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Drawing Connections: Centering the Tangent Event Builds Community through Comic Books

by Andre Guimond

Intently drawing the next comic masterpiece
Intently drawing the next comic masterpiece
Gord Hill teaches attendees a quick way to sketch faces
Gord Hill teaches attendees a quick way to sketch faces
Attendees at the comic-making workshop at Kiwassa Neighbourhood House on March 9, 2011
Attendees at the comic-making workshop at Kiwassa Neighbourhood House on March 9, 2011

Also posted by Andre Guimond:

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VANCOUVER, UNCEDED COAST SALISH TERRITORY – It’s often difficult to tell where movement building ends and community building begins. That the two may not be so different was on full display at Wednesday’s “Graphic Voices” comic-making workshop at the Kiwassa Neighbourhood House, where participants learned comic book basics and how to use drawing as a tool to speak out about what matters to them.

The workshop was part of a month-long exploration of “the critical role of arts, culture and creativity in community empowerment and movement building” called Centering the Tangent, organized by the Transformative Communities Project Society (TCPS) and the Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance (FCYA).

“It’s about offering political work to people who wouldn’t consider themselves activists or organizers,” said Mia, an organizer with TCPS. “And it’s working; it’s bringing all types of different people together.”

While the event was clearly targeted towards youths, the diverse range of nearly two dozen attendees proved her right. Mothers tagged along with their young children; men and women in their 40s showed up to explore new artistic avenues; teenaged youths excited to have the chance to refine their budding skills brought their friends.

Others showed up to see facilitator Gord Hill at work, a local artist and activist best known for his political art and historical comics like the recent 500 Years of Resistance. Hill is widely respected for his guerrilla comic production ingenuity, techniques which he gladly divulged to the group. By sharing stories of how he taught himself to make comics, he made it perfectly clear that anybody with a pencil, paper and access to a photocopier could draw and distribute a comic. No publishing contract or art school required.

Carlo Sayo, an organizer with the FCYA, pointed to how effectively Hill got the do-it-yourself message across while subtly introducing his politics into the workshop by promoting self-publishing and discussing works like the aforementioned 500 Years, a graphic chronicle of the history of Indigenous resistance to European colonization.

“The point [of Centering the Tangent] is to use creativity as a way to draw out radical analysis,” said Mia.

And it’s exactly this unassuming – yet subtly political in process and underlying message – method of sharing skills and building capacity within the community which really make these events stand out.

“These workshops empower participants to tell their own stories,” said Carlos. “And the process is just as important as the message.”

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