C/O Jeswin Thomas

First-years at McMaster share the academic and social impacts of “missing out” on high school

By: Zara Khan, Contributor

Exams. That’s quite the scary word when it comes to first-year students who went through online school and “quadmesters.” Although this might not apply to every first-year student, the education of more than 1.5 billion students were affected by school closures worldwide. The majority of university freshmen entered after completing two grades online, where exams and standard testing were not mandated during this time period.

So now, when freshmen are faced with double the amount of courses in addition to exams they feel at a loss as to how to study and prepare for their assessments. We all knew that post-secondary education was not supposed to be easy but because of the pandemic, university has become increasingly difficult for some students to handle. 

In Ontario high schools, having a course that was supposed to be learnt over four months was cut in half, but had students attending each course for double the amount of time in one sitting. This not only made students lose interest in the subject, but also left students not retaining much information either. A study conducted by Per Engzell reveals that this style of learning throughout the pandemic is equivalent to a learning loss of one-fifth of a school year. This left many seniors going into post-secondary education without retaining much from their last high school year. 

First-years on campus at McMaster were asked about their thoughts regarding how online high school prepared them for post-secondary. Many felt it had hindered their learning.

“Online schooling caused me to learn everything faster, that way I was learning to pass and not just for the sake of learning, which is really important to be successful in university,” explained Sandra Eldho, a first-year life sciences student. 

The idea of learning in order to get through the school year and not necessarily to understand the concepts being taught impacted first years greatly this year. They now have to study, understand more difficult concepts and handle double the course load with a flawed strategy to study effectively. 

Exams are also a major source of stress for many students.

“I’m nervous because all of [the exams] are close to [worth] 50%,” explained Kirsten Espe, a first-year integrated biomedical engineering and health sciences student.  

With COVID-19 leading to the cancellation of in-person exams in most high schools last year, new university students are struggling with being thrown into exams worth almost half of their entire grade. 

“We don’t feel well prepared and don’t want to [write] it,” said Leanne Chen, a first-year integrated biomedical engineering and health sciences student. 

Similar sentiments were echoed by Hima Patel, a student in engineering. 

“I believe from my high school experience, I don’t feel as prepared as other kids may feel. I grew up in a small town and our political standings, which were conservative for 20 years, had a lot of impact on what we learned. One of the big things is that we never learned how to be responsible in settings which include partying, intimacy and drinking” said Patel.

With such a focus on the academic aspect of university, we often forget about how social university can be too. Some students from smaller towns, such as Patel, were already underprepared to handle the new social settings that come with university. With the pandemic, we can only imagine how isolation may have contributed to a decline in the social skills that come with high school. With all this said, the loss of first years’ last two years of high school negatively impacted the majority of first-years within both their academic and social environments. 

I would imagine that regardless of your high school background, all students were startled (at least slightly) by the pandemic and this impacted their academic and/or social skills in some way or another. As mentioned by numerous first-years at Mac, the pandemic and the loss of a traditional end to high school has set up the steep learning curve they must face now. 

When it comes to pre-exam stress, we must accept that our study techniques from high school are destined to evolve. Planning ahead, giving yourself more time to practice the material and fully understanding the concepts will help in lessening academic stress. Taking time for yourself periodically is also critical to the mind and we must explore methods to prevent burnout. In the end, whether high school prepared us well or not for post-secondary, we can always try and put our best foot forward when it comes to preparing for our future. 

Point Of View

By: Matty Flader, Photo Reporter 

We’re taught from a young age that certain things in the world are constant. There’s a northern star in the sky, a brain in our heads and art for those who can’t use that brain towards “something more productive”. Yet, if you ask a group of people to take their own photos of the same thing, you’ll get a myriad of results. Suddenly, the illusion of some consistent reality is shattered. Our points of view dictate what we see and how we understand. It’s so easy to think that reality is a constant and tangible construct, but what can truthfully be said to be “real” without it first being filtered through the infinitely varying human perspective? Thus, reality can only fairly be understood as socially constructed through some sort of collective agreement. This is my visual recap of Supercrawl — the way I saw things. My contribution of “something more productive” to reality.

 

#unignorable

By: Cindy Cui, Photo Editor

Poverty, domestic violence, social isolation and mental illness. Sometimes, the most serious problems in our communities are the ones we don’t see. By ignoring these issues, we make it more difficult for those who are suffering to find and receive the help they need. Instead, these people  feel silenced, suffocated and invisible. As communities, we can help … but only if we recognize that these problems exist — only if we give them our attention. It's time that we make such issues, circumstances and stories #unignorable.

