Creating Health with our Hands and Voices
In January 2021, Parkdale Project Read launched launched the online programming series, Creating Health with our Hands and Voices (CHHV) in collaboration with janet romero-leiva (Mural Artist and Community Arts Facilitator) and Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone (Drummer, Singer and Storyteller).
The artists facilitated visual art activities and hand-drumming and song circles. Adult literacy learners, of all levels, joined the weekly program and practiced health and wellness through creative expression. CHHV ran from January-to-April 2021.
About the Artists
Aqua Niibi Waawaaskone,
Drummer, Singer and Storyteller
“This project closely aligns with my goals as an artist and a community builder. To be a part of this project that aims to bring healing and community connection to residents in Parkdale is a wonderful opportunity that helps me build my artist practice as a skilled community-engaged artist facilitator.
As an Indigenous Arts Facilitator and Traditional Knowledge Keeper, I work with all walks of life and abilities. Using music, sound, creation, and art to explore old ways of knowing has proven to work so well in the world of literacy. There is a reason that children are taught at a very young age to learn through rhythm; because we walk with rhythm everyday...our heartbeat.
As an Indigenous hand drummer, hand drum maker, and hand drum carrier, I allow the heartbeat of the drum, mother earth, and ourselves to deepen our connection to our inner knowing and Indigenous knowledge.
The beautiful community that has been created at Parkdale Project Read is holistic and diverse, including Indigenous cultures from around the world. I have had the privilege of working in this community and know that the drum is the centre of all Indigenous cultures. It awakens spirit, creativity, inspiration, and motivation.
My circles bring us back to oral teaching methods that have existed since time in memorial. The drum heals. We must heal before we can go forward.”
Mural Artist and Community Arts Facilitator
“I wish to contribute in creating a gentle, kind and loving creative space for participants with or without prior arts experience to find ways of expressing the complexity of human emotions in relation to healing, trauma, recovery and mental health.
Through writing and drawing we will look for the ways in which the practice of making art opens up space often stifled by the responsibilities and challenges of the everyday – going to work, parenting, navigating a foreign city and culture, learning a new language, dealing with racism/homophobia/sexism/etc.
I am fortunate that in my daily job I work at an art studio with people with lived experiences of mental health and addictions. I continue to be amazed at what a difference even spending 20 minutes a day making art can create in the life of an individual. Sometimes just being around others making art seems to suffice and bring a different and welcomed perspective.
I have been engaged in this kind of work for many years, working with various communities; LGBTQ2S, homeless and under-housed people, violence against womyn sector, children, youth and elders, latinx community, folks with mental health and addictions and newcomers.
I hope to continue to bring arts into the community as a tool of healing and resilience that participants can take with them beyond their participation in the spaces we share.”
We acknowledge generous support from the Toronto Arts Council