Tag Archives: Vancouver

Green Embassy of Australia highlights B.C. First Nation’s plight with Kinder Morgan

Australian designer Kuvan- Mills with the great-grandchildren of Chief Dan George of Tsleil-Waututh Nation, BC, Canada. (Photo left by Arun Nevader / photo right by Dustin Photography)

Vancouver, B.C. — World Water Week has just concluded and although many events took place around the world close to rivers, oceans and streams, the fashion runway may be one of the last places on people’s minds when it comes to water and conservation.  Enter Zuhal Kuvan-Mills from Australia and her Green Embassy ‘ Empty Oceans’ collection…

Environmental activist, fashion designer and artist Kuvan-Mills believes art and fashion impact our emotions and can move us to value our blue planet. Currently supporting the world’s leading direct action ocean conservation organization, Sea Shepherd (Australia) she said she was compelled to return to west-coast Canada for Vancouver Fashion Week after hearing about the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and its threat to local waters.  This is the Perth designer’s fourth time down the runway of Vancouver Fashion Week, and her Empty Ocean’s collection is in perfect sync with water conservation, and she wanted to share that with the Vancouver audience.

Zuhal Kuvan-Mills wears a Sea Shepherd Australia t-shirt with her models at Vancouver Fashion Week on March 26, 2017 (Photo: Dustin Photography)

“Vancouver has such a rich and beautiful coastline that should be protected for generations to come. I know that the First Peoples of its territory are as connected to their land and water,”  said Kuvan-Mills who connected with Charlene Aleck of Tsleil-Waututh First Nation during her stay.  Aleck’s daughter Ocean and granddaughter Maya, ad her niece Jasmine were asked to walk the runway.  The three, are the great (and great-great) grandchildren of a the late native leader, Chief Dan George.  The Tsleil-Waututh Nation is a Coast Salish band whose Indian reserve is located on Burrard Inlet in the southeast area of the District of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

The Green Embassy runway show opened with a poignant video by Conservation International which reminded us of the beauty of the ocean, and why we need her. As the video closed,  the First Nation youth walked together down the runway in their traditional regalia covered by one large fishing net.

Maya, Ocean, and Jasmine of Tsleil-Waututh Nation on the runway for Green Embassy’s “Empty Oceans” collection at Vancouver Fashion Week (Photo: Arun Nevader)

“I am grateful to the work of Zuhal Kuvan-Mills,” said Charlee Aleck, who is an elected Councillor for her nation after the runway show, “‘Empty Oceans’ brings awareness to how we are treating/polluting our oceans, and the state of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. She shares our concern and the imminent threats to our salmon bearing rivers and Salish Sea from the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. ‘What will we leave our children?’ Empty nets?” continued Aleck. “I feel truly blessed to have met this beautiful soul, the passion Zuhal has put into this very important message – water is life!”

“I aim to support and help indigenous communities across the world,” says Zuhal. “The children under the fishing net represents the future of the First Nations, they are being destroyed by all types of abuse and destruction to oceans,” said Kuvan-Mills. “Black coloured fish net was selected to represent death and destruction to the natural environment (coastal waters) for First Nations. It was also over the children like a black cloud as now they are under great danger of losing their coastal waters to pollution with yet another Kinder Morgan pipeline.”

(Photos: Dustin Photography)

It is her hope to create a collaborative event between the First Peoples of both Canada and Australia whereupon dance, music, fashion and the arts can be shared.

Models graced the runway to a mix of sounds of First Nation drumbeats and Aboriginal didgeridoo. Fabrics were soft and flowing like water, in blues and ocean colours, or light and creamy like the sand and sea. Bow-ties, bows, sashes or sleeves were made from re-purposed fishing net remnants. Some dresses were made of recycled polyester sourced from trash, plastic bottles, ad drift / ghost fishing nets. There was the lightest of silk pieces that whispered down the runway, while the woven items were strong and edgy like the ocean’s coral and shells, or soft and warm like the sun’s reflection on the shoreline.

The fabric of many of the coats, jackets, hats and vests were collected, hand spun, processed and dyed by Kuvan-Mills herself on her farm in Perth where she raises alpacas, a domesticated species of South American camelid, similar to the llama. Her dyes are made from vegetation, like flowers, leaves, or vegetables, finding inspiration within the textile crafting traditions of ancient times.

(Photos by Arun Nevader)

Green Embassy is Australia’s first internationally recognized organic fashion label who base their work on the protection of nature, and natural resources, while focusing on bringing public attention and education to environmental issues.

In November 2017, Kuvan-Mills will launch the inaugural Australia Eco Fashion Week in Perth. During her stay in Vancouver she explained her methods at Kwantlen University and Blanche Macdonald, and met with many designers, to inspire them to turn toward ‘slow fashion’ and join her for the event.