 

 

Photo c/o Christopher Mcleod

By Olivia Fava, Contributor

Democratic art. These are the two words that I would use to describe “EMERGENCY Pt2., Structures of Action”, a 2019 Supercrawl installation that built off of its 2018 predecessor to focus on the perspectives of the everyday person. 

Christopher McLeod, a McMaster studio art alumnus and the creator of this exhibit, was originally inspired by the general apathy he perceived from those around him. This informed part one of his project. 

“Looking at things that happen around us in our communities, our cities, our countries, around the world…I’d say to myself, ‘Is no one paying attention? What do people care about?’ I didn’t know,” said McLeod.

McLeod’s only solution was to ask the people exactly what they did care about. A tall “emergency” beacon invited passersby to share their greatest concerns on any scale, from political to personal. According to McLeod, he and his team heard from about 1,400 people over three days during last year’s Supercrawl festival.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2aNGk7n2-V/

The top three issues that were brought up in 2018 were safe streets, health and the environment. These formed the core of this year’s installation. While McLeod’s initial question dealt with what Hamiltonians were worried about, part two of his project asked a graver question: what are Hamiltonians willing to do about the core issues they had identified?

“Are we all just going to sit around and sort of watch what’s happening, or are we going to step up and try to make a difference?” asked McLeod.

This year, levels of action for each of the three issues were ranked one to five, from least to most involved. Like many others, I chose my level of action, signed my name on the corresponding colour of sticker, and stuck it to the beacon. Hamilton Youth Poets also performed spoken-word pieces on these issues, which were based on public submissions.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2Z2LWkHbi0/

A high degree of public involvement in this project was very important to McLeod, as a way of drawing in those who might normally ignore these issues.

“I’m like a tool for society…my role [as an artist] is not to dictate. My role is: how do I create spaces, opportunities and experiences that allow a community to come together to have these conversations in a non-standard way?” said McLeod.

As I observed my sticker on the overflowing environmental side of the beacon, voices swirled around me. Kids were asking about road safety and friends were challenging each other to volunteer for the issues they were motivated to address. McLeod’s beacon stood in the middle of it all, literally and metaphorically shedding its light.

 

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Graphic by Elisabetta Paiano

Most Hamiltonians associate the weekend-long street festival, Supercrawl, with live entertainment and art installations. Flying above James Street North were giant colourful flags reading “deviate”, “subvert” and “resist” with the word “exist” on the back of each. Attracting vistors from blocks away, Flags asks what it means to exist within the twenty-first century, specifically as a queer person in Hamilton.

Adrienne Crossman is a professor of studio arts at McMaster University, but their journey began after finishing a master’s degree thesis at the University of Windsor. Their thesis project consisted of 15 small felt pennant flags, each a different colour representing queer and trans flags with words like “exist”, “postgender” and “neither/both” across the front.

“I’m subverting the medium of these little pennants that are often used for tourism or celebrating sports and I put words like “failure,” “deviate” or “resist”. That was a larger series . . . the one that said “failure” specifically was like an anti-varsity flag or celebrating this idea of failure or positivity of queerness,” said Crossman.

A year later and Crossman became a full-time professor at McMaster. Although they had previously visited  Hamilton and recently moved for work, they had never exhibited any work in the city. They had an idea  that would not have been possible without the festival backing their work. 

“I’ve just been thinking a lot more about how to have more of an impact with my work. I’ve never done an outdoor installation before and I’ve never made work at this scale...It’s a new piece, new work, but also an evolution. It’s the second iteration of a similar concept. It also functions differently, there’s three flags, they’re much larger and they’re a different shape,” said Crossman.

“Flags” consisted of three different eight by five foot flags hanging from lamp posts. Crossman designed the colours, shapes and lettering, but hit the barrier that they cannot sew. They hired a seamstress to help with the task of putting together the large flags in order to debut in Hamilton for the weekend-long festival. 

The queer community in Hamilton has had a turbulent history. Hamilton was home to one of Canada’s most recent bathhouse raids in 2004.

The raid created an uproar within the LGBT community. Questions of safety arose and led to a decline in queer spaces throughout the city. Currently, no designated queer space exists; however, many local businesses are welcoming.

Recent homophobic protests have put members of the Hamilton queer community on edge, leaving many to wonder about safety, a question that seems to be prevalent across many communities across the globe. Crossman hopes that their work continues the conversation on the path to resisting the oppression that faces the LGBT community not just in Hamilton but across the country. 

