Friday, February 10, 2017

The Flying Canoe Festival

The Flying Canoe Festival last weekend at Millcreek Ravine and La Cite Francophone was AMAZING! It was seriously so awesome that I went both nights! In fact, I am kicking myself for not knowing about this festival sooner in my Edmonton life. 

 As the website states, the Flying Canoe festival is a creative and interactive cultural event designed to celebrate local history and everything that is great about a long winter’s night. It is inspired by the legend of The Flying Canoe and French Canadian, First Nations and Métis traditions. This event celebrates Edmonton's beautiful Mill Creek Ravine and I definitely agree that the gorgeous landscape is on display and makes the festival feel like an outdoor adventure! As well, the lanterns from Dylan Toymaker are mindbogglingly beautiful! I want one of his lanterns so bad! In fact, when walking from the school to the ravine, individual houses even had lanterns up, which they had made at a workshop a week earlier! Talk about community spirit!!!

One other cool thing about the festival is that there are story tellers throughout the spaces, and not only do you learn about the legend of the Flying Canoe, but you can see people in canoes, and evil wolves with red eyes, stalking the canoes! The energy was electric, and even though the weather was freezing cold, if you dressed warm and stayed active, it was totally worth it! 

I also really appreciated the celebration of First Nations and Métis culture. The tepees and drumming circles were amazing, and I enjoyed not only the hauntingly beautiful singing, but the free tea and bannock too! 

My pictures of the event did not turn out, but luckily I have tons of good ones from my amazing friend Trae Duh! Thanks girlfriend! 

Here are pictures taken at the school, which was lit up wonderfully, with constantly changing colors! 

Wee! Slides! 

La Cite Francophone had live DJs outside! And so many awesome colors! 

These lanterns lit the pathway to the Millcreek ravine!  

The flying canoes! 

First Nations Camp

Millcreek Ravine, in all of its natural glory, and illuminated by Dylan Toymaker's gorgeous lanterns!

Father Winter! 

We also flew a canoe! 

The next night I attended with Chad and his son, and so we had another amazing night, this time with more children's activities.

Some of Chad's awesome shots are below. As you can see, lots of k
ids being kids and jumping in snow!

 Community lanterns!

Free horse drawn wagon rides! 

Why can't city parks always look like this?

Some good ole' fashioned dancing fun! 

Cool illuminated dresses! 

While this year's event is over - in the future, make sure to hit up this festival filled with lights, music, winter magic and more.

Art Gallery of Alberta

After the Chinese New Years Festival, Chad and I headed to the Art Gallery of Alberta to check out some new exhibitions. I was amazed at how much things had changed since we were last there, probably about 7 months earlier when they had "The Indian Group of Seven." And, in fact, I think many of the exhibitions have changed since we were there only a couple weeks ago! Turnover is great! That means you can visit more often and never get bored :)

By far the most stunning and fantastical exhibit was The Vessel by David Altmedj. I'm pretty sure that hanging and assembling the strings would have taken the patience of a saint and a ton of time! I loved the molded body parts including hands and noses, and there were lots of stones and gems too. The way the body transformed into a moving swan was quite stunning. The exhibit was huge too! It took up an entire room, and so pictures can't really capture the entire scene. The piece looked very different depending on the angle. 

When I studied the exhibit, I could actually see what the artist was talking about in terms of energy:

“What inspired The Vessel was a movement. The movement of something that retracts a little, to gain energy just before throwing itself forward. Like a wave that draws back and swells with water and energy, and is about to crash; or the movement of an arm that is about to throw an object.” 

Photos by Chad Baba

The artwork below was interactive and collaborative. Visitors were allowed to move the strings and add new ones, to create an original mural inspired by the Vessel. 


Sadly, I did not capture the names of all of the exhibits and artists, but Chad did capture some wonderful photos. This sculpture has amazing angles:

The painting below is from Edmonton artist Paul Freeman, who is the artistic director at the Nina Haggerty. I loved the vibrant and vivid colors! The piece really popped! 

I also found a "self portrait." When I saw the painting below, it totally reminded me of myself. The blond hair and corn husk body! Even red wine stained teeth! A true Redcliff girl! Thank you Patrick Cruz for discovering my essence.  

The artist featured above and below had an enormous exhibit, which took up two huge walls and reminded me of how I used to decorate as a teenager when I covered every single inch of space in my room. I LOVED it! I am obsessed with all of the colors, and there was so much to see in each individual painting! I created a collage using some of my fave pics in the piece, and assembled it below:

Right now admission to the art gallery is less than ten bucks as there are some exhibition closures on the first floor. It's truly a nice place to visit while downtown. In addition, the art galley is always hosting cool events, such as yoga and art classes for kids. Not to mention - even the architecture of the art gallery is amazing! Appreciate art folks, it's there to be admired! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Year of the Fire Cock!

Happy Chinese New Year Everyone!

This was my first year getting out to Chinatown and celebrating the New Year first-hand! And - in case you don't know -  2017 is the Year of the Rooster! The "Fire" Rooster in fact! And I sure did see lots of sparks :)

What I did not know about the Chinese New Year is that firecrackers are EVERYWHERE! I was imagining a parade in my head, but instead, I was able to see dragons and lions dancing around and performing rituals, and tons of firecrackers being set off in front of all of the wonderful businesses.

I was amazed at the noise! It was so exciting!!! 

                          Photo credits: Chad Baba

Not only were firecrackers being lit on long strings all over the place (often with balloons and confetti attached for extra pop and crackle), but participants were able to light little ones too! 

Here I am, about to blast-off my first firecracker! 

It's amazing how loud and scary they can be! And when the hit your shins - they hurt! 

But totally worth it! 

Chad's celebratory dance after lighting a whole strong of firecrackers! 

We were lucky enough to see a dragon dance! 

And there were lions too! They would enter the stores to bring good luck, and jump for lettuce! 

See the lettuce hanging above!

I had to use Wikipedia to find out the reason why the lions jump for lettuce!

During the Chinese New Year, lion dance troupes from the Chinese martial art schools or Chinese guild and associations will visit the houses and shops of the Chinese community to perform the traditional custom of "cai qing" (採青), literally meaning "plucking the greens", whereby the lion plucks the auspicious green vegetables like lettuce either hung on a pole or placed on a table in front of the premises. The "greens" (qing) is tied together with a "red envelope" containing money and may also include auspicious fruit like oranges. In Chinese cǎi (採, pluck) also sounds like cài (菜, meaning vegetable) and cái (财, meaning fortune). The "lion" will dance and approach the "green" and "red envelope" like a curious cat, to "eat the green" and "spit" it out but keep the "red envelope" which is the reward for the lion troupe. The lion dance is believed to bring good luck and fortune to the business.
In the old days, the lettuce was hung 5 to 6 metres above ground and only a well-trained martial artist could reach the money while dancing with a heavy lion head. These events became a public challenge. A large sum of money was rewarded, and the audience expected a good show. Sometimes, if lions from multiple martial arts schools approached the lettuce at the same time, the lions are supposed to fight to decide a winner. The lions had to fight with stylistic lion moves instead of chaotic street fighting styles. The audience would judge the quality of the martial art schools according to how the lions fought. Since the schools' reputation were at stake, the fights were usually fierce but civilized. The winner lion would then use creative methods and martial art skills to reach the high-hanging reward.
It was very cool to see the lions jump up for the lettuce, and then throw the leaves around! 

I encourage everyone to check out the Chinese New Year festivities at some point! They are a "BLAST!" 

And make sure to eat some dumplings and noodles afterward, as we did! You know, for luck! The dumplings at Urban China were outstanding!