Originally slated to close on October 23, 2011, the coming close of Bhangra.me on January 1, 2012, is bittersweet. As one of the longest running exhibitions at the MOV, we'll be sad to see this beautiful and rich feature, disassembled.
Launched on May 5, 2011, Bhangra.me: Vancouver’s Bhangra Story was the culmination of over two years of collaborative research, a mini exhibit (April 2010), two community consultations, and hundreds of hours of primary research. Bhangra.me was a collaboration with the Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration, and was co-curated by community researcher Naveen Girn and MOV's Curator of Contemporary Issues Viviane Gosselin
Beginning with an unforgettable opening party on May 4, 2011 where over 500 people joined special guest performers - including Mayor Gregor - in a vibrant celebration of this groundbreaking exhibition.
The research and collecting phase helped generate the first historical interpretation of Bhangra’s significance in Vancouver, and demonstrated its role as a cultural tool for inter-cultural bridging during labour disputes, challenging gender roles and re-imagining the definition of Canadian identity.
What the research, design, and curatorial team hoped to accomplish, was not just mount a beautiful exhibition displaying artefacts, but to use the exhibit itself, and related programming in order to catalyze new understandings about intercultural relations, hybrid identities, and strengthen community ties with(in) the South Asian community in Vancouver.
We're honoured to have worked with such amazing people, met so many great Bhangra fans, and we look forward to continuing to see, hear, and share Vancouver's bhangra stories on the Bhangra.me Storymap!
For those of you who haven't seen the beautiful touchscreens inside the exhibition, this is one piece of the exhibit, that will live on, indefinitely. We invite you to add your story to the map, by uploading a photo, anecdote, to what we hope will become the next natural gathering place for Bhangra fans around the world!
Representing another first for the Museum of Vancouver, this hybrid Drupal/Silverlight powered storymap was a collaboration made possible by a community sponsorship from Microsoft Canada, in particular the Open Platforms crew, lead by Nik Garkusha. A neat mobile version of the storymap was developed for W7 Phones by Redbit.
In all, with just a week left in what has been a truly remarkable journey, we hope you'll come check it out here at MOV, listen and dance, tell us what you think, and continue the conversation online.
"All good things come to an end..." or do they?
The Bhangra.me interactive storymap project has marked exciting new directions for the Museum of Vancouver in realizing the multiple ways in which we, as a community, can deepen our connections to one another.
For government, arts and culture organizations, and technologists alike, the challenge of storytelling has become more complex as we transition from the town square and into a web-based world. After the colourful Bhangra.me walls come down at the end of December, wrapping up an extremely successful 7-month exhibition, the interactive storymap means that we are able to continue sharing personal tales of bhangra culture in Vancouver.
Borne of a conversation between the MOV's curator of audience engagement, Hanna Cho, and Nik Garkushka from Microsoft, a strong desire was hatched to bridge new forms of web-based and mobile tools with civic conversation around bhangra history in Vancouver. From there, the challenge would be developing the resources, knowledge and connections necessary to bring the storymap to life.
Lucky for us, Nik had a strong interest in using (excuse the jargon) MSFT tools around Silverlight to be inter-operable with Drupal and Open Source platforms, and commissioned Mark Arteaga of RedBit, and Aaron McGowan to create the customized Bhangra.me map. Wildly exceeding our expectations, they not only created the online interface that drives www.bhangra.me, but they also developed the standalone mapping application that has been displayed inside the built Bhangra.me exhibition space.
We are sincerely thankful to Nik, Mark, and Aaron for their finely tuned dedication to this project as well as the donation of the two touchscreen monitors that have been mounted in the exhibition.
The art of storytelling: revitalized
The next part of the Bhangra.me storymap was completely up to you, as participants, to share your tears, laughter, and secret dance moves with the rest of the world. And you did! From mobile videos to written stories, photographs and slideshows of your personal moments with bhangra culture throughout its interesting history in the Northwest, we saw an entirely new form of social and historical connection take place at the Museum of Vancouver. A connection which saw you, the museum-goer, as directly involved in the make-up of the Bhangra.me exhibition, as well as part of the greater cultural landscape that makes Vancouver so unique.
