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Culture Days project in Nanaimo explores ecosystem connections

Event ambassador Shelley Stein-Wotten shows mini-documentary Oct. 8
Shelley Stein-Wotten, a Culture Days ambassador, positions part of her ‘Words of an Ecosystem’ collaborative project at the Vancouver Island Regional Library’s Nanaimo North branch on Hammond Bay Road. (Photo by Conor Provenzano)

As part of a micro-documentaries series presenting community-engaged projects that explore relationships with the Earth or with each other for B.C.’s Culture Days, a Nanaimo humour writer will release her short film this week.

Shelley Stein-Wotten was named a Culture Days ambassador for 2022, and produced Words of an Ecosystem, a collaboratively written story about the human relationship with the Garry oak ecosystem.

“Which is the most endangered, also, most ecologically diverse, plant and animal community that, in B.C., is only found on southeast Vancouver Island and on the Gulf Islands,” Stein-Wotten said.

For the project, which was displayed at the Vancouver Island Regional Library’s Nanaimo North branch until Oct. 3, the ambassador asked the public to join her in a story-building exercise in late August.

The project started with Stein-Wotten sharing “satirical musings” about the human-ecosystem relationship and participants would respond with their own written contributions, be it a word, sentence or phrase. She read five narratives that represented five chapters: isolation, imbalance, repair, connection and reciprocity. By the end of the project, the group had built a story through individual contributions that collectively formed an exploration on “how we might restore aspects of the rare ecosystem.”

“It was a really interesting process … The story that we were creating wasn’t pre-determined. So each offering was spontaneous,” Stein-Wotten said. “None of the participants, including myself, knew what the outcome was going to be. So we were jumping headfirst, not knowing how the story was going to evolve … And what was so wonderful about it was that people were very active in their participation.”

She the project as a whole was a reflection of the group effort it can take to ameliorate a fragmented ecosystem.

“Every small act, even growing a plant on a balcony, can help us restore an ecosystem – our shared home,” Stein-Wotten said. She is excited to see “where we can take that” and hopes people can emulate the same energy she saw during the project and take action in their daily lives and explore the connection with other life on the planet.

As a Culture Days ambassador, Stein-Wotten took the lead on encouraging participation in the arts and culture of the community and spotlighted the essential contributions that it brings to people in their everyday lives.

The Words of an Ecosystem mini-documentary will launch online at on Saturday, Oct. 8.

As part Culture Days, Nanaimo will also see five digital tours that explore the history of the city, as well as a Nanaimo Art Gallery clay sculpture lab called ‘All About Bats’ which aims to educate and dispel myths about bats on Oct. 16.

The digital tours are include: Nanaimo’s Waterfront: The Key to Prosperity; Nanaimo’s Postwar Transformation: The Boom Years; Life in Early Nanaimo: How We Got Here; Robert Dunsmuir: Captain of Industry or Robber Baron; and Departure Bay: From Sea to Sky. All are available online until Oct. 16.

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Mandy Moraes

About the Author: Mandy Moraes

I joined Black Press Media in 2020 as a multimedia reporter for the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, and transferred to the News Bulletin in 2022
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