This Sistahood isn’t about any “Travelling Pants”

Vancouver event highlights link between art and social activism.

Credit: Sony Music Entertainment Canada Inc.

Pictured: Zaki Ibraham

Think of feminist icons, and Public Enemy’s raw, abrasive beats probably don’t come to mind.

But rapper Chuck D is a key inspiration for Sistahood Celebration, a Vancouver-based celebration of local, national and international artists held to promote awareness of International Women’s Day (March 8) and highlight links between art and social activism.

Sistahood Celebration: March 8–28

The festival runs March 8–28. For the full event schedule, visit:

? Watch: Ora Cogan’s album release party for Habouring on March 12 at the Biltmore

? Watch: Zaki Ibrahim at the Biltmore on March 19 or during JunoFest on the weekend of March 27–28

? Read: Favianna Rodriguez, her art and the Oakland Eastside Arts Alliance Center

? Watch: Favianna’s recent Mexico City art collaboration, as documented by VJ Reed Rickert

? Listen: Chuck D’s Air American Radio show “On The Real”

Chuck D connected with festival organizers when speaking in support for women participation in hip-hop during a 2008 event in Vancouver. At the time, he was promoting Byron Hurt’s film Beyond Beats and Rhymes, which examines masculinity, sexism, violence and homophobia in hip-hop culture.

Now in its ninth year, Sistahood follows a similar aim in working to bring together artists and local communities to discuss strategies for integrating community development with artistic practice. This year’s theme, Future Ancestors, highlights both the history and the future of progressive social movements.

At the festival’s March 8 launch party, Art, Resistance and Community Transformation, artist-activist Favianna Rodriguez gave a workshop about how the Oakland Eastside Arts Alliance Center she co-founded combines arts and community programs with social housing—one potential model for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

I caught up with two performers to ask their thoughts on the festival’s theme and the role of art in social justice.

“[Sistahood’s] theme this year is Future Ancestry, and I think the reason why I’m a good fit is that I come from such a diverse background and blend together so many different influences… I think there’s a lot of people like me in Canada that struggle with identity and experience… [With Future Ancestry,] that sense of foundation and strong culture—that’s something I can relate to…What we’re doing now is exactly that: building our ancestry, building whatever our culture is.”
—Singer Zaki Ibrahim, who also performed at Sistahood in 2006. Her new album, Eclectica (Episodes in Purple), was nominated for a Juno Award as R&B/Soul Recording of the Year.

“[This year’s theme] gets us thinking about things in terms of generations in general—how what we’re doing now affects our children and grandchildren… With our generation, I tend to come across a lot of apathy in terms of politics, and a lot of cynicism. I think people are become more aware, but not necessarily getting engaged… The connection between art and social justice is a complicated thing. Art is not necessarily married to politics, but what people do in general, everything we do is in some form a political statement—whether apathy, indifference or activism. [As is] coming to and getting involved in events like Sistahood.”
—Ora Cogan, experimental folk singer-songwriter


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