The MOV's first ever exhibition on the history of south-asian folk dance may be coming to a close, but your ability to share reflections, romances, and realities on your personal history with bhangra will continue to live on through the Bhangra.me interactive online storymap.
News this week has been unsurprisingly dominated by federal elections coverage, but staying Vancouver arts, culture and history-centric, there was actually a lot of news this week about affordable housing.
We’ve heard a lot about the affordable housing problem from renters and housing advocates, but now the BC Apartment Owners and Managers Association is joining in, calling for new government incentives for purpose-built rental housing.
The remand centre is being converted from a facility to hold prisoners awaiting trial to affordable housing for the Downtown East Side. Council approved rezoning to allow the Coast Plaza Hotel to be converted into rental housing, though no word on exactly when that would happen.
Cambie Corridor. Re:place has an interview with Brent Toderian, Vancouver’s director of planning, about the Cambie Corridor.
One building’s waste is another’s energy. Waste heat from a Vancouver rink is now being used to incubate plants in city-run nurseries and greenhouses, reducing the City of Vancouver’s carbon emissions overall.
Olympic Village. It looks like there’s no end in sight for the situation between unhappy Olympic Village owners and the City of Vancouver.
I love this picture.
I guess that’s an obvious statement to make but I strongly feel that it exemplifies the key themes that we want to emphasize with the Bhangra Project.
At the top of the picture is the skyline of Downtown Vancouver and this situates the “place” of our historical endeavour. What is it about Vancouver (or the idea of Vancouver?) that has influenced Bhangra and made its performance and music different from other parts of the world? How has the city affected and been affected by the story of Bhangra? What makes Bhangra in Vancouver unique?
This also sets a scope for the project. It includes today’s Vancouver but our also speaks historically to the downtown area, East Vancouver, South Vancouver, Main Street, Gastown, Chinatown, Commercial Drive, Kerrisdale, Oakridge, UBC and past Boundary Road into Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby and beyond. It speaks to the diverse “soundscapes” and dance forms that are produced here and internationally. Wherever the music and dance go, it takes Vancouver with it.
The second element is the gorgeous archival picture in the possession of Mr. Paul Binning of PAAR Club. It features an image of Shaminder Grewal who was a dancer from the Sialkot region of Punjab, Pakistan. There’s an element of youth and exuberance in his pose that evokes that iconic idea of Bhangra with which many of us are familiar.
As a historical artifact I can’t help but focus on unique elements: the curved stick decorated with various studs, the vest decorated with hearts, his hoop earring, and especially the half moon design that he’s drawn over his right eye. There’s so many questions I have about this picture too: Why was it taken? Where was it taken? Was it for a competition? An ad? And some questions that are just fun to ask: what colour is his vest, turban and ring, for instance?
A part of me thinks these ambiguities allow our imagination to fill in the blanks and (more importantly) leave spaces for discussion and dialogue.
The lower third is something central to the way we’re researching our project. The female hand seems to contemplate the picture and skyline together and rather than being voyeurs, it incorporates us (the viewer) into the discussion, too. How do we situate ourselves with the past of Bhangra in Vancouver? What parts of if do we highlight? What elements resonate with us? A key facet of this exhibition is to include as many voices as possible in telling the story of Bhangra in Vancouver and female practitioners as well as DJ’s, singers, musicians & Bhangra lovers are integral to this story.
So that’s my opinion of the Project Image. I guess I could talk for hours about it (does it seem like I have?) but what does it evoke for you? Is it an engaging picture? Does it raise questions? Does it answer questions?
Naveen Girn is currently a cultural researcher on the Bhangra.me Exhibit which looks at the history of Bhangra in Vancouver and opens May 2011. You can learn more about the project by following his blog and twitter.