The University of Winnipeg’s Department of English wants to spread the love of reading. They are organizing a One Book UW (1BUW) program this Fall focused on This Place: 150 Years Retold, and are encouraging members of the university community from across disciplines to pick it up.
The Fall 2019 1BUW book is a collection of Indigenous history comics published this year by Winnipeg’s Portage and Main press. Co-coordinators Dr. Candida Rifkind and Dr. Brandon Christopher felt that Indigenous comics offer accessible and engaging pathways into contemporary issues in Indigenous-settler relations. As well, students in English and other disciplines are already engaged with Indigenous storytelling and familiar with the form of comics.
Another reason is location, location, location. Winnipeg is a centre for Indigenous literary and comics publishing. This proximity allows access to some of the leading writers and artists in the field, plus community contacts, and UWinnipeg has established faculty research expertise in this field.
“We wanted a book that would appeal to a wide range of readers and have a local connection,” shared Rifkind. “The book features a range of stories about Indigenous leaders, heroes, rebels, and activists from 1867 to now. This One Book UW program on This Place: 150 Years Retold will help build the conversation about Indigenization at UWinnipeg through a common reading experience. Indigenous writers and artists have embraced comics as a powerful form of storytelling, and this book invites rich conversations about the role of popular culture and the politics of reconciliation.”
This PLACE will be taught in many classes, across 12 departments, by 28 instructors with students ranging from the high school to the MA level studying the book in their Fall and Winter courses. A series of public events will tie into the classroom experience to unite the broader UWinnipeg community around this collective reading experience.
This includes special guests on campus this Fall to discuss the book, including Indigenous scholar Dr. Niigaanwewidam Sinclair, Governor-General’s award-winning author and UWinnipeg alumna Katherena Vermette, bestselling graphic novelist David Alexander Robertson, Métis author and scholar Chelsea Vowel, and Ojibwe writer Jennifer Storm, who will serve as 1BUW Writer-in-Residence in late October. There will be panel discussions, workshops, and a student and faculty symposium. For the complete list and dates of events, please visit 1BUW.
Also tied into 1BUW is the traveling art exhibit, When Raven Became Spider, at Gallery 1C03 that runs from September 19 – November 30. The exhibit, curated by Leena Minifie (Gitxaala/British), features art by Indigenous creators, including Joi T. Arcand (Cree), Sonny Assu (Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw), and Shaun Beyale (Navajo), and explores the intersection of Indigenous art and stories with contemporary superhero comics. This exhibit includes a panel discussion, curatorial talk and welcomes class visits and tours. Gallery 1C03 will also be hosting This Place 1BUW events.
1BUW is also designed to gather the campus together in all levels of an inclusive dialogue.
“Too often as academics we end up isolated in our own disciplines, and this project has given us the opportunity to see how the work we do is in conversation with departments across the University,” shared Christopher, Chair of the English Department. “It’s also an excellent opportunity to reach beyond the walls of the University and to support local writers and artists, a number of whom will be coming to campus over the fall to talk about their work on this fantastic and important book.”
This Place: 150 Years Retold is published by HighWater Press, an imprint of Winnipeg’s Portage and Main Press. It is available as an ebook through the UWinnipeg Library.