It’s hard to put into words what it meant to us to gather together with the folks from our Palenke Seniors Program one last time to celebrate the closing of the program. Our evening at the Victoria Public Market was so sweet, so wholesome, and so fulfilling. Several participants became emotional sharing what the program has meant to them, and we are humbled and honored to have been in community with such beautiful souls this year.
The food we ate was as diverse as our participants - the vendors made food from India, the Mediterranean, Asian-fusion dishes, Italy, and more. For us, there’s nothing better than getting to enjoy new types of food together, but it was made even more magical and fun with the performance by the folky-grassroots Zimbabwean musical talents of Mbira Spirit - Tafadzwa and Amy Matamba - who are also co-founders of the Zimbabwe Music Society. Their uplifting songs blended traditional Zimbabwean elements with folk and reggae songs from artists such as Johnny Cash and Bob Marley. Everyone was loving their beautiful harmonies, the applause was enthusiastic, and the dancing was moved from the spirit within.
Tafadzwa shared how meaningful it was to him to play for a group of elders - he says that in the small town in Zimbabwe where he’s from, there is a lot of respect and deep relationships with the elders, but that here in Canada, there is such a disconnection between the elders and other generations. He believes that through playing and listening to music and enjoying each other’s company, we have so much wisdom to learn from our elders. His words resonated deeply, and captured the essence of our intentions with the Palenke Seniors Program this year.
For those who haven’t heard the story of the meaning of the word Palenke - this is the word for settlements that were created in times of slavery when displaced Africans were able to escape and form settlements with Indigenous communities, in places such as Brazil, Colombia, and southern parts of the United States. These were vibrant, thriving communities where the African and Indigenous cultures learned from each other, taught each other food cultivation and preparation techniques, and looked out for each other’s safety and wellbeing. These types of settlements are the roots of mutual aid organizing, and form the foundations of much of our programming.
Iyé Creative was born through sharing the vertical gardening technique of growing in burlap sacks, an Afro-Indigenous method that allowed people to grow an abundance of food without secure land access and with the potential to have to be on the move. The spirit of our programming - including this program dedicated to bridging intergenerational gaps - has been in large part inspired by the essence of these Palenke settlements, as dynamic places of creative solutions, mutual support, co-creation, resilience, and re-imagining collective futures of abundance.
We also want to thank the businesses and organizations that contributed to the Wellness Bags that we distributed at this event - Carmel from Tend tea, Anna & her mom at Green Muse Herbs, the fabulous team behind Women of the World (WOW) Soups (for sale at the Esquimalt Farmers Market), the powerhouse team of volunteers from Soap 4 Hope for their generous donations, as well as Save-On Foods for providing reusable grocery totes to reduce waste.
This program, and our final celebration together, brought so much brightness into our lives, during a time of year and a time in our collective history as humanity that has so much darkness. This program would not have been what it was this year without each and every participant who showed up to the events, and most especially, our dear Sophia Leblanc, who worked as our Senior Activities Facilitator this year, contributing significantly to the design of the program and the events. We love you Sophia!
Moving forward, we intend to uphold these commitments to continue learning from our elders, to value and uplift their incredible lived experiences and the wisdom they’ve earned throughout their lifetimes, and of course, to continue gathering together with food, music, and each other. Profound gratitude to the program participants (aka. our family), and the funders who made this program possible this year.
At Iyé, we are nourished by our web of relations within our wider community. There is an expression from a South African language called Zulu which says “Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu” - which can be translated as “I am because we are”. Thank you for being here in community with us.
We shall overcome ❤️
Much love from your Iyé Team.
All photos on this page taken by our friend Mohanned Ghadban.