Feet-first, to a Different River

26 July 2015 – It’s Saturday, and it’s hot, and I think I’ll be telling you that — despite the way my feet keep leading me to water in summertime (see last post) — this time there will be no water. My heart has overruled my feet.

Drawn by an invitation from my friend Poonam Sharma, I’m headed for a wall-mural event in St. James Town. SJT is a complex of densely packed apartment towers that is typically home to newcomers to Canada.

It has lots of concrete and, to be fair, some trees & shrubs — but, water? No.

Then I see the fish.

fish detail, SJT wall mural

Who, of course, swim in a river.

one wall, SJT folk-fusion mural

Even if it is a concrete river, newly painted to wrap the three sides of the wall around an external stairwell.

Not only fish, in this river.

Also happy birds …

a wall, SJT mural

and a red & white mandana, a traditional Indian symbol of welcome.

wall of the SJT folk-fusion mural


Three walls, one river, its waves curling around circles of folk art, drawn from different cultures around the world. “This is my FolkLORE project, it is a folk-fusion mural,” says Poonam. She thought up the project, won a funding grant, and involved other St. James Town women in its execution — after first learning, and then teaching them, how to prepare and paint outdoors artwork.

“The women are different ages, they come from different cultures, but we all live in this neighbourhood together. I drew the river outline, with its circles. Then we shared folk-art images and discussed them, made our choices, and each woman painted one circle.” (For more, visit the Facebook page.)

The women are making art, but they are also making connections, building community, having fun.

Oh, that Poonam. I met her a year ago, when she was one of the residents working on the St. James Town banner project. She had been a artist in India; now here with husband and child, she is throwing herself into art and community again. I am not even slightly surprised to learn, from her WordPress blog RangRiva, that this spring she ran an arts workshop for visiting students from Sanikiluaq, in the Canadian High Arctic.

So here we are for the official ribbon-cutting to unveil her latest project, this folk-fusion mural. I jostle in with others, to grab a shot of Poonam (crouching, on the left) with some of the other artists and their children. Another little boy is weaving among the audience, politely offering Canadian flags. I accept.

Poonam (L) with other artists & children

I circle around, enjoying the response to the art as much as the art itself. What I see today mirrors reaction during the painting process, says Poonam. “People would stop and admire our work, ask us questions. The women liked explaining what we were doing. Everybody was so happy with the mural.”

Yogita Sanap is one of the artists. “I had never done anything like this, but now I love it, I love to make art,” she says. She tells me more about the mandana, which she created: “We paint it on walls and floors for festivals, to welcome people.”

Yogita Sanap with her mandana

Her husband looks on, smiling at all the activity. “Who knew?” he says, happily. “Who would have guessed, so much hidden talent in our community?”

wall detail, SJT FolkLORE mural

A happy day, all ’round.



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  1. What bright and beautiful street art.

    • Yes, and it contributes to its community in so many other ways as well. Thanks for taking time to comment.

  2. I just love your posts. They wake me up and get me going. Thanks so much for taking me along.

    • We support each other. It is comments like yours (and I have valued other comments by you as well) that help buoy me up and give me added energy.

  3. So beautiful! It’s giving me ideas for applique quilts!

    • Poonam would love it, if you did take inspiration for a quilt or two. As you can see, she’s all about sharing ideas and inspiring acts of pleasure and beauty.

  4. Mikku

     /  30 July 2015

    Thanks for sharing these beautiful designs!

  5. bobgeor

     /  30 July 2015

    Looks amazing. Nice to hear the stories and people behind it too. Thanks!

  1. FolkLore – Blog by Penny | RangRiva

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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

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