Howl! Arts meeting at Résonance Café

My journey with Howl! Arts

Montréal arts collective Howl! Arts has organized more than a hundred events in its five years existence, ranging from concerts to community benefits, discussion panels and arts fair and has energized the Montréal cultural space with a wind of activism and social justice struggles. It voiced dissent against the neocon politics of cynicism and division. This article sheds light on one of Montréal's secrets.

Mar. 22, 2016

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.

Student protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Untitled

Untitled By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016

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

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

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

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

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.

Untitled

Untitled By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016

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"

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.

Untitled

Untitled By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016

In march 2016, a film screening at "La Passe" retraces the union fight in Québec, amidst independentist struggles.

dArk mAAt'r

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

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.

Untitled

Untitled By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016

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.

Untitled

Untitled By HERI RAKOTOMALALA on Mar. 22, 2016

A music show gathering old and new instruments, at La Vitrola in spring 2012

Nick Iversen

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

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.

In many ways, Howl! Arts won many of its iconic fights. It lasted more more than Stephen Harper. Little by little, we saw the Canada economy losing its sick addiction on oil. Jean Chrétien lost his seat, with his objective of limiting access to higher education. The fight continues though. There is a week-long art fair this week, and there will be many more events. I hope to see you there!

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Story by
Heri Rakotomalala

Originally from Madagascar, and having gone through East Africa, France, Heri Rakotomalala is now based in Montréal, Canada. With his pen and his camera, he hopes to put forward inspiring stories, urban heroes, from grassroots activism to uncovered stories by the media

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