One year ago, seven heroes began a journey to venture through universal themes of life, including ancestral history, home, learning, artistic expression, spirituality & healing, justice and migration. These “Natural Leaders”—with backgrounds from a multitude of countries worldwide—met monthly at the Multicultural Health Brokers Cooperative to connect through painting, storytelling and letter scribing. As months passed, a big question emerged: how can this journey grow our communities and society at large?
The Edmonton Heritage Council has embarked on an experiment called Edmonton Living Rooms. Thirteen Community Animators have been hired from these seven communities—the Bhutanese, Eritrean, Iraqi, Kurdish, Sierra Leone, South Sudanese and Syrian. These talented youths have undergone training to create welcoming spaces for listening to elders, parents, aunts, uncles and young ones share their lives. From this listening they will be charged with creating pop-up exhibit experiences that encourage narrative exchanges with Edmontonians across the city.
Goals & Intent
There have been many ebbs and flows as we grapple with the project’s intent. At the onset was a desire to recognize privilege and power dynamics through challenging our living assumptions.
Heartwork is at the core of this project and an ongoing necessity in communities. How can exchanging life stories with one another help us see eye to eye, heart to heart? How can we all grow from stepping into vulnerability and owning the narratives that have made us who we are today? How can sharing set us free?
Broadly speaking, the goal is perhaps threefold: to think about our assumptions, feel the empathy move us to compassion and conduct acts of service for one another.
Where We’re Headed
March has been about sharing lives together: 7 communities, 5 gatherings each, a round of 35 for a deep dive in narrative growth. Reflections on these gatherings coming soon!
April will feature a series of narrative exhibits to be held on weekends throughout Edmonton. Want to stay in touch on how to get involved? Subscribe to the EHC Update newsletter or follow the project on Facebook and Twitter.
Through May and June, the group will work together on the design and production of a larger traveling intercultural Edmonton Living Room exhibit led by Exhibit Designer Marina Hulzenga.
Beginning in July and continuing to December, look out for Edmonton Living Rooms traveling across the city through several venues and communities. We’ll have more information soon on where to find us.