The Literal – And Literary – Futures We Build
Briarpatch|November/December 2019
Briarpatch editor Saima Desai talks to two judges of our Writing in the Margins contest about Idle No More and MMIWG, ethical kinship, writing queer sex, and their forthcoming work.
Saima Desai

We’re in the ninth year of Briarpatch’s Writing in the Margins contest, where we invite our community to bring to life issues of social and environmental justice through poetry, photography, and creative non-fiction. Winners are published in Briarpatch Magazine and receive $500 in prizes; runners-up are published on briarpatch magazine. com and receive $150.

This year’s creative non-fiction entries will be judged by Joshua Whitehead. Joshua is an Oji-nêhiyaw, Two-Spirit member of the Peguis First Nation (Treaty 1). He is the author of the novel Jonny Appleseed (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2018) and the poetry collection full-metal indigiqueer (Talonbooks, 2017). Jonny Appleseed won a Lambda Literary Award; was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction; and was long-listed for the Giller Prize. Joshua is currently working on a PhD in Indigenous literature and cultures in the University of Calgary’s English department (Treaty 7).

This year’s photography entries will be judged by Nadya Kwandibens. Nadya is Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) from the Animakee Wa Zhing #37 First Nation in northwestern Ontario. She is a self-taught portrait and events photographer. In 2008, she founded Red Works, a dynamic photography company empowering contemporary Indigenous lifestyles and cultures through photographic essays, features, and portraits. Nadya’s photography – which focuses on urban Indigenous identity and representing decolonial assertions of resistance and resurgence – has been exhibited in group and solo shows across Canada and the United States.

This year’s poetry entries will be judged by El Jones. El is a spoken word poet, an educator, journalist, and a community activist living in African Nova Scotia. She was the fifth poet laureate of Halifax. In 2016, El was a recipient of the Burnley “Rocky” Jones human rights award for her community work and work in prison justice. She is a co-founder of Black Power Hour, a live radio show with incarcerated people on CKDU that creates space for people inside to share their creative work and discuss contemporary social and political issues; along with this work, she supports women in Nova Institution in writing and sharing their voices. Her book of spoken word poetry, Live from the Afrikan Resistance! was published by Roseway Press in 2014.

Briarpatch editor Saima Desai talked to Joshua and Nadya about social movements, taboos, and their newest work.

What do you think is the role of art in social movements? When was a time when you felt like your creative work has been part of a movement?

Nadya: Art pushes through barriers and forces socio-political matters to the forefront, from the margins and peripheries, and demands to be seen, demands (re)action. Art disrupts narratives. And so photography is a means for me to be a part of that process and interruption. The first time that I felt my art was a part of a movement was when Idle No More began. I was there when the first major rally took place in Ottawa and I’ve photographed several more across the country since then. The energy at these gatherings is unifying and invigorating. These acts of resistance are electrifying and empowering.

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