Trailblazers: Photographers and Designers

Click here to read Trailblazers: Photographers and Designers at the Black to Business Magazine. (pages 11-12)


Northern Sights: Reykjavik

Click here to read Northern Sights: Reykjavik at SOAR Halifax

Less than three hours off of the plane and with only a few fitful hours of slumber, I was atop Pila, a member of the unique Icelandic breed of horses, meandering through a lava field. A peace settled over me as I soaked in the outline of ancient volcanoes in the distance and the stark contrast of deep black lava rock, rich green moss, and red and orange brush.

Eager to make the most of our time, my travelling companion and I headed straight from our horseback riding adventure to explore the city of Reykjavik. In a four-hour self-directed walking tour we took in an aerial view of the city, visited the harbour, talked to strangers and learned about Iceland’s history and art.

Day two we awoke before dawn for a 10-hour tour. Gullfoss waterfall, fed by a glacier, is full of twists and cliffs. The river rushes by, turns a bend, drops, then rushes onward again. The Great Geysir is a lesson in the joys of anticipation. The water bubbles and wavers, teasing and tantalizing until finally an eruption that could be missed by a turn of the head bursts to the sky. After eating bread baked from the heat of the earth, we walked along the ridges where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates separate by centimetres each year.

Day three we stopped off at the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport. I was hesitant, thinking it’d be too commercialized, but the natural beauty shone through. We swam in milky blue water, the temperature naturally oscillating from lukewarm to scalding and that perfect place in between. Gazing at the mist floating across the water and the lava rock surrounding me I lay back, a silica mud mask on my face, and truly relaxed. What a taste of Iceland!

Helping Hands

Click here to read Helping Hands at

Helping hands

Music for Good’s Sunday showcase will benefit The Themba Development Project in South Africa

by Charlene Davis

click to enlargeStone Mary's Christine Campbell donates her time and songs to The Africa Project

  • Stone Mary’s Christine Campbell donates her time and songs to The Africa Project

For a taste of up-and-coming artists, old favourites and surprises, head to The Company House on February 19 for a five- hour showcase of talent. The Africa Project, a benefit by Music for Good, features performances by Cassie Josephine, Stone Mary’s Christine Campbell, This Ship, Minus World and many more.

Music for Good is an organization that works as a liaison between charities and musicians to put together benefit shows. Founder Christopher Daw says there is a dual mandate: to help promote local talent and to raise money for local and international charities.

The Themba Development Project works through community in Thembalethu, South Africa to help prevent poverty by providing education and food security. Funds from The Africa Project will go to support the organization’s goals for 2012.

“We’re focusing on the same projects as before but also trying to add skill building and HIV education,” says Catherine Robar, the organization’s founder. TTDP’s original focus was on helping the people of the city of Thembalethu, but this past year the organization branched out to help a village school in Nqiningana. After completing that project and speaking with the community, TTDP came up with goals for 2012.

Robar says many people moved to Thembalethu from the villages after apartheid because with a lack of water, poor education and no jobs there was basically no economy. High HIV rates and poor understanding of the disease are also problems. “Rather than tackling the issue from a Band-Aid measure and working strictly in Thembalethu, we thought we would go back to the village area and try to address the problem from the beginning.

“This is not an Africa problem,” says Robar. “It’s a world problem. And I think that if we can all get together and work toward something, whether it’s donating fund dollars or donating skills, we can all make a huge impact.”

The Africa Project w/ Cassie Josephine, Christine Campbell, This Ship, This Sound Will Save You, Giverny “Roxy” Mercier, Ross Avey, Tyler Dempsey, Minus World, Natasha Peach, Two Foot Chop and more Sunday, February 19 at The Company House, 2202 Gottingen, 6-11pm, $7 suggested donation

Music video-makers in Halifax

Click here to read Music-video makers in Halifax at

Music video-makers in Halifax

Our tube sensations: Music video-makers in Halifax struggle to get their work seen and make a living doing it, part of the eternal battle between art and commerce.

by Charlene Davis

click to enlargeA still from Jessica Murwin’s video for John Hughes’ “Set Free.”

  • A still from Jessica Murwin’s video for John Hughes’ “Set Free.”