Green Embassy has been seen on the runway in Paris, London, Beijing and Vancouver, and with more and more concern being placed on fast fashion and the environment, Kuvan-Mills is quickly becoming a sought after guest speaker, and has been interviewed for television on SBS World News and national radio on ABC, Australia. In 2016, the Empty Oceans collection caught the attention of Pamela Anderson, who has her own foundation to help environmental causes.

Real people – non models wear Green Embassy at Vancouver Fashion Week. (Photos by Arun Nevader)

Kuvan-Mills’ commitment to sustainability, organic agriculture, art and slow fashion is expressed in each extraordinary textile piece as a labour of love.

I am so very proud to be connected to this show and that my daughters were able to walk for this amazing designer who has so much heart, passion and vision… I look forward to visiting her  in Australia.

(Photos by Arun Nevader)

Listen to a short clip of the designer talking about her dying process at a Vancouver media event.

Watch video of part of the finale walk on the runway at VFW.

Me wearing Green Embassy at Vancouver Fashion Week. The show was on my birthday on March 26! In the photo taken by Victoria Clements I am holding a Harl Taylor BAG made from natural fibres from The Bahamas. The photo on right is the same vest for a photo I included in my article “Am I Anti-Pipeline” written on my blog about my thoughts around pipelines. It was taken on Burrard Inlet where I dragon boat and where the Kinder Morgan station is.

Read  Am I Anti-Pipeline?

Connect with Green Embassy:




Merry Christmas from Robbin and Co.

The tree is decorated, the cookies are made, the gifts are wrapped; now all that’s left is to wish you a Merry Christmas!

I took this photo above in our front room on one of our rare snowy and chilly nights just days ago.  It looks like Christmas perfection, and luckily my head elf / youngest daughter got us moving towards Christmas this year by picking out the perfect tree, decorating, and even doing a lot of the shopping and wrapping for us!

I’ve been reexamining Christmas and what it means to me, in particular as our world changes so rapidly around us. Although I was raised Catholic, on the surface Christmas appears to be a day we work towards, to come together and share gifts we’ve purchased or made, and eat, drink and be merry. The time together is the real gift however, and it’s should be done more often. I am grateful that Christmas gets us all together, but I am becoming more of the mindset to just leave all the present shopping for birthdays!

Photo: Christmas 2015 at Tohni's house... (Jackie, Tohni, Patrick, Brian, Nathen, Lorraine, Loryn, Mom)
Photo: Christmas 2015 at Tohni’s house… (Jackie, Tohni, Patrick, Brian, Nathen, Lorraine, Loryn, Mom)

My children are all young adults now, and it’s been a long time since I’ve written a Christmas Letter.  This year marks over 5 years that I have been back in Canada after life in The Bahamas, and no regrets. I love being home and I love my country.

My mother Corae has been living with us since September 2015 and all is going well. She turns 83 on December 23rd. For those that do not use Facebook, mom’s become quite the star as I share stories about her under the hashtag #ParentingOurParents.  They are tiny little excerpts of my life as I grapple with trying to be a good daughter, while what seems to be, ‘parenting’ my aging parent.

This year The Bahamas took the brunt of Hurricane Matthew, and I took my ex husband Brian into my home! For those not aware, Brian has Parkinsons, and his health spiraled downhill rather rapidly this summer. He’s been back in Canada since October and although glad to be home, and with family, he has a long road ahead. I’ve been helping him transition back to the real world as he awaits his new healthcare assessments. He’s improved a lot just by being here.

My eldest Loryn (26 years) is now a married working woman, and is speeding through life not only on the snowboarding slopes, but she’s progressing very quickly in her career as a banker. Go see her at HSBC if you are looking to invest.  She and Lorraine (a nurse) have purchased their first home, as well as their first car. The girls live conveniently just down the road from us.

Tohni (now 24 yrs) has been enjoying life in the fast lane and lives in East Vancouver. She’s in a great relationship with Patrick and has been co-managing a fun restaurant called The General Public on Main Street in Vancouver. Do stop in to see her, she’ll give you a super discount. This year Tohni worked her butt off so she could take in as many music festivals as she could over the summer, and traveled a couple times to the USA.

Nathen (22-yrs-old) is studying now at Simon Fraser University and is working at Vision Electronics. Go see him, he’ll also give you a good deal!  While taking on a full course load, he managed to move out last month, so his life is full of responsibility.  He lives just up the hill from us. His present goal is to become a chiropractor like his father, but he said he’ll see how things progress.

