Guest Editing by Luay Eljamal.
It’s been a long-standing dream of mine to lean into the literary community in Wood Buffalo. In my youth, it was the literary arts that first exposed me to the arts world, and I’ve loved dipping back into that community through NorthWord magazine. I’d highly recommend guest editing to anyone who’s thinking about doing it.
I was asked to come up with a theme for this edition. I knew I wanted something that celebrated diversity and inclusion, and reflected community spirit. I also wanted something abstract that left room for interpretation. After floating a few key phrases around, I landed on “Amalgamation”. I convinced myself that this theme was right for the time, because to me, it was a reflection of how the pandemic had and continues to force so many of us apart. We know that there is strength in coming together, and if we couldn’t do it in person, I wanted to motivate an attempt to embrace coming together through creativity and the arts. “Amalgamation” being the action or process of uniting or merging two or more things, felt like an appropriate theme for the task.
I’ve loved being witness to the various interpretations that came out of this theme from all of this year’s selected artists. Pieces such as Hanna Fridhed's “The Fourth” and Dorothy Bentley's “Kalani” play so beautifully with the interconnectedness of language and culture, two elements that are very close to my heart. And magnificent pieces such as Sorina Sorinuka's “Symphony in the Sky” and Dawn Booth's “A Classic Creation” pulled various elements of the five senses together so exquisitely. I can’t wait for them to be read by the community.
In total, there are 21 pieces of art within the issue, and they all do an excellent job of revealing beautiful vulnerabilities and not shying away from sharing fresh, new and innovative ideas in ways that we know only the arts community can do.
I would also be remiss not to mention the front cover artist, Ambreen Ehtisham (Art by AmbreenE) — she’s a remarkably talented resin artist here in Wood Buffalo. I’ve purchased a few of her pieces for myself last year. She was also the artist behind last year’s Buffy awards, and is shortlisted in the Visual Arts category for this year's 2021 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards. At our issue launch event, she shared that her inspiration for this piece (6 months in the making!) was the Athabasca River — such a beautiful representation of our region in artistic form.