Cultural sharing can be a fun way to build a better path forward. See for yourself in this new documentary by two UBC students.
05 Jan 2023
It was in a workshop on Irish drumming at the UBC Learning Exchange where Isaac White turned to Suzie O’Shea and said:
“Your drum looks like my drum.”
Suzie, the UBC Learning Exchange’s Community Animator at the time, was holding an Irish drum called the bodhran. Isaac, who was participating in the workshop, noticed the drum looked similar to the traditional hand drums from Haida Gwaii, where he is from.
Around that time just down the street at the Carnegie Community Centre, Isaac had also been involved in a drumming workshop with the Carnegie Community Centre Indigenous Programs. So, he put the coordinators of the two programs—Suzie and Nicole Bird—in touch.
Soon the two programs were working together, exploring the shared traditions of drumming, dance and storytelling between Irish and Indigenous cultures.
Out of that relationship grew two local drumming groups that have continued playing, apart and together, to this day: lexwst’í:lem, which means “always singing” in Halkomelem, and Ceól Abú, which means “music forever” in Gaelic.
In 2022, two UBC students, Jack Bailey and Theresa Wong, produced a short film that showcases some of the connections, relationships, learning and joy that emerged out of the initiative. It’s a film that also offers a small glimpse of what the Downtown Eastside community can share. Watch it here:
As Nicole Bird said in the film, the Downtown Eastside community is often seen through a negative lens, coloured by the problems it endures rather than the culture, artistry, resources, care, and resilience that it has to offer.
“…With Hearts Beat, we were able to show the talents, the cultures, the ancestry, the oral tradition—all the pieces of which are really important to Indigenous Peoples,” she said.
For the director of the Learning Exchange, Kathleen Leahy, not only is this a great example of what people call an “asset-based approach,” but it also shows the power of cultural sharing.
“We firmly believe that cultural sharing activities are concrete steps that can lead to culturally informed relationships and a better path forward together,” she said, “a path based on connection and celebration. I think that’s really what you see in Hearts Beat. Connection, learning and celebration.”
The UBC Learning Exchange is a unique academic unit that works out of a building in the Downtown Eastside. It is a hub that offers a variety of ways for Downtown Eastside community members and UBC students, faculty, and researchers to learn from each other. A recent academic review recently described it as ‘extraordinary’ for how it connects the two communities.
The Carnegie Community Centre, run by the City of Vancouver, is often called “the living room of the Downtown Eastside” because of the central role it plays in the community through it’s social, educational, cultural, and recreational programs at its historic building at the corner of Main and Hastings Streets and at Oppenheimer Park.
“I thought they’d make a good team,” said Isaac, referring to Nicole from the Carnegie and Suzie from the Learning Exchange, “and they have.”
Hearts Beat is a collaboration between the Carnegie Community Centre Indigenous Programs, the UBC Learning Exchange, the Irish Consulate, and the Carnegie Community Centre Association.
Significant funding came from the UBC Community-University Engagement Support (CUES) fund.