Jackie (20-yrs) is the last egg in the nest and has been a huge support around the house with helping take care of her grandmother and father. She’s been working at Dynamite women’s clothing at Coquitlam Centre and is still keeping up as the voice of the ‘community calendar’ on 98.7 FM. She can be heard every hour, on the hour at ckpmfm.com.

As for me, life is full on! I’m still working TheBahamasWeekly.com and this year we celebrated our 10th anniversary. I had hoped to get back for a celebration but the hurricane took care of that.  I’ve taken on several other clients that I do writing or social media work for.

Some 2016 highlights
Some 2016 highlights

This  year I was elected president of the Hoy-Scott Watershed Society which manages a salmon enhancement program in the woods near my house. I love my volunteer work there, and have been furthering the HSWS public relations by building and managing a new website, Youtube and social media accounts. Check us out at hoyscottcreeks.org.

I’ve just completed my first year of dragon boating with the 50+ Nothin’ Dragon Masters, and loved every minute of it.  I raced with the team in 4 or 5 festivals this year, which was very exciting. Our oldest teammate is 80. I’ve also been playing soccer with my daughter Loryn on a Div. 3 team once a week, and it’s special time with her and my favourite game. I took my love for the Coquitlam Crunch, a hiking mountain in our city, to new heights by co-chairing the annual event, the Coquitlam Crunch Challenge, and was featured in the city’s promo video. In fall of this year I joined Ultra Throw, a brand new local club of 20+ athletes training and competing in javelin, shot put, discus, hammer, and weight throwing. In 2017 I will start competing. I am excited (and scared) of this, as competing in sport ‘solo’ is brand new to me.

As for my love life, when a girlfriend from the Bahamas asked if I was dating, I said, “I’m open to it, but any group I join, or people I meet, the guys are either gay, already in relationship or married.” Another girlfriend suggested I join the dating group, “Events and Adventures,” to which I chuckled and replied, “My life is already an event and adventure! I don’t need to pay for it, and I don’t have the time in my schedule.”  Another girlfriend suggested I try online dating. I tried that once – went on one date, and although it was fine (meah), I’ve resolved to waiting to see what life doles out. So yes, I am happy and single.

In 2017 I look forward to keeping my life afloat, and also have some long-range writing goals I hope to get started on if I can find the time!

Below is my interview with Tri-Cities Community TV featured on Shaw TV where I talked about #ParentingOurParents, my salmon work, The Bahamas Weekly, and dragon boating. Click the image to view or HERE.

My interview with Cathy Cena on Tri-Cities Community TV
My interview with Cathy Cena on Tri-Cities Community TV

Whether I’ve seen you this year, or not; whether we only communicate now and again, or via social media; thank you for being in my life.  Have a wonderful holiday season!

My Allergies are in Bloom!


I am about as granola bar as it gets when it comes to health. I was raised on lots of vegetables, vitamins, chiropractic,  and rarely went to a doctor growing up.

When I moved back to Canada from The Bahamas, I had no idea that I’d be suffering with seasonal or spring allergies.   I was fine for the first few years as I was living in a high rise.  Then, when I moved into a house, it happened to be March and I was hit by the running nose, sneezing, swollen head and itchy  eyes. I was miserable!

I researched and tried anything alternative at first, but when I couldn’t take the pain  I went to the drugstore.  However, even taking an allergy relief tablet daily was not helping me much.   My eyes were even streaming as I slept, and I’d wake up to crusty irritable eyes. It felt like I had a bad case of the flu.

It wasn’t until the middle of my attendance at  Vancouver Fashion Week that I realized I could not take it any longer, and I went into a walk in clinic on a Saturday morning to seek help.

The Trinity for Allergies
The Trinity: Ran-Montelukast, Pataday, and Omnaris

Dr. Milne in Coquitlam came to my rescue. He told me I needed three things to get my hay fever or spring allergies down, and get them down good.  I’ve since called his prescription, “The Trinity.”   Orally I take one Ran-Montelukast; then for my eyes, one drop of Pataday; and for my nasal passage, a shot in each nostril of Omnaris.

Although the bill is around $150 for a month’s supply, I’d pay twice that, or more, to be out of the misery.   Within two days of starting on the regime (dosages are once per day) I was feeling normal again. And, it does not even make me drowsy.

The following year when I felt it coming on, I wasted little time to get my fix.  This year, I felt like I was almost going to get through it, then boom… (6 days later than last year’s date), I could not take the growing symptoms,  and went in for the Trinity.  Interestingly, the clinic receptionist was red-eyed and stuffy when I got there. You could tell she was suffering from allergies. I am not sure why she’d not talk to the doctors she works for, but I shared my story with her.

I can’t imagine how many people live with this every year, when they don’t have to.  I am certainly grateful for modern science on this one, as I am usually out-of-doors, paddling, hiking, or doing watershed and salmon related work.  Canada’s west coast is one of the most beautiful places to be in the spring, and I am glad I can get out and enjoy it!

