Fitsum (he/him) is the co-founder and project director for Textile. Habesha by way of Kitchener, he works closely with his diverse community as an advocate and organizer. His background as a youth worker and independent facilitator helps him to understand how power and difference structures our identities and relationships. Fitsum seeks to create more spaces in the Waterloo region for artistic expressions, and loves dancing, pick-up basketball and shawarma poutine.
Andrea (she/her) is a Roma woman who immigrated to Canada from Romania. She has spent her formative years learning and growing on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe, Haudenoshaunee and Neutral Peoples. Andrea is currently doing her Masters of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier where she continues to explore issues around immigration, mental health, and body image. Andrea is passionate about community connections and relationships and believes Textile will be an important nexus for the region’s writers and artists.
Yeabsera is currently in her 4th year at UW studying religious studies with a minor in sociology. Her roots trace back to Ethiopia but she was born in Sudan, spent her early childhood in Egypt and now lives in Kitchener. Although she has lived in Canada for majority of her life, her home is her ethiopian community. Given her background, she’s very passionate about empowering immigrants within her community and encouraging them to have a voice in this noise-ridden society.
One way she aims to empower people is through photography. She believes everyone has a unique story and through photography she is able to capture raw emotions and lead people into being comfortable in themselves. Textile provides a platform for her to extend her reach and tell more stories through her pictures.
Mary (she/her) is a community organizer and advocate who grew up in Kitchener. Co-organizer of queer-centric events with Plan B Cooperative KW, Mary has put on clothing swaps, arts workshops, and social events. Mary is a textile/fibre artist and poet whose interests lie in themes of power, bodies, and madness. Mary is the liaison between Textile and OurStudio and will be mentoring the emerging writers in that space.
Andy (he/him) is the co-founder and project director for Textile. He earned his Master's degree in English at the University of Waterloo and has served on contest panels for The New Quarterly. For Andy, writing is an important way to learn deeply about others. Textile is an opportunity for him to learn about and highlight stories that have been underrepresented or dismissed while reconnecting with his hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo. Andy loves dance music, catching a pump, and quiet cups of tea.
Matthew (he/him) is a queer, Filipino man that first connected to the Earth on the archipelago of the Philippines. He currently lives and works on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and Neutral Peoples and nations.
His current work involves using design and creativity as a way to navigate through uncertainty and complex problems that affect how people live in the world. He thinks a lot about how design can change how we work through conflict, can empower others in solidarity, and can help us move toward personal and spiritual growth.
Bashar is an immigrant poet! He uses the mundane to give you a glimpse of the complexities of leaving one home for another. Bashar is a storyteller, and his stories are deeply personal. He is a nationally competing poet & his poetry is a staple at many festivals including Cherry Festival and Latitudes Storytelling Festival. He was an opening act for artists such as Carlos Andres Gomez. His debut book has been funded by Ontario Arts Council and Waterloo Region Arts Fund and will be released in late 2019.
Since 2016, Bashar has been the co-artistic director of the Kitchener Waterloo Poetry Slam. In his role, he has focused on building community through consistent intimate events (poetry circles, writing circles, and workshops), as well as accountability and conversation.
Shalaka (she/her) spent her childhood between cities in India and Dubai, before moving to the GTA, and now Waterloo for school. She is wrapping up her degree in urban planning and will be moving on to graduate studies in cultural studies and curatorial work. As a twice-over immigrant, Shalaka is interested in pursuing questions around value relating to power and authority, primarily how they play out in space and place. When she isn’t studying the menus of local restaurants, she can be found plugged into a podcast or angry about climate change.
Zainab is a poet, aspiring filmmaker and recent BSc graduate from the University of Waterloo. Born in KW to Somali parents, Zainab’s interest in poetry began after accidentally stumbling into the world of spoken word. Her work often engages with ideas around memory, migration and histories of loss. She has spent the last six years performing on various stages throughout KW and the GTA, while also spearheading initiatives to cultivate spaces for young muslim women to share their stories through poetry.