My name is Ronnie Dean Harris and I am a media artist also known as Ostwelve. I come from the Stō:lo/St’át’imc/Nlaka’pamux peoples based along the Fraser River and immediate surrounding territories. I started my dream as a hip-hop artist back when I was 12 years old and by the time I was 15, I was hosting a radio show on COOP Radio and performing at events in Vancouver. I’ve since gone on to do other things and stuff…which can be found in a bio online somewhere…but for this series of blogs…I am an artist-in-residence or artist-in-community alongside Kelty McKerracher, who also has some blogs on here you should check out as well.
When Kelty approached me with the idea for this residency, I really had no idea what to think. The world of arts residencies is a new realm to me. After some great guidance from Kelty and Ellen at Britannia Community Services, I was set to explore the world of Britannia as a visiting artist. So as we dove into the idea around Box Of Light, we had to make some observations and then adjustments. While being a part of the East Van community as well as the Britannia community for years, I really didn’t know the community of Britannia as well as I thought. My recent experiences with Britannia would come in the form of performance and workshops with youth. So upon arrival of this project and our embarking on this journey of residency, Kelty and I were quickly taken by the many communities and what I’ve been calling “tribes” within the realm of Britannia community.
We then felt that in order to make some art that reflects the values and ideas of the community, we had to listen and hear the community. We then went out and met some groups. Our first groups were highly a social warming-up of interaction. As we assessed our engagement strategy and our intentions around this engagement, we had some early meetings with some youth groups that would prove to be very observational. From then I knew we had to engage in a different way. Ask more questions, provide more space for words and sharing as well as a system for recording and displaying this data. This is where my nerd-core skills as a rapper come in handy. I LOVE ideation and crunching data as a group. While hyper and hectic…it really helps me to understand the context of the groups information and thinking process as a group. We also had a new platform to work with through the Realms Of Refuge work Kelty brought to the table, so we adjusted and worked next with the seniors group and created some lovely ideation and work.
Using a system of word clouds and mind maps, we’ve been interviewing groups and doing public inquiries into the community asking very simple questions:
- What is this place? (Britannia)
- What do you love about it?
- What is your role here?
- What do you see?
From these questions we’ve been able to get a better understanding of what drives this community and what is at the core of its leadership and intentions around being a community. From these word clouds and mind maps we are able to condense the information down to a series of words. We then shape these words into a statement or poetic device. These words are built from the collective understanding of the groups around their identity, experience and love for their roles in the Britannia community.
The interactions have been very amazing for me. Seeing people contribute with so much heart and admiration for their roles in this community has been very lovely. To be trusted with this infomration is a great honour, and we look forward to shaping it into some more artistic creations of light for this box we are looking at in 2017.
Stay tuned for more updates and presentations of some of the work we are doing with the community. It has been a real activation of storytelling and learning for us and we are excited to share this light in a reverent way.
Thank you to everyone involved in making this project possible.
What do you love about Britannia?
What is your role here?
What do you see?
What is your tribe?
Can we come talk to you?
Leave a comment below!