First signs of spring – beautiful crocuses (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

Edgy artists to converge at #VALT2015 (Vancouver Alternative Arts & Fashion Week)

Valt-2015I checked out Vancouver Alternative Arts & Fashion Week (VALT) for the first time last year and I loved my experience.  VALT is not your usual fashion show, and the organizers are proud of that difference.  This event brings you the quirky, unusual, and edgy ‘as the norm’, and it’s becoming quite addictive.

Now in its fourth year, #VALT2015 will be held at the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver from November 20-22 and the three nights will depicts themes such as Terrestria, Celestia, and Aquatica.  The audience is being encouraged to dress relative to the themes of earth, sky, water on those specific nights.

“VALT differs from more traditional fashion weeks in several ways, with the most obvious being that fashion is not the entire focus of the event,” explains Kat Ferneyhough, Creative Director. “We host a visual art exhibition, screen short films, as well as present live musical acts and performance art pieces. VALT is about living in an Alternative Fashion, and it is so much more than simply showing unique clothes.”

On Friday, November 20th,  “Terrestria showcases, featuring lush forests, arid deserts, tropical flora, vast tundras, epic mountains, spacious valleys, tectonic plates and volcanic eruptions. Terrestria is slow to change, but complex and deeply interconnected. It is bound by gravity but has created creatures that are not. It is harsh one moment, loving the next, but in the end, Terrestria is home. “
Celestia follows on Saturday, November 21, with “clear blue skies, star sprinkled nights, storms, thunder, lighting, wind, rain, the vacuum of space, nebulae, suns and black holes. Celestia is the unknown heights to which we ever aspire. It is a perpetual mystery, but without Celestia, we would have no dreams for more. “
The weekend will conclude with Aquatica on Sunday, November 22, boasting cerulean waters, glass-still lakes, ponds full of lotus flowers, oceans as far as the eye can see, violent tsunamis and impossibly dark depths. “It is the magical and the terrifying. Aquatica is the unfathomable adventure that lurks just a little too close for comfort.”
Here’s the 3-day schedule:

6PM – Doors Open, 7PM – Show Starts
19+ Event – ID Required#VALT2015NIGHT 1 ~ Theme: TERRESTRIA — Lush forests, arid deserts, tropical flora, vast tundras, epic mountains, spacious valleys, tectonic plates and volcanic eruptions. Terrestria is slow to change, but complex and deeply interconnected. It is bound by gravity but has created creatures that are not. It is harsh one moment, loving the next, but in the end, Terrestria is home.FEATURED DESIGNERS (listed alphabetically):By Trish P., Cavell, Nicole Rose Design, NoSoda Clothing, Protagonist Menswear, Trish Chung.FEATURED PERFORMERS:Kieron Rhys Lillo – MCCelestial Renee, Rainbow Road, AppleCat, Irene Eaves.

FEATURED FILM: Ceci n’est pas un Collier by German Prieto.

FEATURED ARTISTS (listed alphabetically): Áki Jónasson & Alicia Palmar, Alanna Rose Whitney, Andrew Macklin, Erik Zepka, Famous Empty Sky, Flavia Chan, House of Barnes, Irene Eaves, Jenn Brisson, Kaz Simpson, Lydia Fu, Megan Majewski, Nina Pak, Phresha, Shayne Zwickel, Starsha Battrick, Suzann Kingston, Triptych Taylor.


6PM – Doors Open, 7PM – Show Starts
19+ Event – ID Required

#VALT2015 NIGHT 2 ~ Theme:  CELESTIA — Clear blue skies, star sprinkled nights, storms, thunder, lighting, wind, rain, the vacuum of space, nebulae, suns and black holes. Celestia is the unknown heights to which we ever aspire. It is a perpetual mystery, but without Celestia, we would have no dreams for more.

FEATURED DESIGNERS (listed alphabetically):Beauty By Impairment Designs & Drafted Eminence, Carolyn Bruce Designs – Steampunk Jewelry, Lapin Rouge, RadioactiveNerd, Sandra.

FEATURED PERFORMERS:Tristan Risk – MC, Kevin Shazam Li, Quantum Council, Coastline Pilot, Artist Jennifer Little & Miss Morgane.FEATURED ARTISTS (listed alphabetically):Áki Jónasson & Alicia Palmar, Alanna Rose Whitney, Andrew Macklin, Erik Zepka, Famous Empty Sky, Flavia Chan, House of Barnes, Irene Eaves, Jenn Brisson, Kaz Simpson, Lydia Fu, Megan Majewski, Nina Pak, Phresha, Shayne Zwickel, Starsha Battrick, Suzann Kingston, Triptych Taylor.

