I first met Stefan Cristoff at popular venue Les Bobards. Its music was loud and diverse and made it the favorite of many musicians, young bohemians and travellers. The late night music also led to its closure by city officials and grumpy neighbours.
Stefan was distributing flyers and wanted to publicize an activist event to the hip-hop crowd. The same idea of bringing activism to art led to the creation of the Howl! Arts Collective.
A reference to Allen Ginsberg's controversial poem, Howl! Arts aims to create a community of artists, spoken word poets, jazz musicians, graphic designers, activists and political radicals around a series of concerts and art events. This is not the corporate-directed artistic mode see in Montréal billboards. You cannot buy tickets, and events do not make any money, to the contrary. There is no marketing, mission, "project management" or all the snazzy concepts taught in business schools. Howl! Arts is however united in fighting neo colonialism, engineered politics of war and hate, aiming to utilize art to break through borders.
While I was never on center stage or took the microphone, I was present at the events, perhaps in a corner or below the stage to take pictures and document events, from its beginnings in fall 2011 to art fairs in 2016. The following pictures paint a portrait of Howl! Arts and the indefatigable work of its members.
Event at Sala Rossa By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Student protests By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Howl! Arts takes inspiration in community and student collective fights. Here Québec students are protesting liberal tactics to limit access to higher education.
Howl! Arts supported the event through "Rêve Géneral Illimité", "carré rouge sonore", artists strike and by direct action
Student Protests, René Lesvêque By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Freda Guttman shows her support to "carré rouges" students. These demonstrations gathered hundreds of thousands, even during the long nights or when police state started its illegal arrests.
To many people in Québec and Canadians, this is political radicalism. This is however about progress and justice, and give a chance to workers, immigrants and fragile members of our society.
Palestine Protests By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
It was not always about Québec and Canada. Howl! Arts also participated in collective fights for Palestine, even when the city, provincial and federal governments were openly supporting the Israel state and its brutal colonial ventures in Gaza and the West Bank.
Here dozens of thousands of Montréalers, Canadiens, Palestinians, Egyptians, lebanese gathered to protest the killings of civilians, women and express solidarity.
Music at Sala Rossa By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
The music events were the highlight of Howl! Arts activity, organized in venues in Mile-End and Plateau, such as Casa Del Popolo.
There, musicians showcased jazz rhythms, new soundscapes, hip-hop verses or plain spoken word poetry, inspired and brought together by Howl! Arts on activism grounds.
Event at Sala Rossa By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
The event attracted a diverse audience of workers, friends, artists, spanning diverse communities and artistic sensibilities. They were never "commercialized" and no one was ever refused at the door.
Jason Blackbird at Casa Del Popolo By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Here, the voice of Jason Blackbird Selman, trumpetist and poet, resonates through the room at Casa Del Popolo.
Agent Provocateur By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Howl! Arts also helped organize expositions and album launches. This graphic design piece denounces the state police, during the "carré rouge" movement.
Late August 2012 By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Here, Howl! Arts participate in the "vigile" in old port of Montréal to denounce the violence and the indiscriminate killing of Palestinians
Palestine lights By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Despite the strong wind and visible police presence, lanterns were alit and left to roam the open sky.
Howl! Arts and arts fair at casa By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Howl! Arts organized arts fair at Sala Rossa, where graphic designers, writers, craftspeople and activists could display their work.
Arts fair at Sala Rossa By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
The art fairs attracted a large crowd and helped energize the community. They are now back this year at the Howl! Festival
Gaza Mon Amour By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Howl! Arts supported civic protests with its bold posters. It was also a time of dreams, friendship and community building.
Here Kevin Lo, graphic designer and typography artist, writes the beautiful words "Gaza Mon Amour" on posters for a Palestinian protest.
Event in Mile-End By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Many artists were featured at Howl! Arts. Some of them came from other cities or other countries. Others left Montréal for good. But the Howl! Arts events were always a moment of communion.
Kevin Lo introduces artist at one of the early Howl! Art event - putting into context the musicians' performance against the neo-con policies coming from Ottawa.
Sala Rossa, early 2015 By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Ricardo Lamour "Emrical", a community worker, activist, and hip-hop artist is featured at a Howl! Arts events.
He denounced racism in the Freddy Villenueva case and the systemic profiling and oppression by police in the Montréal-Nord neighborhood
Sala Rossa, late 2014 By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Kaie Kellough, spoken word poet and writer, reads one of his work on state police.
La Vitrola, September 2015 By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Meryem Saci, member of the Nomadic Massive collective, joins Howl! Arts. #BlackLivesMatter and the oppression of black lives by police is known mostly as an American issue in mainstream media, but it is important for hip-hop and black voices such as Meryem to stand and also recall local struggles such as the Freddy Villanueva case in Montréal.
Stefan and Sameer Zuberi By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
CKUT, a community radio station, is one of the media supporting Howl! Arts, with regular ads before an event. The radio also records and broadcasts live select concerts.
Here "Free City Radio" weekly CKUT show features local activist Sameer Zuberi.
A panel with friends Freda Guttman, Kevin Lo discusses gentrification and how artists are getting involved. The panelist Cindy Milstein introduces struggles in San Francisco, an opportunity to tinker with the ongoing gentrification in Mile-End.
Launch of booklet "Free City Radio" By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
While technically not a Howl! Arts events, this booklet launch carries the same message and has the same audience as Howl! events, certainly adding material and sharing issues with activists, artists, writers, social workers in the community.
In march 2016, a film screening at "La Passe" retraces the union fight in Québec, amidst independentist struggles.
dArk mAAt'r By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
The dArk mAAt'r collective is featured at Howl! Art for Black History Month.
La Vitrola By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Howl! Arts welcomed many visiting artists from Boston, NYC, Egypt and the Middle East, and contributed in bringing new sounds and new rhythms in Montréal.
While not the same organization, Howl! Arts also worked with Artists against Apartheid, promoting de-investment and denouncing crimes of apartheid in Israel-Palestine. The voices were loud and called for a cultural boycott of Israel.
A music show gathering old and new instruments, at La Vitrola in spring 2012
Nick Iversen By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
In 2016, Howl! Arts continues with new members, new musical modes and new friends. Nick Schofield, sound recorder and artist, here plays soundscapes in a winter event.
Stefan & Friends at Casa By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016
Above all, the Howl! Arts events were an opportunity with friends, a brief moment of happiness and inspiration.