The dream for artists in any field is to get paid for following their passion. Some burgeoning Halifax filmmakers—combining their love of music with their love of film—are on the way to experiencing the sweet joys of getting a paycheque for something they’d do for the joy of it anyway.

Filmmaker Gavin Maclean’s music videos have all been made free of charge for his band, Glory Glory. Maclean’s first three videos, a trilogy dealing with themes such as humanity’s destruction of their environment, slavery and the mix of good and evil in everything, are all stop-motion productions. His fourth, out in March, combines his original style with live action.

Maclean hopes to branch out. “My deal is basically that I want to make videos for bands who can’t afford really expensive videos,” he says. “And because I’m learning it’s an opportunity for me to work with artists, build my skills and hopefully make cool-looking videos for them at the same time.”

Maclean teaches at a music school to pay the bills, but the word is getting out about his work.

Alex Cameron and Mike Hall are two filmmakers for whom “getting the word out” is the name of the game. Their site,, is “all about promoting musicians and getting them heard by people who wouldn’t necessarily hear them in the first place,” says Hall. “We don’t charge bands to do it.”

ByWordofMouthMusic currently shoots one-shot videos in collaboration with sound-mixers OmniArt Studios. The site is a hobby for Cameron and Hall, who are also members of the band Men About Town. “We just like to help people out,” says Hall. They’ve made some money from spinoff stuff, such as new clients for Hall’s job as a professional photographer or musicians wanting recording time with their friends at OmniArt Studios. However, their generosity sometimes incurs pretty big costs, such as travelling to Yarmouth to shoot videos during Nova Scotia Music Week. But it’s paying off: bands have begun asking the duo to film actual music videos and if they do pursue those opportunities, they hope to get paid.

Jessica Murwin’s original focus is in animation, short film and documentaries. She’s only recently started directing music videos and making money for it. Her video for Hind Legs premiered Valentine’s Day at Gus’ Pub to kick off the group’s upcoming tour. The first video she was paid for, John Hughes’ “Set Free,” made it on Neil Young’s web list of top 100 protest videos in the fall.

Music has always been a major part of Murwin’s life. She grew up in a household that always had some song playing, so she jumped at the chance to mix her love of film with her love of music. “One of the really interesting gifts in starting to work in music videos is starting to think about how the images or colours are there to react to the music in a way,” says Murwin. She likens it to synesthesia: “It’s almost this idea of being able to hear colours.” Murwin hopes to explore the idea more in future projects through incorporating animation. “Work a little bit to combine all these elements together,” says Murwin, “kind of like…a tasty film stew.”

For Murwin, music videos are the happy medium between corporate productions and fine art film. “You can be creative and you can kind of explore things with other artists but at the same time you earn a paycheque at the end and you can use that paycheque to continue to live,” she says, “which is really important if you want to keep making art!”

Correction: Thursday, February 16
We misspelled Jessica Murwin‘s name in the print edition of this story and in the earlier version of it online. It is has been corrected, and we apologize for the error.Video Links

Jessica Murwin’s video, Set Free

Jessica Murwin’s latest video, for Hind Legs

Gavin Maclean’s site

Alex Cameron and Mike Hall’s site ByWordOfMouthMusic

A Sudanese Lost Boy uses trauma to build a school

Click here to read A Sudanese Lost Boy uses trauma to build a school at OpenFile Halifax

Charlene Davis's picture


Jacob Deng with children from the Duk Padiet community, and their new goats. (Photo by Wadeng Wings of Hope)


January 17, 2012

The war in Sudan has ended, but Deng says the drama and trauma caused by it hasn’t.

“It’s living in us…it’s living in me,” says Deng. “The best way to treat myself is to help bring hope to those who don’t have hope.”

Wadeng Wings of Hope is a charitable society Deng says will “bring tribal conflict down by bringing children together.” The society has a number of projects, like giving out goats, sewing machines, and drilling a well—all in preparation for building a high school to serve an area of 70,000 people where the next closest secondary school is 200km away.

Wadeng means “better tomorrow,” says Deng, or “look into tomorrow, it will get better”—an idea that helped Deng survive during the war and push on toward a better future. These words, first spoken to him by his mother, helped him get through tough times as a child and in the refugee camp. “[Wadeng] is a way to bring hope,” says Deng, “many kids lost their parents. Many kids have lost hope.”