6PM – Doors Open, 7PM – Show Starts
19+ Event – ID Required

#VALT2015 NIGHT 3 ~ Theme: AQUATICA — Cerulean waters, glass-still lakes, ponds full of lotus flowers, oceans as far as the eye can see, violent tsunamis and impossibly dark depths. It is the magical and the terrifying. Aquatica is the unfathomable adventure that lurks just a little too close for comfort.

FEATURED DESIGNERS (listed alphabetically):A.M.K, By Trish P., Marjan Rabbani, MJ Paterson, The Slug and Kraken – Starchild Creations, Zollection.

FEATURED PERFORMERS:Ivana Phoque – MC, Dezi: Performer/Artist, Messica Wild, SpeakerFace, Aaron White & Oceana, , Mermaid of the Canadian Pacific.

FEATURED ARTISTS (listed alphabetically):Áki Jónasson & Alicia Palmar, Alanna Rose Whitney, Andrew Macklin, Erik Zepka , Famous Empty Sky, Flavia Chan, House of Barnes, Irene Eaves , Jenn Brisson, Kaz Simpson, Lydia Fu, Megan Majewski, Nina Pak, Phresha, Shayne Zwickel, Starsha Battrick, Suzann Kingston, Triptych Taylor.

Tickets range from $25/evening, $60/weekend pass and $150/VIP weekend pass, and tickets are ONLY available in advance this year! More information about #VALT2015 can be found at www.VALT.caVALT’s mission is to provide an enriching alternative to the commercial fashion and gallery experience, to celebrate and promote the creativity of emerging artists & designers, and to nurture and promote the arts and fashion culture of Vancouver. VALT is run by the Style, Entertainment, Art & Media Society – SEAMS, a non-profit organization focusing on the development of local arts programming that assists emerging and fringe artists of every medium and media in the province of BC, while fostering a community of culture appreciation.

#VALT2015 Venue: Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver (50 East Pender Street, Vancouver, BC – Map: https://goo.gl/maps/mHSFzS3QZWB2)
19+ Event (ID Required) – Doors Open 6PM, Shows 7-11PM – Dress to each theme and be part of the immersive art experience!

Creator of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge supports ALS BC event


ONE AMAZING DAY! I have to think that life is taking care of itself, when things happen for me that seem to be divine providence.

I have had a friend named James for 30 years (in messy photo), and he is from BC, Canada, and lived in Bahamas with his wife during the time we also lived there, and now lives in the USA.

He grew up here so comes to visit his dad, and I am grateful as that is when we get to reconnect time and again.

The cool things is, when I told him my brother has ALS, he said, “wow, my best friend is part of the ALS Society of BC.” (!) AND they are both named James… best buds, so you have Jimbo 1 and Jimbo 2… as ‘they’ call each other affectionately.

When I met Jimbo 2 via Jimbo 1 a few weeks ago he told me about the upcoming anniversary event for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and asked me to join them.

My brother has had ALS for 6 years now, so of course I was going! On the day of the event in Steveston, Richmond, BC, Canada I was SHOCKED to see the creator of the ALS Challenge, Pat Quinn (who is from Yonkers, NY and is seen with me in the photo top right), was at the event! This is the man, who has ALS himself, and who changed the lives of MILLIONS of ALS sufferers and their families 1 year ago with this challenge that went viral. ALS is a sickness that very few knew about, but Pat Quinn, gave everyone a voice. It was ‘a MIRACLE’ as Pat said today to local news.

After the event which was captured by a drone video, I met and spoke with Pat Quinn. When I thanked him for coming and for creating the Challenge, I started to cry because this viral event changed my brother’s life, and mine.  When Pat spoke in front of the crowd, he said last year was a miracle. It sure was!

Today, I RECOMMITTED, and I will do this every year until there’s a cure for ALS! Please join us by donating and sharing the message.

Global News TV Coverage here: https://www.facebook.com/631000181/videos/vb.631000181/10155927744630182/?type=2&theater

AND if you want to view ALL my photos from today, click his link: http://tinyurl.com/q349y6w

ps. We used Rice Crispies today due to drought conditions, and were featured on Global BC News. The video, taken by a drone is below.

Here’s a clip of my 2014 ALS Challenge video, but look out for a new one coming soon. http://robbinwhachell.com/…/als-ice-bucket-challenge-retur…/

All Nations Festival celebrates an inclusive Coast Salish Territory


Creating our shared heritage and vision for the future 

I was very interested when I found out that an All Nations Festival was to take place in Coquitlam where I live, and only blocks from my home. I immediately went to Facebook to learn more.  The 3-day-long event was said to celebrate Coast Salish culture, art, and language from July 23rd through 25th in Kwikwetlem, (Coquitlam) which is part of the Coast Salish Territories. It also was to include the other cultures living in the area.

