GROWING ROOTS: Art for belonging, co-designed and co-facilitated by Cathy Stubington and Mohammed Zaqout, was commissioned by the Only Animal’s work with the Artist Brigade bringing art and artists to the climate crisis. For more information visit: Artist Brigade.
Growing Roots worked with refugee claimants to engage them in a creative process designed to make them feel more connected to the natural world. They participated in storytelling, poetry, memoir, making art with their hands and meeting an Indigenous artist who shared their own history, a history that the refugee claimants had not learned in their process of becoming Canadian residents.
When Refugee Claimants arrive in Canada, they struggle to find the most basic shelter and face a matrix of barriers with culture, language, isolation, limited financial resources, unemployment, post-traumatic stress, and discrimination. Their experience is so centred on day-to-day survival that they may not notice the beauty of the natural world. Growing Roots invited refugee claimants to become attuned with nature, gave them a healthy creative outlet, and broadened their perspective about belonging.
Art and creativity foster healthy citizens who are capable of contributing to the community they live in. In learning and observing more about the land, its plants, animals and original people, participants began to feel more connected to their new home, to the communities they are part of and more responsive to climate change. Their experience has motivated them to become more productive and less stressed about the new life they are living.
Mohammed was born and raised in a refugee camp in Gaza- Palestine. He holds a degree from the University of Palestine with an honours in Business Administration and Accounting. Since moving to the unceded land of the Coast Salish peoples’, Mohammed has been advocating for refugee claimants’ housing, their right to work, and their need for belonging through his work with different organizations, including his current position at Kinbrace Community Society as a Housing & Employment Worker and his previous internships as an Administrative Assistant with the Multi-Agency Partnership (MAP BC) and Zaytuna Services Society.
He was a 2020 Simon Fraser University RADIUS fellow and participant of Refugee Livelihood Lab – Beyond Borders. He is working on a variety of projects – addressing the economic immobility of racialized migrant youth with Solid State Community Industries, and working as a Research Assistant and Country Co-Investigator (CCI) on the Global Leadership & Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) with SFU. Mohammed is currently a member of the City of Vancouver’s Racial and Ethno-Cultural Equity Advisory Committee and Co Director of LightWork Consulting Cooperative.
Cathy is a multi-disciplinary artist, a puppet theatre maker and a community-engaged artist who weaves together puppetry, folklore, site-specific theatrical ceremonial events, community art projects and community spectacles to create connections: connections in the community, connections to the land and connections to social issues through wonder and the creation of alternate worlds, both indoors and out under the open sky.
As the founding Artistic Director of Runaway Moon Theatre, Cathy has spent the last 20 years in Enderby/Grindrod, in Secwepemc Traditional Territory of the Splats’in First Nation, working to better understand what it is to live in this place at this time and exploring her relationship with the land through where food comes from, where water goes, and through developing a sense of time based on natural indicators specific to this place.
Cathy came to BC to work with Caravan Farm Theatre (1987-98), where she produced several puppet plays and began her own exploration of site-specific theatre — which included the creation of puppet theatre for Health Education initiatives for B.C. communities (AIDS awareness), with rural health workers in Chiapas, Mexico, and with Splatsin First Nation Health Department. Since the formation of Runaway Moon, Cathy’s work has expanded into large community-based projects, community plays, educational outreach, workshops and artist residencies in schools; she is a trained Artstarts Infusion Teaching Artist. She coordinated the Akonjo/Shuswap partnership with Akonjo Community Enhancement Society (Kenya) from 2006 – 2016 and directed Popoleko Balkan Choir from 1997 – 2015. In 2005, Cathy was given the name T’uctwes te S’t’lcalqw (Flying Spirit) by the Kia7as (grandmothers) of Splatsin First Nation, recognizing the commitment she has demonstrated in her long-term working relationship and collaboration with Splatsin language and knowledge keeper Rosalind Williams.
Cathy is frequently asked to share her work at symposia and conferences, including National Creative Cities Conference (2003), Coastal Health Storytelling Our Lives (2006) Cities Fit for Children (2016) and the cross-Canada symposium Train of Thought (2015). She has been awarded British Columbia Arts Champion (2006), and an Okanagan Arts Award from the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan (2012). She holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Performance from UBC Okanagan and a BA in History from McGill University. Cathy is a mother of three young adults who grew up being part of Runaway Moon. She lives on Curly Willow organic vegetable farm, where many indoor and outdoor events have taken place.