Conceived by Toronto-artist Farrah Miranda, Speaking Fruit is a new and first-of-its-kind mobile, roadside fruit-stand and design studio that feeds the movement for migrant farmworker rights.
Beginning with a single question posed to migrant farmworkers in Southern Ontario, the project asks: “If the fruits you grow and pick could speak from dinner tables, refrigerators and grocery aisles, what would you want them to say?” Organizers have gathered dozens of written and
audio responses to this question from migrant agricultural workers across Southern Ontario and mobilized an incredible array of artists, partners, activists, and allies around these messages, turning them into direct action and also creative expression.
Evelyn Encalada, an organizer with the group Justice for Migrant Workers says the project is both urgent and necessary. “It brings together worlds that are kept apart but inextricably linked, interrupting the erasure and disconnection inherent in Canada's agricultural labour schemes.”
With colourful produce, a virtual reality film and lively soundscape, the sculpture convenes events that aim to share strategies and build alliances between movements for racial, food and labour justice, while distributing these messages to the public through specially designed produce packaging.
For Gabriel Allahdua, the project provides an opportunity for migrant farmworkers to share their thoughts, experiences and demands with the public. “We want permanent status not temporary work,” he explains as a matter of fact.
Presented on specially designed produce packaging available at the fruit-stand, these messages will make their way to produce consumers in Southern Ontario and beyond. Consumers may respond to messages from the workers, using the hashtag #SpeakingFruit.
“I wanted to create space for migrant farmworkers to join in the artistic process,” explains Farrah Miranda. “Migrant farmworkers can be artists too. Many already are.”
In the spirit of experimentation and collaboration, Farrah Miranda invited other artists to join her at the farms this summer.
Hamilton-based choreographer, Heryka Miranda, believes that art has the power to transform. “There’s a kind of magic and self-permission that happens when one begins to think of themselves as an artist. Through dance, the grape growers I worked with were able to share their profound relationship to the land and the fruit that they work with daily”.
A virtual reality headset will be available at the fruit-stand. Wearing it, allows the viewer to travel to the vineyard. Amidst its rustling leaves, and moody skies, they will witness the creativity of the workers. Supported by Toronto musicians, the sound in the film was produced by the workers.
This fall Speaking Fruit also travels to:
- Sept. 16 - Black Creek Community Farm
- Sept. 20 - Our Sustenance Night Market in Six Nations
- Sept. 21-23 - Art and Food Justice Festival in Hamilton
- Sept. 24 - Leamington Gathering with Migrant Farmworkers
- Sept. 28 - Canadian Student Leadership Conference + Guest Lecture in Waterloo (Renison University College)
- Sept 30 - Nuit Blanche
- Oct. 7 - Hemi GSI Convergence
- Oct. 25-Nov 30 - Santa Fe Arts Institute
Farrah Miranda is an Abu-Dhabi born, Toronto-based artist of Goan and Mangalorean descent. She holds a Master of Environmental Studies from York University (2017), and has studied under performance scholar and feminist theatre director, Honor Ford-Smith.
Miranda has exhibited at Artcite Inc. (Windsor), the Surrey Art Gallery (British Columbia), Astérides (Marseille), and Whippersnapper Gallery (Toronto). Her writing appears in several publications, including In the Wake of the Komagata Maru: Transpacific Migration, Race and Contemporary Art, VOZ-À-VOZ, Decolonization, Indigeneity & Society, Border Criminologies, Rabble and FUSE Magazine.
She is the recipient of the ETFO Social Activism Award (2013), and the Funding Engaging Actions with Sustainable Tactics '06 Award (2013).
Conceived by Miranda, SPEAKING FRUIT, is one of 200 exceptional projects funded by the Canada Council for the Arts New Chapter Program (2017). It is also the recipient of generous support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Ontario Arts Council.
Craig Fortier is an Assistant Professor in Social Development Studies at Renison University College, an affiliated college of the University of Waterloo. He holds a PhD in Sociology from York University. Craig has participated in movements for migrant justice and in support of Indigenous sovereignty for over a decade in Toronto, Three Fires Confederacy, Haudenosaunee, and Huron-Wyandot territories. His dissertation looks at how anti-authoritarian movements learn, imagine, and practice processes of decolonization.
His research interests include settler colonialism, decolonization, nationalism, social movements, migrant justice, anti-authoritarian social service provision and baseball history.
Craig Fortier procured research funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the University of Waterloo for this project, and is the Principal Investigator on this research.
Evelyn Encalada is a community organiser and researcher who was born in Chile and raised in Canada. Her dissertation focuses on migrant work across rural Ontario and Rural Mexico. Evelyn has worked in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras with the Central American Network in Solidarity with Women Maquila Workers and with the Workers Support Centre in Puebla, Mexico. Evelyn is a founding member of Justice for Migrant Farm Workers, a political collective that has fought for the rights of migrant farm workers in Canada since 2001. In the summer of 2009 she created an innovative online course-Migration and Displacement- based on her academic and transnational organizing work for the Centre for Intercultural Communication at the University of British Columbia.
Gabriel Allahdua is a migrant farmworker, organizer with Justice for Migrant Farmworkers and advisor on Speaking Fruit. He moved to Canada to work as a temporary agricultural worker in 2010 after a hurricane devastated his home and livelihood in St. Lucia. An expert on what it means to live in conditions where one is permanently temporary, Allahdua is routinely called upon by media, social justice organizations, unions and universities to comment on topics related to Canada’s temporary labour migration schemes.