After living abroad for many years I am new to much of the indigenous territories and culture, and I learned that  the Coast Salish Territory includes a lot of the  Georgia Basin and Puget, and this huge drainage basin comprises of the coastal mainland and Vancouver Island from Campbell River and the Georgia Strait south through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Lower Fraser Valley, and the lowlands of Puget Sound. I’ve been volunteering with the Hoy -Scott Watershed Society in my area for the past year so all these land details are of great interest to me.

The event was hosted around beautiful Lafarge Lake in Coquitlem / Kwikwetlem (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

But back to my All Nations Festival experience… 2015 is the inaugural year, and the annual festival aims to celebrate a Coast Salish cultural resurgence by bringing together the performing and visual arts, music, food, sports and ideas honouring a shared future.

Hereditary Chief Phil Lane Jr. Ihanktonwan of the Dakota and Chickasaw Nation (who is a visitor to these lands and is seen in my feature image at the top) spoke about the Tsleil Waututh Nation “People of the Inlet” and how at one time there were 10,000 people in the area, before a series of small pox epidemics in the last century. He spoke about inclusion as he stood before the Persian group ready to perform at the event in front of artist Sonny Assu “Enjoy Coast Salish Territory” artwork. I captured a short clip of his remarks HERE.

The 3-day Festival program opened on Thursday July 23rd with the Kwikwetlem /kəˈlōkwēəm/ Colloquium hosted by Douglas College. I was unable to attend due to my work, but tuned in via livestream.   If you missed it, you can now watch the Colloquium here. The colloquium’s  aim was to share the work of professional Indigenous artists, academics and researchers in Coast Salish Territory through programming, education, outreach, and networking.  The discussions were very interesting.

George Leach put on an amazing show!
George Leach put on an amazing show at the Evergreen Cultural Centre (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

Thursday evening the entertainment kicked off with an intimate concert, which my daughter and I attended at Evergreen Cultural Centre,  with none other than the first aboriginal Lieutenant Governor of B.C., Steven Point, who performed a number of songs he’d written in his younger days. They were lighthearted and teleported us back to earlier days in Vancouver. Point opened for Juno award-winner George Leach,  a Stl’atl’imx and Kwikwetlem musician and actor.   We learned George is also a great-great grandson of Chief Kwekwetlem.  One concert goer said, “This may have been the best concert I have ever seen…I’ve got 5 words for George and his band’s performance: pure, smooth, honest, funny, and enjoyable…what an incredible voice and refreshing personality, some very heartfelt tributes were endearing as well!”

Friday the colloquium continued with a Coast Salish Leaders’ Roundtable on Shared Environmental Stewardship, and a keynote address was delivered by awarding-winning author, teacher and grandmother, Professor Lee Maracle, from the Sto:lo and Tsleil Waututh Nations.  Listen to her speak about her work and the festival on CBC radio HERE.  Each day the colloquium included plenary, breakout sessions, panel discussions, art exhibition, traditional foods, performances, and dialogue with leading Indigenous scholars, professional and community artists, and cultural leaders.

Just a few of the Colloquium speakers
Just a few of the Colloquium speakers. Left to right: Charlene Aleck, Lee Maracle and Ronnie Dean Harris.

Pulling our best thread forward from our past, and taking it into the future – Lee Maracle, author, activist on the focus of the event to CBC radio.

Friday featured an evening of ideas and spoken word from one of the foremost experts in Coast Salish history and culture. More entertainment was provided on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening at the outdoor festival  held by Lafarge Lake at Town Centre Park which also included engaging talks, a salmon and bison burger barbecue, kids corner, crafts and displays. Aside from sharing dialogue,  the outdoor locations provided the general public loads of activity, sights and sounds on stages, under tents, and by displays, which attracted many Coquitlam residents that just happened to be out for  a walk.

The backdrop of Lafarge lake and the mountains made for a beautiful venue, even with the intermittent cloudy weather. A heron flew over and in the late afternoon the Canada geese, who had been grazing on the adjacent lawns took flight over the tents into the evening sky.

I enjoyed the ‘Idea Tent’ featuring speakers from the festival’s steering committee and special guests. It was refreshing to hear about moving forward as a people who care about each other and our land, without a political party agenda attached. Topics included First Nations rights, pipelines, racism, reconciliation and more. One common idea was echoed through the weekend however, that being, that the Harper Government had to be outed at the next election.