Canada-Sudan values by OpenFile Halifax

Education, says Deng, is the way to fight the hatred that was built during the war and the fighting that continues because of poverty, lack of education and focusing on cultural and religious differences. Education, says Deng, helps people provide for themselves and become secure and protected.

In order to start Wadeng Wings of Hope, Deng spent years volunteering, sleeping on couches and in basements, and telling his story across Nova Scotia. Deng focused first on speaking to children, and telling them what he went through as a young boy, and counted on them to go home and talk to their parents. “It was not easy,” he says, “but that’s how I started.”

Jacob Deng getting started by talking to kids by OpenFile Halifax

Wadeng would not exist today without the support of many people who helped and continue to help run the organization. Dr. Colin Dodds, president of Saint Mary’s University, has supported Deng and Wadeng throughout the years. “I don’t think it matters which country or society,” says Dodds, “education is the future.” Dodds believes the Wadeng school can change people’s lives. “[Deng] can do that, he can make a difference, one step at a time,” he says,

In order to continue making steps, Deng says he needs a lot more help. Because the area is landlocked, says Deng, to build one classroom in Duk Padiet costs about $25,000 US. Funds are available to start building two classrooms, but the plan is to have an eight-classroom school with a kitchen, dormitories and teacher’s quarters. They also need money for supplies, teachers’ salaries and general operating costs.

Sharon Beasley, volunteer board member and treasurer of Wadeng, says that because of the extreme cost to build the school, the organization needs to build upon the grassroots fundraising Deng has done to support Wadeng’s causes thus far. “We have spent the last four or five months working on a strategic plan and a business plan for Wadeng so that we can now start going out to corporate fundraisers and foundations to look for funding to build the school,” says Beasley

Support from individuals, however, will remain very important. “It’s time for us to focus on small organizations, bring one village at a time to the world stage…I want people to take risks with their money,” says Deng. “It’s not about donations, it’s not about aid. What I’m doing is I’m creating opportunity,” says Deng. “I’m not going to change Southern Sudan, I know that, but I have to do what I can.”

Wordrhthym: Teaching Northend Kids that poetry isn’t just rhymes

Click here to read and listen to Wordrhythm: Teaching Northend Kids that poetry isn’t just rhymes at OpenFile Halifax

Charlene Davis's picture


Shauntay Grant runs Wordrhythm Kids, a poetry group for kids in the North End. (Photo by Raul Rincon)


December 22, 2011

Click above for the audio piece “Wordrhythm Kids.” The text below is an introduction. The full story is in the audio piece above.

Children in the North End have the chance to dig deep and discover the poet within. Wordrhythm Kids is a new program focused on encouraging creativity through the written and spoken word.

Shauntay Grant , creator of Wordrhythm Kids and former poet laureate of Halifax, says “I really just wanted to create something that’s not a school based program and really talk about how there’s rhythm in language and story and song.”

Grant regularly goes into schools to do poetry and finds some students think poetry is going to be a chore. So her goal for Wordrhythm Kids is to let kids know that poetry is something to have fun with: “You can talk it, you can scream it, you can bang it from a drum—that’s what makes it exciting and I want them to have that same kind of excitement.”

The first session of Wordrhythm Kids, on November 3rd, was an hour of rhyme and imagination lead by Sheree Fitch . Hannah Colville, youth services librarian at Halifax North Memorial Library , says the kids “were excited, they were inspired, and they realized they could do poetry.” Grant led the second session on November 15th, which was an exploration in speaking poetry.

Sessions will continue in the New Year. Afua Cooper  will lead a session February 1. Cooper says she plans to teach the children to “come to their own voice,” letting them know they’re not too young to create and share poetry.

The next session will be in early April, with possibly more to come. Colville says, “we really want to showcase some up and coming spoken word artists.” She really likes the idea of young artists working with the children. Colville says, “it’s a chance for young people to get some experience delivering these workshops and it’s a chance for the kids here to meet them.”

Wordrhythm Kids is intended for children ages 8-12 and space is limited. Contact the Halifax North Memorial Public Library at (902) 490-5723 to learn about upcoming sessions and to pre-register.