sunlight

The light that is rising or falling on the house

The house that is the First Space

We imagine being in.  Look Here at the light that

Sets everything on fire in making and unmaking You

Visible.  Is it making You

Unforgettable or unimaginable?  Where is Here?


Here is a place

Of imagining pain, of forgetting pain

Of weapons that look like light

Light that conceals by throwing shadows on the snow

Light that lets Us pretend We don’t know

What Here is, where Here is, who was Here.


You were Here.  You are Here.

Here being Yours, We come always

Like light

Spreading silently.  Here being

Where We learn how to hear or not hear

The dying You.  Here being

In Our imaginations.  Our imaginations being

Where You are always drunk, always obscene, always

Too much and too many to be seen.  Here being

Where Your space and voice and people sink into shadows.  


Look Here.  The house.  The First Space.  The Vastness.  

What are We if We are Here

Where You continue to make noise

Where We cannot hear You without knowing

That We have been murderous

That We continue to be murderous

That We are infected with murderous light

Light that hates to see

Light that divides the First Space, the First Life

Light that is diseased with difference and destroys


Light that runs knives along the earth’s splayed bodies

Light that makes and unmakes Here.  


Where is Here? Here is

Where My light continues to rise and fall on

You.  Here is

Where the edges of the living

Find the edges of the dying.  

these words by Charles Gonsalves were inspired by the colour of Sarah Williams

From the author: “I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta.  One thing life in Edmonton exposes is the still-very-much-alive hatred and violence enacted upon First Peoples in Canada.  The degree to which this behaviour is normalized in the everyday gazes, thoughts, and speech of Edmontonians is disturbing—and something that I, as a youth and young adult, have been implicated in.

Unlearning—unmaking the weapons with which we so easily, so automatically harm people—is part of our responsibility as settlers and a process that is necessarily uncomfortable, difficult, and destructive.  This poem reflects on the sustained presence of systemic colonial hatred and violence in Canada and takes a few premises about place and pain for granted.*  

-To have pain is to have certainty.  To witness pain is to have doubt.  To doubt or ignore someone’s pain amplifies their suffering.

-To inflict pain on a body is to destroy that body’s world, voice, and self.  To inflict pain on many bodies (a people) is to destroy that people.  

-The distance between the person(s) in pain and the person(s) observing or inflicting the pain is impossibly vast, and can only be occupied by the imagination.

-Home is the First Space.  Home is where we learn to imagine.

-The First Space is sacred.  

-We are destroying everything that is sacred.  Our homes occupy the imaginary space between the bodies in pain and the weapons.

* I owe these ideas to Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain and Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space.  

Montreal’s Tam Tams Is Textbook Cultural Appropriation

Montreal is known for its summer festivals, such as the weekly drum circle around Sir George-Étienne Cartier’s Monument that occurs every Sunday. Thousands of people gather on the park’s lawns to listen and dance to the rhythm of the hundreds of Tam Tam players gathering to form an incredible drum circle.

Drum circles have shamanic origins, and have been used for centuries by aboriginal peoples around the world in order to celebrate their connections with each other and the Earth.

The nature of the drum circle, with no head or tail, suggests inclusivity.

To witness the Tam Tam festival in Mont-Royal Park is to see solidarity within a group that in appearance has little in common, yet that has the desire to share rhythm and create a collective sound.

However, the fact that this circle takes place on unseeded Kanien’kéa:ka and Algonquin nations territory reminds us of the colonial components of the current festival.

Cultural appropriation takes place when a group of people belonging to a dominant culture adopts the traditions of a historically oppressed culture.

Though the participation of settlers in a drum circle or a potlatch may at first glance seem inoffensive, one must take note that these very traditions were outlawed by the Canadian government not so long ago in an effort to suppress the existence of aboriginal culture.

The appropriation of the drum circle by settlers is confirmation that colonization is an ongoing process in Canada. Attempting to conceive of white Europeans as apolitical participants in colonialist practices is impossible. Choosing to ignore settler impact mirrors the logic behind colorblind racism: ‘Race doesn’t matter, because thinking about my privilege makes me uncomfortable.’

Failing to recognize the appropriation of aboriginal culture during the weekly Tams festival is proof of the persistence of the settler colonization mentality – the same mentality that refuses to recognize the residential school system as a genocide.

Wayside crosses, like the one on Mont-Royal, are an important component of settler heritage: there are more than 3000 in the province. These crosses are not only proof of a material culture symbolizing religious belonging, but evidence of the first colonial occupations by the French, starting with the first cross planted by Jacques Cartier in 1534 – who was the first European to climb Mount-Royal and give it its name. Tams’ drum circles take place in a park footed by this cross.

Settler colonialism in Canada originates with the very same Jacques Cartier, who, in one of his most infamous interactions with the aboriginal peoples, went so far as to ruse and abduct Iroquoian Chief Donnacona and his sons, bringing them to France to serve as circus attractions.

The juxtaposition of the Mont-Royal’s wayside cross, a symbol directly linked to Jacques Cartier, above a dancing group that is formed by a majority of settlers is a textbook case for cultural appropriation in North America. If you are a settler show your solidarity by not participating in the drum circles at Tam Tams.* 

Jiliane Golczyk is originally from Red Deer, Alberta, but has lived in Belgium, Chile and Turkey. She will be beginning her Master’s in International Affairs at Sciences Po this fall.