Photos courtesy of the All Nations Festival

What I was most impressed with was that the First Nation’s speakers never excluded themselves from others, but rather spoke about the connectedness of humanity, no matter our origins, or religious beliefs. They kept hitting home that we had to work together to protect our environment for our future generations, and really if we don’t have that, what are we left with?  The event also included a  green energy fair featuring electric cars, solar panels and more.

One of my favourite features was a beautiful art piece showcased in the food tent  (see below) called ‘Our Painted Responsibilities’ coordinated by artist, Melanie Schambach along with Nati Garcia and Jen Castro.  Like this woman seen in my photo, people stood in awe to take it all in, as it represents so much, and it also encapsulated the spirit of the event. You can learn about the artwork in this video HERE.

I was told that “this mobile mural was an extension to the 2014 Totem Pole Journey, where a 20-foot-long totem pole carved by Lummi Indian Master Carver Jewell James travelled with his family 6,000 miles along proposed fossil fuel export routes to honor, unite and empower communities in the destructive path of coal and oil exports.”

"From the Columbia River Basin west to the Salish Sea and back east to the Alberta tar sands, the mural offered a space to listen, witness, and express. Youth, elders, activists, students, educators, researchers, healers, artists, indigenous and non-indigenous people, migrants, and impacted communities reflected through paint on our day-to-day connection with mother earth, and our shared responsibilities to protect her." (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
“From the Columbia River Basin west to the Salish Sea and back east to the Alberta tar sands, the mural offered a space to listen, witness, and express. Youth, elders, activists, students, educators, researchers, healers, artists, indigenous and non-indigenous people, migrants, and impacted communities reflected through paint on our day-to-day connection with mother earth, and our shared responsibilities to protect her.” Coordinating artist, Melanie Schambach (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

The All Nation’s event offered a lot over the three days! On top of the engaging dialogue and visual arts displays there  were performances by Doug and the Slugs; Bill Henderson, rapper and activist Ronnie Dean Harris (Ostwelve),  DJs including DJ Hedspin, Hip hop artists, Persian dancers, the Vashaan Ensemble, and many others. Add in sports with skateboarding, basketball 3-on-3s, ball hockey, volleyball, and the Coast Salish Lacrosse Challenge.

I certainly look forward to next year!

Check out the video below to see some of what was featured. If you would like to obtain more information,  become involved by exhibiting, performing, sponsoring or volunteering, learn more at: http://www.allnationsfest.com/

The 2015 All Nations Festival was hosted by Douglas College and the Kwikwetlem and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.  It was produced by Coquitlam School District Aboriginal Education, Coast Salish Cultural Network, and Tsleil-Waututh Nation; and supported by Kwikwetlem First Nation, Douglas College, City of Coquitlam, with additional support from Vancouver Indigenous Media Arts Festival, and various program partners. Steering Committee: Lee Maracle, Charlene Aleck, Gabriel George, Ronnie Dean Harris, Cease Wyss, Brandon Gabriel, Rueben George. Irwin Oostindie (ex-officio member).

Funding was provided by Canada Council, City of Coquitlam, Telus, Vancity, Coquitlam School District #43 Aboriginal Education, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and Aboriginal Sport BC, and community donations.

About the author: Robbin Whachell lives in Coquitlam, BC and is a volunteer for the local watershed society. In her spare time she likes to hike The Crunch and  explore her community by taking photos and sharing her thoughts on what she sees.


Summer Night Sky

Vancouver-VenusThere’s nothing like driving home at 10 pm in the heart of a warm summer night in Vancouver’s lower mainland, and the moon is an amazing sliver, with Venus at its side… Still light, but the horizon is sharp yet soft… so magical against the hills and mountains.

I remember summer night’s past, where I’ve experienced this same beauty. I cherish them – and thankfully each one has been etched into my mind.

The last glow of the blue sky fills me before it fades to dark, and I am home.

ReMatriate wants to take back ‘visual identity’ of First Nations women

A Yukon woman is part of a national group fighting back against the misappropriation of indigenous images and labels in pop culture.

Claire Anderson, a lawyer in Whitehorse, is a member of ReMatriate, a collective of women from different First Nations across the country using photography and social media to take back control of their “visual identity.”

The tipping point came when a Canadian designer announced its new fashion line called D-Squaw, which its website stated was inspired by “Canadian Indian tribes.”

That provoked a group of women to start talking about how they could create awareness around use of the word “squaw,” said Kelly Edzerza-Bapty, a member of the collective who lives in Vancouver.

Read more at ReMatriate wants to take back ‘visual identity’ of First Nations – North – CBC News.

Vancouver Fashion Week FW15 to open March 16th

Vancouver Fashion Week will be returning for its 25th consecutive season from Monday, March 16th through Sunday, March 22nd and returns to its downtown venue at Queen Elizabeth Plaza. The seven day event will launch Fall/Winter 2015 collections of designers from across the globe and will feature Canada’s most exciting talent.