“It’s just the continuation of a conversation. So the text reads “subvert”, “deviate” and “resist” as forms of resisting oppression but on the back where it says resist it more speaks to the fact that existing as a queer person, a visibly queer person or anybody that doesn’t suit the way that people might perceive as normal – just existing itself is a form of resistance which I think can be a very radical sentiment,” said Crossman. 

Although three large, brightly coloured flags may look inviting during Supercrawl weekend, they hold deep meaning. 

“A lot of my work has a trojan horse approach where you make something that looks fun but can spark or start a dialogue about something that is a little more serious,” said Crossman. 

For Crossman and many within the queer community, “Flags” is just the beginning of continuing dialogue against oppression faced daily by Hamiltonians and others around the world. Although Supercrawl is Hamilton’s premiere arts and culture event, they engage with contemporary social issues to ensure they are bringing a new perspective to the city.

 

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Photos by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

Mental illness touches everyone. For artist Ahmed Elfatih, intimate memories of his own life created the foundations for his art. From Sept. 7 to 16, Elfatih’s art pieces took over the walls of the Hamilton Audio Visual Node (HAVN) on 26 Barton Street East for “Mixed Matter”. This unique exhibit displayed Elfatih’s struggles leading up to his immigration from Omdurman, Sudan to Hamilton, Ontario. With a focus on his personal experiences with mental illness, each of his paintings tell a different memory from his life.

“These paintings are actual events; actual things that happened to me,” said Elfatih.

Elfatih’s mother was one of the main reasons why Elfatih was able to come to Canada. For five years, she worked to bring her family to this new country. Suitingly, all of Elfatih’s paintings are dedicated to his mother. 

Elfatih started making art as early as six years old when his sister began teaching him how to draw characters such as Mickey Mouse. With the support of his dad, Elfatih eventually picked up art as a way to cope with his mood swings.

“When I’m happy, I paint. When I’m sad, I paint. It’s actually a healing method for me,” said Elfatih.

“Mixed Matter” is an art show that highlights all the struggles Elfatih faced in the process of coming to Hamilton. Elfatih noted that most of his difficulties in Omdurman revolved around managing mental illness. He continues to paint because he hopes to start a cause or campaign to use art and music to heal. Art is how he kept his happiness and energy.

Elfatih’s compositions contain unique figures and scenery that may not make sense to the mind at first. But that’s a lot like what feelings look like - sometimes when you try to depict them, they just don’t make sense. They are beautiful, chaotic and tragic in their own ways.

Feelings are exactly what Elfatih wants people to get from his exhibit. He wants his art to touch the human mind and heart; to see if others can relate to his work. 

“I feel comfort when I find out that other people also go through those issues. What I’m trying to get is feelings. I want people to [leave the exhibit] with experience … That was what I was aiming for,” Elfatih remarked.

Elfatih notes that “Bell’s Curse” is one of his favourite pieces he’s done. “Bell’s Curse” depicts Elfatih in front of a patterned royal purple background. On the right side of his face, his features seem normal; if not a bit down-turned. On the left, his features blossom in different directions; almost as if they are sprouting out of his face and growing in their own way. 

What could be the story behind this painting? Recently, Elfatih was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a temporary weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles. As a child, this was something he had experienced temporarily.. Four months ago; however, it stayed. Elfatih says that the painting represents him. What he takes from this painting is that flaws are beautiful and that you should be proud of them.

“God hand picks you to have [flaws] … especially if it’s visual, it’s like hey, I’m gonna put this little gift on you; this pearl on you,” he said.

As you go through the exhibit, you can see both the hurt and the healing that Elfatih has gone through. This is evident  in each individual brushstroke, caption and story that his paintings retell. 

Mental and physical illnesses are difficult. His paintings depict that clearly. But sometimes, some good can come from the pain and struggle.

 

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Photos by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor 

By Rya Buckley, Contributor

Hamilton’s trademark multi-arts festival, Supercrawl, has grown to attract artists, entrepreneurs and audiences from across the globe. As a result, a local artist taking the stage of this event has become particularly special. Last weekend, aspiring 17-year-old Hamiltonian R&B singer-songwriter, Neena Rose, performed on all three days of the festival.

Having released a flurry of singles over the last 12 months, Rose has been generating a major buzz on the Canadian music scene. Her singles, including the recent release “(You A) Machine Gun”, are snapshots of her debut EP called 333, which is set to come out later this year. 

 

Rose’s recent buzz has been years in the making. She recorded her first original song, “Rock N Roll Lullaby” at the age of 12. In 2013, Rose performed for Oprah Winfrey and a crowd of 14,000 when the media mogul came to Copps Coliseum (now FirstOntario Centre). While the early success has been rewarding, Rose mentioned that she had fallen in love with music years before she began gaining recognition. 

