Canadian Folk Artist Maud Lewis

This is the story of a small woman and a small, small house in Mashalltown, Nova Scotia.

 

Marshalltown, NS

Sometimes it’s the simplest of tales that turn out to be the most fascinating; “Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis spent 32 years of her life in a one-room house on a secluded dirt road in Nova Scotia” (Alexxa Gotthardt, June 2017).  This Friday past, my younger sister came over to spend the night, and the two of us stayed up to watch Maudie, a film neither of us had yet seen.  I didn’t know about Maud Lewis (1903-1970) before Maudie; I had borrowed it from the library after bumping into it unexpectedly, because I liked that it was based on a Canadian artist. It may not seem like the makings of a remarkably compelling plot, but for me, it was one of the most wondrous stories I’ve had the privilege of being told.  Maybe you already know the story, and if you do, I am very glad of that. If not, I’d like to tell you little a bit more. Continue reading

Happy Hyggentines Day

It’s wintertime, hygge has officially been adopted into the English dictionary, and we’re all working really, really hard at this life thing.  Time for a movie night (bonus if it happens after a few hours in the snow getting absolutely as cold and exhausted as possible beforehand).  Nothing quite beats that moment when the lights get switched off, the popcorn is still hot, and the opening credits start rolling.  But what to watch?  What if you and your friends, or the people in your family, or your partner can’t agree?

There’s not a lot of crossover in the pool of movies that me and my sweetheart like.  He’s into faux-horror comedies, corny action-adventure films, dour action-adventure films, old dubbed martial arts flicks, James Bond movies, eighties classics, prison dramas, violent anime, grunge-cult legends, and generally films involving catch phrases, Indiana Jones, or heaping piles of cheesy, cheesy jokery.  Listing these is making me realize how much cooler his tastes are than I thought, but try as I might, I just have a whole other zone of engagement.

The are now two (count them two) movies in that tiny crossover zone, easy crowd-pleasers, and I’d like to heartily recommend the both of them, because maybe – just maybe – you’ll love them, too (also, it’s Valentine’s Day on Wednesday).

Without further ado, here they are:

The Last Holiday

How could anything that Queen Latifah touches not be awesome?  The Last Holdiay is one of those movies you can watch a hundred times and the movie only gets better for it.  It’s about a woman who finds out that she only has weeks to live, and decides to blow all her money to have the time of her life with the little time that she has left.  This, after decades of a mousy, shy, restrained existence.  It’s light, it’s funny, and it’s just plain good.

 

Intouchables (The Intouchables)

I can’t believe I actually liked one of “your French movies,” is what he said (or something like that) in the days after we watched it.  He was surprised, genuinely — but then, it is a great movie.  Based on a true story, and in French (with English subtitles, if desired), it’s the story of a wealthy aristocrat (who is quadriplegic), and the unlikely friendship that sprouts when he hires an ex-convict to be his personal caregiver.  It’s funny, it’s light, it’s deep, it’s fun, and it’s thoughtful.

 

Funny how I didn’t realize it until this very moment, writing this, but these two movies both have those qualities in common; taking a somewhat somber subject-matter and, without being irreverent to that premise, somehow telling a story that is full of good cheer and abundant humour: a story that is uplifting (without being hokey or overly earnest).  These are movies about embracing life wholeheartedly not despite, but almost because of the circumstances, flying in the face of tremendous hardship with what Jack Gilbert would call “stubborn gladness.”  Something to look for in other movies, perhaps. 🙂

Also, if Valentine’s is too loaded a holiday (which it kind of is no matter who you are), I suggest celebrating Hyggentines Day (I did totally make that up): essentially get cozy, be happy, and find some great people to share it with.

Black History Month: W.E.B. Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois (pronounced Due-Boyss) was a literary colossus: born in 1868, he was the first African American to earn a Ph.D at Harvard; one of the founders of the NAACP; a prolific author, essayist and editor; a visionary and architect of Pan-Africanism; and a model for authentic living. Reading and writing was illegal for African American slaves until 1865, causing many critics and cynics to question the legitimacy of slave narratives from giants like Sojourner Truth and Fredrick Douglass. Published in 1903 amid Jim and Jane Crow laws, The Souls of Black Folk, itself barely a generation removed from slavery, enlightens the 20th century with a prophetic fire. On August 28, 1963, MLK and hundreds of thousands of brave souls – of all colours, creeds, casts, and stripes – had a dream together. Ominously, Du Bois passed away the day before the March on Washington at the mystical age of 95.  His wisdom, though, reverberated within the crowd as they had a moment of silence for the Morpheus of their dream. It is thus easy for me to say that The Souls of Black Folk fuels my own dreams.

The Souls of Black Folk takes an unorthodox form: a collection of personal essays about Jim and Jane Crow Laws and their many insidious manifestations, expertly interwoven with slave sorrows and spirituals that preface each grand chapter. Du Bois begins Souls with a courageous proclamation that clairvoyantly frames the century at its embryonic stage: “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line.” In Race Matters, Cornel West reiterates that the problem of the twenty-first century remains the problem of the colour-line. One needs to only take a quick glance at the atrocities of the 20th century – and the failure of Western modernity – to prove Du Bois as an oracle of our epoch.

Furthermore, Souls continues to push our intellectual vision with another moving concept, double-consciousness: “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” Double-consciousness poignantly provides us with an ability to conceptualize our split identities, where our culture, race, religion, sexuality and/or a myriad of other factors are placed in juxtaposition to the norm. Double-consciousness, especially in a globalized world (and library), is increasingly relevant for us.

The Souls of Black Folk is, unequivocally, my favourite non-fiction book, and I’m confident in my assertion that it will continue to be my favourite throughout my lifetime. I place it as my favourite non-fiction book, as opposed to my favourite book, because of its subject matter. By highlighting its realness – in its lived realities, authenticity, and in the Hip Hop sense – I hope to lend you, dear reader, the encouraging fire that ignites in my belly when I think about this art piece—an art piece that blossomed from the profane when Jim and Jane Crow’s tentacles had a tight-knit clasp on American consciousness.

In the history of the English written word, so rarely has a collection of thoughts produced such profundity that applies to us all.

See below for more Du Bois:

The Souls of Black Folk

YA Biography

Adult Biography