Apples, etc: An Artist’s Memoir – book review

November 14, 2018

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

Apples, etc.: An Artist’s Memoir, by Gathie Falk with Robin Laurence
Vancouver, Figure 1 publisher, 2018.

A signature piece of ceramic art created by BC artist Gathie Falk inspired the title of this memoir and is symbolic of an artistic life as bold as the biblical Eve. The idea to create a pyramid of glistening apples came to Falk after observing produce in a Vancouver grocery store. She transformed the ordinary scene into a ceramic sculpture in 1970, as part of an installation entitled ‘Fruit Piles.’ Falk continues to create from her east Vancouver studio at age 90. ‘Apples, etc,’ is told in the first person, assisted by seasoned art critic Robin Laurence. Stories are linked together, seamlessly combining tales of Falk’s award-winning performance art, ceramics, sculpture and paintings alongside insightful remembrances of her life journey. Embedded in this memoir as well, is the growing recognition of the province’s cultural history and contributions.

This begins my book review of Gathie Falk’s memoir. Full review is available in the upcoming Winter 2018 issue of BC History, available on new stands this month.

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‘My brother gave me a peddler’s kit’

October 5, 2018

The Sabas in early BC

by Janet Nicol

Alex Saba, a 17 year old Christian Lebanese immigrant, began walking the back roads of Vancouver Island in 1900. He peddled wares from a suitcase, given to him by his brother Michael, who had arrived to BC from Beirut ten years earlier.    Residents in Nanaimo and the Comox Valley came to know Alex well as he walked door to door, selling merchandise.

“My brother gave me a peddler’s kit with $40 or $50 worth of goods and told me I was in business,” Alex recalled to a Vancouver Sun journalist years later. “When people saw I couldn’t speak English they seemed eager to help me,” he also remembered. “Maybe the language barrier wasn’t a hindrance after all. I sold about $6 worth of goods, underwear, handkerchiefs and notions the first day.”

In 1903, Alex and Michael established a women’s clothing shop in downtown Vancouver, “the Saba Brothers,” serving three generations of customers to 1983.   The full story is available in BC History, Vol. 42, Issue 4, 2009.

Alex Saba is imagined in the illustration below, carrying a ‘suitcase’ style pack and walking along his peddling route on the eastern coastline of Vancouver Island. (Etching by Janet Nicol, 2018.)

A Glimpse into Social Justice 12 Classrooms Reveals Dynamic Lessons

September 18, 2018

by Janet Nicol

Long-term thinking is not radical. What’s radical is to completely alter the planet’s climate, to betray the future of my generation. What’s radical is to write off the fact that change is within our reach. —Anjali Appandurai

Stacey McEachern introduces a climate justice unit to her students using this and other powerful quotes from environmentalists.   The unit is part of a Social Justice 12 course that McEachern teaches at Eric Hamber Secondary School, one of eleven Vancouver  secondary schools running the course this school year.

Social Justice 12 is a popular elective that has been offered across the province since 2008.

While there is no prescribed text or final exam, this course prepares students for future studies by giving them opportunities to analyze, discuss and participate in a wide variety of social issues.

A glimpse into some of Vancouver’s classrooms shows teachers and students are engaged in many dynamic lessons.

-Article excerpt, Social Justice newsletter, (BC Teachers’ Federation) Summer/Fall 2018, available on line at the BCTF website.

Watercolour, 2018, by Janet Nicol – A red rose became a symbol for social democrats in western Europe in the decades following the Second World War.

Book reviews on Arthur Pitts, BC artist and the early history of Fernie

September 18, 2018

I review two books — The Life and Art of Arthur Pitts by Kerry Mason and Fernie at War: 1914-1919 by Wayne Norton in the current issue of BC History magazine.

Arthur Pitts (1892-1972) was a watercolorist, illustrator and photographer from England who spent most of his adult life in BC, primarily in the Victoria area and in Vancouver. His depictions of BC landscapes and First Nations people are “a valuable contribution to the artistic documentation of the Northwest Coast First Nations” according to author Kerry Mason, who also brings in Coast Salish artist Carey Newman to weigh in on Pitts’ legacy.

Fernie, in the east Kootenays of BC, continues to attract tourists for its beauty and layered history.  Author Wayne Norton examines the town during the First World War and aftermath, highlighting residents who were both  loyal and critical to the King’s call to arms.  The hard lives of coal miners and their union struggles are also described in detail.

Both books are highly recommended.

Available in BC History, Fall 2018 – Subscription and distribution details at the magazine website.

Vancouver Health Collective Celebrates 45 Year

August 28, 2018

by Janet Nicol

Vancouver in the 1970s was chock full of feminist collectives, from bookstores to singing groups, with their members pledging to live up to the ideal of equality in the decision-making process.

Fast forward to 2018. The Vancouver Women’s Health Collecive, located in the city’s Downtown Eastside, is among the few collectives to live on. It’s gone through many transformations but remains an important voice on women’s health. The organization is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year.

Read more in Herizons magazine, Summer, 2018.

Labour notes

May 15, 2018

by Janet Nicol

Check out Labour Notes in the latest issue of “Our Times” on the retirement musings of the Vancouver Trade and Labour Council’s President Joey Hartman along with the latest information about the unique and important Simon Fraser University labour studies courses.

Indigenous lives matter

April 16, 2018

by Janet Nicol

This February, a visibly all-white jury acquitted Gerald Stanley of second degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie, a 22 year old man from Red Pheasant First Nation reserve in Saskatchewan and even dismissed the charge of manslaughter, accepting his defence that the gun fired accidentally. Thousands of Canadians – indigenous and non-indigenous – took to the streets in cities across the country, with slogans including ‘I am Colten’ and ‘No justice, no peace’.

I deliver a short report on this case and its aftermath in the current issue of New Internationalist magazine.

Surrey: A City of Stories – a book review

March 19, 2018

Surrey:  A City of Stories, by K. Jane Watt.  Published by Surrey: City of Surrey Heritage Services (Fenton Street Publishing), 2017. $25.00

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

This visually rich book provides a satisfying history of the City of Surrey, the fastest growing area in Metro Vancouver, with B.C.’s second largest civic population of about half a million people. For a project to mark Canada’s 150th birthday, K. Jane Watt has devoted her passion for B.C.’s past to provide a concise text accompanied by more than 500 photographs, documents, maps and other fascinating illustrations. Obviously delivering an historical overview of sprawling Surrey is a daunting task, considering its vast mix of urban and rural landscape framed by the Fraser River to the north and the Strait of Georgia (Boundary Bay) to the south, including six town centres in between — Whalley, Guildford, Fleetwood, Newton, Cloverdale, and South Surrey.

So begins a book review of ‘Surrey: A City of Stories” written by the current President of the BC Historical Society and historian, K. Jane Watt. The full review is available on line at

https://bcbooklook.com/2018/03/16/surrey-gets-proper-billing/

Published by The Ormsby Review, March 20, 2018.

@cougar history – Facebook page on school history

March 15, 2018

by Janet Nicol

A facebook page created by Killarney students during my final teaching year in 2017 and based on their school and community history, is featured in the upcoming issue of BC History magazine, as a “Cabinet of Curiosity.” Check out the magazine, with lots of history articles about BC schools–and check out the Facebook page at Killarney Secondary and Community History@cougarhistory.”

BC History, Spring, 2018

Women’s march – 2018

March 8, 2018

Check out the latest issue of Our Times magazine for my report on this year’s women’s march in Vancouver. (Winter, 2017-18)