“[T]he first memory I have of singing and realizing I even liked to sing was … at an anniversary party … for one of my aunts when I was maybe four. There was a pianist … and then she’s like ‘Hey, do you want to sing something … I’ll play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and you sing.’ I’m like ‘OK.’ So I got up there and I sang in front of all my extended family and everybody’s like ‘Oh my God, she can actually hold a tune,’” Rose recalled.

A couple years after the discovery of her talent, Rose’s mother put Rose in singing lessons. Rose remembers writing her first song around the age of five or six. She started to consider music as a career when she was 12 years old and attending a youth summer program. It was during this program that Rose recorded her first song. Attracted to both the creative process of songwriting and the ability to make a living by doing what she loved, Rose began to pursue music professionally. 

Amidst her budding career, Rose is finishing up high school. She hopes to go to university for business and perhaps also major in music. She continues to immerse herself in both the business and creative sides of the music industry.

Earlier this year, Rose was the youngest Canadian to participate in California Copyright Conference’s “Young Guns – Innovative and Thriving in the New World Music Order” panel. The California Copyright Conference facilitates discussions of copyright-related issues in music and entertainment. Rose was brought in to give her perspective as an up-and-coming artist navigating the industry.

Rose is drawn to the systematic nature of the music business. She understands the importance of being an artist with a coherent brand. Her passion for both the creative and business sides of being a professional singer will likely serve as an asset as she continues her career.

“I love when there’s something I can follow, like a pattern. And so like there’s tricks and stuff as with everything, but I like that you can learn how to actually function in an industry, in a business and make it work and still do the things you love,” said Rose.

For Rose, singing, and especially song writing, is an outlet. She pulls from everyday happenings in her life when she is making music. She hopes to one day be able to write songs for other artists as well.

In all the music that she creates, Rose wants her audiences to feel empowered. From her debut single, “Games”, where she stated that she doesn’t want to be pushed around, to the more recent single, “Mannequin”, where she encourages listeners to be themselves, Rose spreads messages of positivity and self-love through her work.

Performing at Supercrawl last weekend is full circle for this Hamilton native, who attended the festival when she was younger. She has seen the festival grow over the years and is honoured to have been a part of its lineup.

“I’m definitely inspired by people in my own hometown pursuing their dreams … [The Hamilton art scene] is booming. It’s definitely really prevalent. There’s so many things that are happening in Hamilton that people don’t even know about,” Rose said.

And just like her city, Neena Rose is blooming too.

 

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Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor 

Visitors to this year’s Supercrawl festival likely left with strong memories of “Macro dose”, an installation featuring sonic vibrations and three towering, lit-up mushrooms sprouting from mattresses. Sean Procyk, the artist behind it all, peeled back the many layers of this exhibit. 

“I had this idea of doing a surreal experience for viewers, so kind of like giant mushrooms in an Alice in Wonderland type setting. There was a big challenge in how I was going to have these giant mushrooms growing out of the street, so a lot of time was spent thinking about what kind of object I would want mushrooms to grow out of without it being arbitrary,” said Procyk. 

Mattresses turned out to be Procyk’s missing puzzle piece. He was inspired by the displacement of Hamilton residents, which has been partly due to an influx of newcomers, development projects and overall gentrification. After a neighbour mentioned seeing several mattresses on their street, Procyk reflected on how mattresses are often left behind when people relocate. He paired this idea with his interest in mycology. 

Glue lamination process for the mushroom caps. Photo c/o Sean Procyk.

“I started thinking about how mushrooms grow off of the refuse of the forest. Then I began imagining giant mushrooms feeding off of the refuse of human society, mattresses being part of the refuse. Then I thought about how, in the field of mycology, when you try to grow a particular type of mushroom species on some kind of substrate like grains or straw, which is the food that they feed off of, the term they use is you want to colonize the substrate. So there is a bit of a tie-in . . . I was just pulling language from that field and imagining colonizing these mattress with a particular kind of mushroom,” said Procyk. 

As part of his interest in autonomous food production, Procyk grows his own oyster and shiitake mushrooms. Through this process, he learned that the “colonization” in mycology refers to sterilizing a growing medium, such as straw, inoculating it with the preferred mycelium and growing a monoculture. Sterilization removes all undesirable microbes and bacteria, improving the chances that the preferred mycelial culture will prevail. Through “Macro dose”, Procyk cleverly connected colonization in mycology to the colonization that still occurs across North America and the rest of the world. 

