FUTURES/forward Mentorships: Featuring Shumaila Hemani

July 11, 2023 by Shumaila Hemani, FUTURES/forward Mentee, Cohort #5 Environmental Action, FUTURES/forward Mentorships, Featured /


FUTURES/forward Mentee, Shumaila Hemani — cohort #5, February to June 2023 — mentored by Laura Barron

As part of the triad model, Shumaila was placed as an artist-in-residence at Alberta Ecotrust.

Community-engaged arts project co-created with Alberta Ecotrust, Energy Matters

FUTURES/forward Mentee, Shumaila Hemani, cohort #5Shumaila Hemani “Staying rooted within traditional forms and honoring those, while also bringing in experimentation, Shumaila Hemani is the Cultural Diversity Award-winning, Alberta, Sufi singer-songwriter and acousmatic composer. Creating audible sculptures evoking powerful imagery and stirring potent emotion (Edmonton Journal), she sings Sufi epics in South Asian Sufi tradition compellingly.” (New Works Calgary) Her voice and lyrics are locally celebrated for her “mesmerizing” and “emotionally nerve-striking” voice that carries “vocal virtuosity,” expressing “radically different inner existential visions” (Calgary Herald).

A Ph.D. in Music from the University of Alberta (2019), the Former Music Faculty, Semester at Sea, Spring 2020 voyage and the Faculty of Extension (University of Alberta), Hemani released her debut album, Mannat that was applauded as “powerful” in evoking a spirit of perseverance in supporting victims of climate disaster in Pakistan and featured on CBC’s What on Earth, Edmonton Journal, and Calgary Herald to name a few. Her acousmatic piece, Perils of Heavy Rainfall, received the Second Prize at the Listening During COVID contest, leading her to speak at the first-ever Canadian Music Climate Summit in Toronto in October 2022.

Energy affordability is an increasing concern for many Canadians; however, speaking about (un)affordability continues to be problematic. In the series of community-engaged arts workshops, Energy Matters, we involved stakeholders to address questions such as: How vital is #energy affordability in developing #sustainable #cities? How does #Climatechange and Canada’s transition to #NetZero impact low-income groups struggling with #energy affordability? Why must #AffordableHousing integrate #energyaffordability?

FUTURES/forward Mentee, cohort #5, Shumaila Hemani

I was privileged to collaborate (as the FUTURES/forward artist-in-residence co-creating and facilitating the Energy Matters project) with Alberta Ecotrust and their partners (ACORN, Kambo, Energy Efficiency, All One Sky, and others) in their Energy Poverty and Home Upgrades Program. Energy Matters was a series of participatory arts workshops where participants (stakeholders who were energy advocates within their organizations, including Home Upgrades program staff at Alberta Ecotrust and advocates from Ecotrust’s partners: ACORN, All One Sky, and Calgary Alliance for the Common Good) engaged in arts-based dialogue around energy poverty using creative activities to reflect on the ways energy affordability is connected with climate change and the pro-poor policies that could generate more equity. The project was based on intersectional ethics of care that looked at the ways energy affordability impacts various sections of our society, including seniors, people with disabilities, women, and newcomers.

FUTURES/forward Mentee, cohort #5, Shumaila Hemani

Through deep listening activities that involved listening meditations inspired by the works of Pauline Oliveros and Heloise Gold, we engaged in a dialogue about energy affordability in ways that arts would facilitate more openness, vulnerability, and engagement at the public policy level to make energy accessible in various underemployed and low-income contexts across families of newcomers, people with disabilities, and seniors.

The Energy Matters workshops provided the participants with an “auditory approach” to energy affordability and unaffordability in their communities using tools of deep listening and soundscape composition. Through deep listening, recording soundscapes, engaging in dialogues, the participants re-defined the narratives of their work by sharing what brought them to address this topic within their communities and how dialogue and a sense of community with these workshops would re-orient their work. Participants were eager to share their perspectives and substantial discussion followed, particularly in the second workshop when one participant pointed out the breaking news that the Alberta government had increased the base-level energy costs. We looked at the news report together and the participants pointed out the ambiguity and absence of any programs to support people with energy inaccessibility. We decided that we want to centre our advocacy through soundscape composition to address this new era of energy unaffordability in Alberta that required government attention.

Our artistic collaborations were open and ranged from creating texts for soundscape compositions to creating music for the Kantorei choir at the Mount Royal University who have shown interest in curating collaborative music for social change.

During the FUTURES/forward mentorship program, my mentor, Laura Barron, extended a supportive relationship to bounce ideas and strategies and conversations with her generated new possibilities for action in this area. She was exceptional in offering editorial feedback on workshop design and materials. When the involvement of participants experiencing poverty became unattainable at this time, the FUTURES/forward mentorship gave me the tools and confidence to transition to a new place of addressing energy accessibility by creating workshops for the Home Upgrades program stakeholders, instead. The past six months have contributed to strengthening and expanding my creative and pedagogical foundations in leading community-engaged workshops and expand the depth and breadth of artistic outcomes that stem from creative dialogue.

The discussions with my mentor and within the group stretched my capacity as an artist changemaker. During the course of these discussions, I was invited by the Kantorei Choir to create a choir score based on Energy Matters workshops and by the University of Alberta’s Sound Studies Institute to share the soundscape composition at their gallery. I find this support very encouraging as creating dialogue about energy affordability in places which are associated with privilege is a step toward addressing barriers to accessibility. Canadian New Music’s climate hub also invited me to share the workshop resources on their hub to create further dialogue.

The workshops I developed in the past 6 months are adaptable to not only the stakeholders working on energy accessibility but also community members who may be experiencing energy poverty. Since my artist residency with Ecotrust continues as part of Artist as Changemaker residency at Trico Changemakers Studio, I am curious to see a greater impact of these workshops on the climate communities within Canada.

ICASC/JMP wishes to thank the Alberta Ecotrust for this collaboration and hosting Shumaila Hemani’s artist-in-residency. FUTURES/forward gratefully acknowledges that Shumaila’s mentorship thrived due in part to the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Metcalf Foundation.



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