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Project looks into colonial mindset

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A diverse group of women have been discussing over the past few months what it means to Live Well Together as humans.

They will soon finish the creative expression of their discussions and on Jan. 18, unveil their art.

"Living Well Together: a de-colonization dialogue," comes out of one woman’s desire to connect her Master of Arts studies to a long-time involvement in Winnipeg’s inner city and her work in marriage and family therapy.  

Kelly Dvorak, a wife and mother of two teenagers, has always been interested in the greater social context of the clients in her counselling practice at Pregnancy and Family Support Services (PFSS Inc) on Spence Street.

She wonders, "What are the forces at work behind abuse and trauma?" Dvorak sees the colonial mindset as one of the prime candidates.  

A simple definition of colonialism is a person or group of people imposing their view of what is right (in things such as family, meals, health, education, gender roles and society) on another.

With this research project, Dvorak wanted to learn with others what freedom from that lingering mindset might look like.  The first step was finding 13 women from different backgrounds who would be part of a sharing circle for several weeks.  A woman elder, whom Kelly had been working with, helped her with proper protocol. The next step was to make art individually and together as a response to their sharing with each other.

Maria Epp, who helped facilitate the artistic segment, found it rewarding to work with women who didn’t necessarily see themselves as artists and help them find joy of creating.

A high point was creating her art piece, taking everything she learned and making it personal.

"I liked being proactive… rather than just reading and hearing about issues in our city."

One woman, who was most worried about the creative part of the project, was pleasantly surprised to come up with not just one idea, but several.

Another participant commented: "Learning from other women, for me, is empowering. I feel good about the sharing circle. I feel safe and relate."

Kelly Dvorak is excited to raise awareness of a concept that is "not impressed enough in Canadian consciousness". She hopes social change will ripple out as more people discover ways of Living Well Together.

The show opens Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. at Flatlanders Studio, 3rd floor, 782 Main St. (south door entrance of Winnipeg Centre Vineyard).  Participants will talk about their art shortly before 8 p.m.  Admission is free.

Gallery will also be open Jan. 26 and Feb. 2 from 1 to 4 p.m.

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