The Opening Gala on Monday, March 16th will kick-start the week of nightly runway shows presenting over 30 designers from all over the world.

Vancouver Fashion Week founder Jamal Abdourahman is thrilled with the breadth of creative expression promised from new and returning designers.

“We are looking forward to sharing amazing talent this season. We love to celebrate the diversity of the fashion culture, and Vancouver provides the perfect platform to support emerging talent,” said Abdourahman.

Among the top returning designers is Noe Bernacelli of Peru, whose international style and exquisite designs have been greatly received by Vancouver audiences. He will be joined by Shravan Kumar of India who again wowed the VFW crowd last season with his extensive collection for men and women.

Also returning is South Korea designer Hong Kiyoung, who is widely recognized for his witty luxury streetwear, which experiments with silhouettes and colourful prints.

Designs from left to right: Noe Bernacelli (Peru), Connally McDougall (Canada), and Hong Kiyoung (China).
Designs from left to right: Noe Bernacelli (Peru), Connally McDougall (Canada), and Hong Kiyoung (China).

Every season, Vancouver Fashion Week continues to push its boundaries. The Fall/Winter 2015 installment welcomes Chinese designer ILOVECHOC who mixes cartoon designs with luxury fabrics. Also appearing will be Korean company JUKOjulie which has been greatly welcomed into the New York fashion scene; and designer Paloma Sanchez, recognized among the top 30 jewelry designers in the world (‘Unique Book; The Best Jewelry Designers’).

VFW continues to support the city’s homegrown talent with the return of local designers Connally McDougall, Grandi’s Atelier and Sara Armstrong.

Connally McDougall will be opening, and has become a local favourite.  “I am over the moon,” said the young designer who is based out of Vancouver, Canada and the UK.  “This is not only my largest and most ambitious collection, it’s my first season showing both mens’ and womens’ wear. It is also my most emotionally charged collection, and I am dedicating it to my younger sister, Morrigan.”  15% of her proceeds will go to Vancouver Island Health Eating Disorders Centre.  Check out her last runway show at VFW featured on Vogue.uk.  As one fan commented on her line, “Real clothes, for real women.”

Canadian Connally McDougall will be opening VFW FW15 and proceeds of her collection are going to the Vancouver Island Health Eating Disorder Center, in dedication to her sister.  (Photo: VFW)
Canadian Connally McDougall will be opening VFW FW15 and part proceeds of her collection are going to the Vancouver Island Health Eating Disorder Center, in dedication to her sister. (Photo: VFW)

Confirmed designers thus far for VFW FW15 are: Alex S. Yu; Aniimiism; Artees Wear; Atsushi Nakashima; Blushing Designs; Connally McDougall; Dervish Dubai; Fesvedy; Grandi’s Atelier; Hans Gallo Pohl; Haveney; Hong Kiyoung; ILOVECHOC; JFG Designs; JY Kim; Kate Miles; Laurence Pirnay; LaSalle College; Nadia + Zehra; Narumi; Nasty Habit; Noe Bernacelli; NIGHT X DAY; Ophelia Song; Paloma Sanchez; Paola Gamero; Rosey Couture; Sara Armstrong; Sofia Clothing; Sunny’s Bridal Gallery; Teresa Farese; Theresa Chen; and YKS by YongKyunShin.

Anyone can attend Vancouver Fashion Week and tickets are available from their website. If you are unable to attend, you can always catch the shows via Livestream. Keep up to date on VFW Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Vancouver Fashion Week was established in 2001 by Jamal Abdourahman. Sponsors for FW15 thus far include: Tentnology, LaSalle College, Loig’s Music Lab, Universe and Skye my Berry Pie.

Website: vanfashionweek.com
Feature photo by Sylvester Law.

Enjoy the Christmas light displays at Trinity Street, Vancouver

My big sister pulled me away from my desk work the other day and on our way into Vancouver for a dinner, she detoured to show me the Trinity Street’s Christmas light display.  I have a friend that used to live on Trinity Street and this annual favourite did not exist like this back then.

When I moved back to Canada in 2011, I noticed a huge decline in Christmas lights.  I’ve seen an increase over the past three years., and I love it.  Seeing Trinity Street was a wonderful treat.

You can vote on Trinity Street Light Festival & Competition for the best light display (House and/or Block) and while doing so, donate $2 to the Harbourside Daycare and Cottage Hospice. The Voting Station is at 2834 Trinity Street.

People are urged to park their cars off Trinity Street, or take transit, and enjoy the lights on foot. It’s the perfect holiday family activity.

Here’s the official Facebook page.

Frosty's House (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
Frosty’s House (Photo: Robbin Whachell)