BY SARAH LINDSTEIN

What do Whitehorse and Quelimane, Mozambique, have in common?

They both have a dedicated troupe of performance artists striving to make a difference in the difficult and devastating diagnosis of AIDS/HIV.

Emily Farrell, born and raised in Whitehorse, is setting out, with a troupe of eight others from Toronto’s Humber College, to raise awareness through performance art. Farrell acknowledges that AIDS/HIV is a universal issue and information can be given cross-culturally and through untraditional fashions.

“I credit Whitehorse for the overwhelming support and positive direction I have received,” says Farrell. “It’s a gift to grow up in such a tightly knit community and we have a wonderfully live art scene that is so active.”

Farrell is primarily based out of Toronto and alternates between Whitehorse and Toronto.

She is a recent graduate of Humber College and was inspired by voice teacher and artistic director Cathy MacKinnon to link up with the Shakespeare Link Canada (SLC) in their joint project with Mozambique’s dance company, Companhia de Canto e Danca Montes Namuli.

The joining of the SLC project with Companhia de Canto e Danca Montes Namuli happened through MacKinnon meeting a friend of a friend of a friend, and, in 2006, Humber College welcomed dance performers to Toronto to share their stories through the magic of dance.

Every year after, they have successfully sent performers to Mozambique to share, learn and spread awareness through interpretative art.

Farrell’s first introduction with the Companhia, in 2006, established a positive movement toward art as a social medium. She was enraptured by the important cultural message that art could help improve lives and social conditions, and she vowed to go to Mozambique herself.

“That was a huge eye-opener. I saw how socially important art could be and it inspired me to plan my trip out with SLC.” The performers who arrived in 2006 were lively, so full of energy and enormously encouraging, and Farrell was drawn into African storytelling through dance.

The Humber College group will spend 20 days in Quelimane, Mozambique, and travel the surrounding areas, performing the cross-cultural and multilingual play addressing AIDS/HIV awareness.

Farrell hopes one day to bring members of the Companhia to the Yukon so they may enrich the growth of African hip hop with current artists here in Whitehorse. A little fun in the snow and minus 40 might be a great cultural learning experience too.

Farrell would like to emphasize that a community like Whitehorse made her dream of learning and sharing awareness possible.

“If I grew up in Toronto, we wouldn’t be having this chat. It’s just so much harder to be recognized as an individual and have community support like we have in Whitehorse.

“Even if it’s a pat on the back and a ‘go for it’, Whitehorse has always been there for me.”

Anyone interested in learning more about SLC and the Humber College troupe or aiding the project through support or donations is welcome to contact Farrell at emilyerinfarrell@gmail.com.