Today’s blog comes from Zahra Ebrahim, Lake Superior Provincial Park’s 2022 artist-in-residence.
It was the spring of 2022 when I received a phone call from Friends of Lake Superior Park informing me that I had been selected as one of two 2022 artists-in-residence.
Lake Superior has played a very important role in my life.
When I was young, my family immigrated to Canada from Kenya and made Vancouver our home.
Growing up, the Pacific Ocean was a companion that helped me feel a deep sense of place and belonging in a city and community that had not yet understood how to embrace intersectional and racialized families.
The waters of the Pacific provided a connection to the coastal waters of the Indian Ocean in which my family grew up and served as the backdrop for some of our most memorable moments.
Fifteen years ago, I moved to Ontario and ventured into its spectacular landscape. But it wasn’t until the first time I camped on Lake Superior that I felt the same sense of place and belonging that I feel on the West Coast.
Lake Superior has been an ointment, a respite that helped me find reconnection with myself, my family, and the broader community of the natural and spiritual world.
Being selected as an artist in residence seemed like an important moment to deepen that connection, to find a way to thank the land and my more-than-human relatives for all it offers, but also to take the opportunity to decolonize my own artistic practice.
In the months leading up to the residency, I was inspired by the wisdom of Indigenous artists and writers like Suzanne Kite, Ange Loft, and Robin Wall Kimmerer.
I decided to focus my work during the residency not only on creating a visual representation of the landscape, but on finding ways to listen to its stories, dialogue with more-than-human beings (plants, animals, stones, etc.), connect to ancestors and communicate those stories and conversations in a combination of words, images and drawings.
Katherine Cove Beach was one of the many inspirations for my residence.
I chose to compile all of this in the form of a magazine, a medium that has historically been used as a platform for less heard voices to express themselves without the limitations of mainstream media.
Zines provide a vehicle for ideas, expression and art. They build connections between people and groups, providing modes of communication as well as dissemination of information.
First in a series of data portraits where I captured my rhythms and activities of the day. Portraits from each day can be found throughout the zine.
My intention was to focus on the process before the result, intentionally listening to the land and making offers and commitments in return.
Equally important, it was an opportunity to recalibrate my approach to the “community engagement” that permeates all aspects of my professional and artistic practice, and to learn how to move beyond dialogue exclusively with humans.
I spent eight straight days at Agawa Bay Campground (my favorite place on Lake Superior).
The work each day was to slow down, pay more attention to my own rhythms and those of the beings around me, and better position myself to be a listener.
On days it rained, I spent time in our tent listening to the sounds of the rain and learning about the stones I had found that day: unakite, milky quartz, basalt, brecciated jasper, and serpentine.
Meet rock personalities, offers, special characteristics to create a more reciprocal relationship.
**Please note: Visitors are invited to explore the provincial parks and are asked to leave them as they were found for others to explore. It is prohibited to remove any natural object from a provincial park.**
On bright mornings, I block out printed drawings of the lake’s contours, appreciating the many curves and soft edges of this powerful (and sometimes intimidating) body of water.
Linocut prints made at the Agawa Bay camp showing the curvature of the shore of Lake Superior. It serves as a way to honor the earth, drawing its curves with intentionality and love (inspired by Ange Loft)
On warm afternoons, I retreated to the cool shade of the trails leading out of camp and learned from the incredible team at Ontario Parks how to use our senses to connect more deeply with the natural world around us and appreciate the little microworlds within. . worlds that live in mosses.
And on clear nights, we spent the evenings by the fire with the moon, enjoying all the ways she plays with the landscape.
Following the lunar phases during the time of residence in July 2022
As part of my residency, I had the opportunity to lead a public program for park visitors, a small workshop inspired by Ange Loft’s Treaty Guide for Torontonians.
The public workshop was provided during the residency to help support others in creating a visual appreciation of the land and developing an awareness of giving back to the beings of Superior.
We draw the things we appreciate about the lake and the land, write all the things we love about these particular elements, and then make commitments and offers in return.
The session attracted park visitors of all generations, inspiring conversation about the ways we all connect, through our deep love of Lake Superior.
Finishing the magazine
In the months following the residency, I began putting together the “pages” one by one, trying to better honor the depth of connection I felt with all the more-than-human beings of Lake Superior, and the zine emerged.
The beauty of the zine as a result of this process is that it can be reproduced at low cost, making the art accessible to many and a non-harmful way to take home a part of the park experience. If you’re lucky, you might be able to get a free copy next time you’re in the park!
The final magazines, assembled and ready to be mailed to Lake Superior!
Another wonderful aspect of creating zines is that it is a living work of art, that can continue to evolve and change over the years, shared and co-created by many, that produces no waste or uses toxic materials.
Appreciating the park
Next time you’re on Lake Superior, recognize that while we may consider it serene and tranquil, it is an active home to so many people—a vibrant, cacophonous metropolis of many-worlded ecologies, systems, and beings—that we are privileged to share space. with.
In a 2022 talk at the EYEO conference in Minneapolis, Suzanne Kite shared that if a rock comes to you, they want to tell you its story.
If you get the chance and the opportunity arises, slow down and listen. You will be surprised by the stories they will share.
In 2023, Friends of Lake Superior Park will support tattoo artist Alex Berens as an artist in residence. Alex’s residence will be centered on the forest floor.
Alex will be in Agawa Bay in early August presenting two nature diary programs for park visitors.