Textile is a community-engaged arts organization and mentorship program based in Kitchener-Waterloo. It was founded in 2018 by Fitsum Areguy and Andy Myles with the goal of merging community work with writing and publication. We saw how literary culture felt exclusive and inaccessible, and we wanted to provide relevant commentary on what was happening in our communities. We envisioned a different literary landscape, one that is approachable and inclusive.
In 2019, Textile published In Transit, its first print issue, with a collection of over twenty writers and artists from across the Region of Waterloo. In 2020, we organized a mentorship program that paired curious new writers with more experienced mentors. In 2021, we published Space(s), our second annual edition. We continue to grow and explore opportunities for publishing on a rolling basis, incorporating as a non-profit, and reaching out to collaborate with like-minded organizations.
Our process is in community
We focus on creating time and space for writing; our mentorship seeks to let writers voices emerge. Our work is driven by a desire to build relationships, celebrate our community’s strengths and assets, and call attention to important social issues.
We work with arts practitioners, schools, non-profit organizations, regional governments, and other groups to empower equity-seeking/marginalized, junior writers and artists across the region. We understand that relationality is important, that we don't always have the answers, so we look to those organizations who have expertise and relationality in the communities we wish to serve. We are always looking to connect with like-minded organizations and groups who serve these communities.
Some of our partners and collaborators include:
Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute
The KW Poetry Slam
Pins and Needles Fabric Company
O:se Kenhionhata:tie (Land Back Camp)
KW Article Club
Kitchener Youth Drop-In
The African Caribbean Black Network of Waterloo Region
Laurier Student Public Research Interest Group (LSPIRG)
Fitsum (he/him) is a Black activist and writer who grew up in Kitchener. He draws on years of experience as a community worker and advocate for youth rights and disability justice to inform his artistic practice. Fitsum sees Textile as not only an avenue for creative expression, but also as a vehicle for liberation and decolonization through the arts.
Andy (he/him) is the co-founder and project director for Textile. He earned his Master's degree in English at the University of Waterloo and has served on contest panels for The New Quarterly. For Andy, writing is an important way to learn deeply about others. Textile is an opportunity for him to learn about and highlight stories that have been underrepresented or dismissed while reconnecting with his hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo. Andy loves dance music, catching a pump, and quiet cups of tea.
Bashar is an immigrant poet who uses the mundane to give you a glimpse of the complexities of leaving one home for another. Bashar is a storyteller, and his stories are deeply personal. He is a nationally competing poet & his poetry is a staple at many festivals including Cherry Festival and Latitudes Storytelling Festival. He was an opening act for artists such as Carlos Andres Gomez. His debut book has been funded by Ontario Arts Council and Waterloo Region Arts Fund and will be released in late 2019.
Since 2016, Bashar has been the co-artistic director of the Kitchener Waterloo Poetry Slam. In his role, he has focused on building community through consistent intimate events (poetry circles, writing circles, and workshops), as well as accountability and conversation.
Teneile Warren is a queer-identified Jamaican born playwright, chef and spoken word artist, and poet. She is a 2016 Artist-in-Residence at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and a 2013 Obsidian Playwright’s Unit participant. She has read and performed at readings across the city including Glad Day Bookshop Literary Series, Open Minds and the Speakeasy Reading Series. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and is the owner of nyam Afro-Caribbean Kitchen. She lives in Kitchener, ON with her wife, Rebecca and their two bunnies.
Shalaka spent their childhood between cities in India and in Dubai, before moving to a neighbourhood spitting distance from Ontario’s largest mall. Shalaka works in the CKMS newsroom as an audio journalist, and sits on the Plan Canada editorial board. They have performed work at the 2019 Common Waters festival, and published work with the Indigenous Curatorial Collective. Trained as an urban planner, and currently working with youth to pursue just, climate-resilient futures, Shalaka is following the advice of an aptitude test to pursue curatorial studies.
Ashley Hynd lives on the Haldimand Tract and respects the Manidoosh, Niiwozid, Bineshiinh, Gaa-babaamaadagewaad, Attawandron/Neutral Peoples, Anishnawbe, and Haudenosaunee relationships with the land. Her writing often grapples with the erasure of her history, both as an act of reclamation and a call of accountability for what has been lost. Founder and facilitator of Poets & Pancakes, Ashley also sits on the editorial board for Cathuis Literary Journal. Her work has appeared in ARC Poetry Magazine, Canthius, Room, PRISIM International, SubTerrain, Grain Magazine, Cv2, Vallum, TNQ and The Malahat Review. Her hobbies Include trampling the patriarchy, avoiding doing the dishes and getting lost in conversations.
Taylor Small (she/her) made Kitchener-Waterloo her home after growing up in a small town outside the GTA. She works in marketing and communications while pursuing her passions for community, connection and art.
Matthew (he/him) is a queer, Filipino man that first connected to the Earth on the archipelago of the Philippines. He currently lives and works on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and Neutral Peoples and nations.
His current work involves using design and creativity as a way to navigate through uncertainty and complex problems that affect how people live in the world. He thinks a lot about how design can change how we work through conflict, can empower others in solidarity, and can help us move toward personal and spiritual growth.
Mary (she/her) is a community organizer and advocate who grew up in Kitchener. Co-organizer of queer-centric events with Plan B Cooperative KW, Mary has put on clothing swaps, arts workshops, and social events. Mary is a textile/fibre artist and poet whose interests lie in themes of power, bodies, and madness. Mary is the liaison between Textile and OurStudio and will be mentoring the emerging writers in that space.
Racheal has been a published author and poet since 2007. Focused on literary fiction she finds magic in the daily hum of others' lives. In her day to day life Racheal works with individuals living with experiences of homelessness, abuse, trauma, and active mental health and substance use challenges. She values time with her friends, pets and in nature.
Zainab is a poet, aspiring filmmaker and recent BSc graduate from the University of Waterloo. Born in KW to Somali parents, Zainab’s interest in poetry began after accidentally stumbling into the world of spoken word. Her work often engages with ideas around memory, migration and histories of loss. She has spent the last six years performing on various stages throughout KW and the GTA, while also spearheading initiatives to cultivate spaces for young muslim women to share their stories through poetry.
Yeabsera is currently in her 4th year at UW studying religious studies with a minor in sociology. Her roots trace back to Ethiopia but she was born in Sudan, spent her early childhood in Egypt and now lives in Kitchener. Although she has lived in Canada for majority of her life, her home is her ethiopian community. Given her background, she’s very passionate about empowering immigrants within her community and encouraging them to have a voice in this noise-ridden society.
One way she aims to empower people is through photography. She believes everyone has a unique story and through photography she is able to capture raw emotions and lead people into being comfortable in themselves. Textile provides a platform for her to extend her reach and tell more stories through her pictures.