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Cartel Madras' MC Contra Curates An All-Star Cast To Explore The Constructs of “Home” In Letters Home

Dance, spoken word, and music take centre stage, deconstructing diasporas in part-three of Arts Commons’ TD Amplify Cabaret series.

by Cyana Jo

Navigating various backgrounds, demographics, and identities in a society which often expects conformity, Calgary arts organization Arts Commons Presents has enlisted one-half of Calgary hip-hop duo Cartel Madras, emcee Contra, to curate a diverse cast of artists as they explore the loaded context behind the idea of ‘home.’

The concept is loaded and many things to many different people, but Contra has tasked a talented group of individuals, including spoken word artist Alisha Ebrahim, dancers Ariel Fuoco and Nicole Charlton Goodbrand, R&B vocalist Tomi Nu and visual artist Harvey Nichol to reveal brave truths around issues of country, nationhood, and religion, exploring just what home means to them through their own specialized mediums. 

A multidisciplinary artist herself, Contra invites other artists among her to express the tensions they experience in their daily lives. Contra walks this artist’s path by the music she shares through Cartel Madras. “I’m always trying to push the boundary when it comes to creating art— I try to make it contemporary, but I’m informed by my past and where I’m from. When you listen to our music and watch our music videos, you see glimpses of our community and our homes.” Contra shares. 

Commissioned by the Art Commons TD Incubator program, Contra’s role is to curate different emerging BIPOC artists with various disciplines within Calgary— creating stories and sharing a specific message through their art for each cabaret. As the creative director, Contra is responsible for setting the tone, theme, and prompt. “We wanted to feel immersive and create all the visuals for everyone. We want it to be a one-hour compact show with four artists going back and forth, having conversations about each prompt and topic.”

Letters Home (That I Didn’t Want to Send) is a welcomed invitation for each artist to divulge challenging parts of their existence on stage. Communicating their process of deconstruction— whether it’s their gender, idea of sexuality, childhood, traumas, race, etc. Contra thinks it’ll be a unique experience to witness from these various mediums of art. Especially as each artist explores the depths within them, stripping away every element of assimilation which hindered them from forming their true self and truly feeling at home. 

Arts Commons Presents Letters Home (That I Didn’t Want to Send) on Saturday, April 30 at 7pm in the Engineered Air Theatre for the TD Amplify Cabaret series. Tickets can be purchased here. 

Illustration by Jae Sterling (@jaesterling)