LAND/TRUST: A Conversation across Turtle Island and Palestine

Qais Assali, Justin Ducharme, Whess Harman, Wanda Nanibush and Rana Nazzal Hamadeh
Queer Film Festival
November 11, 2021. 16:00

In this powerful screening and panel, filmmakers Indigenous to Turtle Island and filmmakers from Palestine share how they negotiate complex and intersecting relationships to land, home, queerness, labour, art-making, and representation. This program featured a land acknowledgement presented by Layla Black and a panel with filmmakers Qais Assali, Justin Ducharme, Whess Harman, and Rana Nazzal, moderated by Wanda Nanibush.

7 min, 2020 (Palestine / Turtle Island)

A short film on the substance of our original lands. Weaving between the voices of the artist’s parents, the film is personal, yet evokes a shared Palestinian experience. The “something from there” is never named, though it is at the heart of the narrative. Is it a piece of land? The soil? The remains of our ancestors? The distinction between land and body is not made, and rather, something from there focuses on the power of memory and symbols to revive a denied homeland, defy official histories, and counter the settler colonial impetus to erase any assertion of Indigenous life.

Rana Nazzal Hamadeh is a Palestinian-Canadian artist immersed in community organizing both on Turtle Island and in occupied Palestine. Her photography, film, and installation works look at the complexity of decolonial disruptions, combining storytelling with critical analysis to draw links between lived experience and broader systems. Rana holds an MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University and currently works with prisoner justice groups in Palestine.

POSITIONS, Justin Ducharme
12 min, 2019, Unceded territories of the xwməθkwəyəm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples

A simple and naturalistic approach to a day in the life of a two-spirit, male sex worker as he visits his clients. Positions is an unapologetic and realist exploration of sexual desire, the quest for financial stability, and the pursuit of agency over one’s own body.

Justin Ducharme is a filmmaker, writer, dancer and curator from the small Métis community of St. Ambroise on Treaty 1 Territory. He is the writer/director of four short films and is currently in development on his debut feature. Justin was the recipient of TIFF’s Barry Avrich Fellowship and is an alumni of their 2021 Filmmaker Lab. His writing has been featured in Canadian Art, Room Magazine and Prism International Magazine. He currently lives and works on Unceded Coast Salish Territory.

DAWOUD, YA YONATHAI داوود، يا يوناثاي،, Qais Assali
6 min, 2020, United States

Using methods of disidentification, queer embodiment, and queering history through queer temporalities, this performative video is an embodiment of Palestinian educator and Arab nationalist, Khalil Al Sakakini, who kept his diaries since 1907. Am I so desperate, Khalil Al Sakakini, to out your dead body, to drag you out of the closet or the grave? This personal question plagues my research, simulating a desire to read Al Sakakini’s lamentations for his “soulmate”, Dawoud, borrowing poetic biblical language, redubbing and conflating his dear friend “David” as Jonathan, who died during Al Sakakini’s one-year trip to Brooklyn through an economic depression, داوود، يا يوناثاي DAWOUD, YA YONATHAI.

Qais Assali is an interdisciplinary artist/designer born in Palestine in 1987 and raised in the UAE before returning to Palestine in 2000. His works with photography, video, performance, and in the archives seek to engage and subvert national geopolitical power dynamics. He is currently an Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Digital Design at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee. Assali taught in visual communication at Al-Ummah University College, Jerusalem, and at An-Najah National University, Nablus. He was a 2019-21 Core Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He was a 2018-19 Artist/Designer-in-Residence for the Critical Race Studies Program at Michigan State University.

LAND/TRUST, Whess Harman
17 min, 2021, Unceded xwməθkwəyəm (Musqueam) territory

LAND/TRUST is a performance piece between Whess Harman, a member of the Carrier Wit’at nation (federally amalgamated under the Lake Babine Nation by the colonial government), and the ancestral, unceded territory of the Musqueam people. The performance takes place in what is now known as Pacific Spirit Regional Park, a park established in 1989 as a natural forest preserve. Originally envisioned as a performance on the artist’s home territories, the work evolved into a hopeful request for the land to help carry grief across the distance between the home made, and the home that is difficult to return to.

Presented by Embassy Cultural House in co-operation with Dar Jacir; grunt gallery; Queer Caucus at Western University, London Ontario; Woodland Cultural Centre.

Whess Harman is Carrier Wit’at, a nation amalgamated by the federal government under the Lake Babine Nation. They graduated from emily carr university’s BFA program in 2014 and are currently living and working on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh as the curator at grunt gallery. Their multidisciplinary practice includes beading, illustration, text, poetry and curation. As a mixed-race, trans/non-binary artist they work to find their way through a tasty plethora of some kind of undiagnosed attention deficit disorder, colonial bullshit and queer melancholy. To the best of their patience, they do this with humour and a carefully mediated cynicism that the galleries go hog wild for.

Wanda Nanibush is an Anishinaabe-kwe image and word warrior, curator and community organizer from Beausoleil First Nation. Currently Nanibush is the inaugural curator of Indigenous art and cohead of the Indigenous + Canadian Art department at Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

Part of Queer Film Festival organized by Embassy Cultural House and Toronto Queer Film Festival (Ontario). In cooperation with: grunt gallery, Dar Yusuf Nasri Jacir for Art and Research, Queer Caucus at Western University (London, Ontario), Woodland Cultural Centre

Dar Yusuf Nasri Jacir for Art and Research
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