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A healing walk

The AGO Youth Council presents a series of virtual walks with local artists and community members through their neighbourhoods. This week's tour takes us to High Park with Otsíkh:èta.

Candy Blair

Otsíkh:èta. Image by Cassandra Esso.

In the midst of the pandemic, healing has been top of mind for many, be it physically, mentally or spiritually. This fall, the AGO Youth Council invites you to learn about some of Toronto’s neighbourhoods by taking a virtual walk in the shoes of local artists and community members. On October 7, you’re invited to Neighbourhood Walk: Medicines of Tsí Tkaròn:to with Otsíkh:èta (Candy Blair), curated by AGO Youth Council member Em Farquhar-Barrie.

Otsíkh:èta is a mixed First Nations/European Two-Spirit, interdisciplinary visual and performing artist with roots in Tio’tía:ke (Montreal) and Tsí Tkaròn:to (Toronto). On October 7, Otsíkh:èta will lead a virtual tour through Toronto’s High Park, discussing common medicines found on the land and their health and wellness benefits. 

We sat down with Farquhar-Barrie to learn more about the event and the neighbourhood they described as having a “mystery healing history”. 

Em Farquhar-Barrie

image courtesy of Em Farquhar-Barrie 

AGOinsider: What does the term neighbourhood mean to you?

Farquhar-Barrie: While everything around us has been designed and thoroughly thought about, urban space can often be a harsh environment in which many people may feel unwelcomed. Neighbourhoods, to me, offer community within these urban places of isolation. Neighbourhoods are places that we can create together and honour each other. They can be safer in welcoming and engaging everybody. It is a place that we want to be a part of in learning and caring for, as well as a place to share memories and build community.

AGOinsider: Do you think art plays an important role in community building?

Farquhar-Barrie: Absolutely! Art plays a very important role in community building. By bringing different people together through the arts, there are many opportunities for everyone to learn, simply just by being together and sharing space. Artmaking is a living, creative method that brings people together, and in doing so, supports people including those living on the margins. The arts provide many opportunities in creating a sense of belonging, acceptance, and inclusion and allows everyone’s voice to be heard. Through mapping our journeys we can learn how our intersections work together in ways that develop meaningful relationships so that we can build the world we hope to inhabit.

AGOinsider: What has being part of the Youth Council, especially during this time, offered you?

Farquhar-Barrie: Being part of the Youth Council has offered many connections including those to myself, my culture and of course the art community. The Youth Council is encouraging and supportive of me stepping outside of my comfort zone and trying new things. During this time especially, the Youth Council has provided me with a sense of purpose as well as something to look forward to each week.

AGOinsider: What do you hope viewers of your Neighbourhood Walk through High Park will take with them?

Farquhar-Barrie: I hope this Neighbourhood Walk encourages people to open their eyes, mind, and heart to learning about the healing properties of nature. In learning about some traditional approaches of Indigenous plant-based medicines, I wish for people to gain a greater appreciation for acknowledging and caring for Mother Earth. With it being a virtual walk, I hope viewers will take the time to get out on the land, to explore their own neighbourhood and build relationships with their plant relatives.

You can catch all the Neighbourhood Walk events on the AGOYOUTH Instagram. The next walk in the series will be through Chinatown with Florence Yee, curated by Nara Wrigglesworth, on October 14.

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