Photo c/o Sean Procyk

To build “Macro dose”, Procyk collected, soaked and shaped Black Locust wood into mushroom caps in his very own backyard. The use of this particular tree was deliberate. As Procyk said, Black Locust has an extremely high rot resistance, burns efficiently at high temperatures, and could be a renewable source of heat energy. Unfortunately, it has been labelled an invasive species in Canada. Procyk suspects that this is because Black Locust’s growth patterns make it suboptimal for mass wood production. 

“All this said, it brings to light the question of who makes decisions about what species are labelled invasive and what species are given privilege. In the lumber industry . . . it appears as it is those that support capitalist process that are given priority,” explained Procyk. 

The relationships between the elements of “Macro dose” and real-world concepts complete a dreamlike narrative. For example, knowing that the resin of Black Locust glows a subtle green under UV light, Procyk made his mushroom caps glow an eerie green to represent this “invasive” species. 

To further elevate his installation, Procyk used speakers to release sonic vibrations that created an absorbing audio-tactile experience for visitors. The green lights of the mushroom caps subtly dimmed in and out in response to carefully programmed frequency changes in sound. 

“I prefer to create a soundscape that is more abstracted, something that is not too literal and is more about the experience of listening. So, I work with frequencies on the lower end, those tend to be more subtle . . . and immersive, they move through your body . . . and it is quite [a] soothing effect,” said Procyk. 

With a dedication to his self-sufficient process, Procyk worked with themes of displacement and colonization to take Supercrawl visitors to an alternate universe. 

Photo c/o Cyprian Estrada

An earlier version of this article was incorrectly published with photos from another Supercrawl fashion show. The Sil apologizes for any confusion this may have caused. 

By Emily O'Rourke, Contributor

What first launched as a makeshift runway along a James Street North sidewalk has grown into a crowd favourite at Supercrawl. 

Supercrawl’s Fashion Zone has grown significantly over the years, officially becoming a dedicated part of the festival in 2014. Among the Fashion Zone’s team of designers, organizers and passionate creatives, co-owners of the Eye of Faith, Aaron Duarte and Paul Heaton, stand out.

Established in 2011 by Duarte and Heaton, the Eye of Faith is a multifaceted brand, focusing on promoting individuality and expression through the exploration of the “past, fusing into the present to help shape the future.” Initially purveying high quality unique vintage finds, the brand has since expanded into original one-of-a-kind garments created using primarily vintage textiles and materials. 

Photo c/o Cyprian Estrada

For the past five years, Duarte and Heaton have played a significant role in organizing Supercrawl’s fashion zone. As designers first, the pair first took over the fashion zone in 2015 with their handmade collection, “Hollywood Babylon”. Since, they’ve taken four different shows to the stage. Among them was Tarot, their 2016 collection which included a dress made from two decks of the classic Raider-Waite cards, attached with a metal chain link. Duarte and Heaton are also involved in every single aspect of their show, from stage managing, sound mixing, modeling and MCing. 

“Putting on a fashion show is a huge task, and so many people go into making these shows, so the fact that it continues to grow truly shows how important fashion in all its forms is beloved in our city,” said Duarte.

Photo c/o Cyprian Estrada

When they’re not running their own shows, the duo sit on the fashion committee where they oversee applications and actively seek out new talent for the shows to ensure the programming is relevant to the fabric of the Hamilton fashion scene. All programming is local and aims to showcase diversity in all its forms, never being afraid to push the envelope.

“Supercrawl is the epitome of fashion events in the city, hands down,” said Duarte. “For us designers, it is the equivalent to any major fashion week and designers work for months to conceive and create collections specifically for the festival. We are striving to help get [designers’] full vision off the ground however we can, really.”

“It is also a great jumpstart for new designers to get their name out to the public, who in turn come out to see the shows and find their next new favourite local designer, and every year, there are more and more,” said Duarte. 

The pair were busy this year, with Heaton managing the stage while walking as a model in three local designers’ shows, including Vintage Soul Geek, Thrifty Designer and Blackbird Studios. Duarte took on the MC role once again, while coordinating music and mixing sound for all shows throughout the weekend. 

Photo c/o Mike Skarvinko

As a staple weekend in the city comes to a close, Duarte shares that he wishes Supercrawl was every weekend. On what’s next, Duarte hopes to see more youth talent, avant-garde work and luxury designs. 

“[Supercrawl] is the one weekend of the year that brings so many facets of our city together under one umbrella. It is primarily a celebration of the talent and vitality of the City of Hamilton,” said Duarte. “As artists, it is an important platform to showcase our work to a large audience which only continues to grow every year. It’s definitely a weekend that always seems to recharge the city’s unique energy”.

 

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