WE THE NORTH
INONEKEY essay of the celebratory and sumptuous new sesquicentennial coffee-table book Glorious & Free (House of Anansi Press, $50, available at Holt Renfrew and bookstores across Canada), writer Tabatha Southey likens the impulse to define who we are to attempting to give oneself a nickname. She rightfully posits that “the very act of defining ourselves feels like a rather American thing to do.” So instead of defining, Glorious & Free takes the titular passage from the national anthem as an opportunity to explore the many talented multi-hyphenates working in creative fields today. To eschew 150 years of Canadiana clichés, the ampersand of the title looms large — it’s the endless and varied “and” that comes closest to capturing a common identity, since no Canadian is ever any one thing: we’re about individual and unusual origins as much as this shared homeland destination.
Kim Bozak and Rita Field-Marshal spearhead the project: almost 400 pages profile 33 contemporary Canadians at home and abroad, looking beyond the usual suspects. Subjects range from Ottawa-born twin brothers Byron and Dexter Peart of the burgeoning style empire WANT les Essentiels de la Vie, and Winnipeg writer and documentarian Katherena Vermette to British-born and Barbados-bred Toronto International Film Festival artistic director Cameron Bailey and Trinidad-born, Calgary-raised G Adventures travel entrepreneur Bruce Poon Tip. With unconventional interpretive illustration throughout by bestselling author (and frequent New Yorker cover artist) Frank Viva and with a foreword by Booker Prize-winning novelist Yann Martel, it’s a refreshingly prismatic view of innovative Canadians through interviews and personal photographs that, like fragmentary mood boards, reflect on what Canada means and how it continues to inspire. Like those monumental photo collages that, in turn, bring another picture into view, their talents transcend and transform what it means to be Canadian today. For what that might mean tomorrow or in 150 more years, there are infinite more “ands.” — Nathalie Atkinson