VEMU Events — Spring 2023

June 19, 2023

As the dreary and dark winter made way for a bright and cheery spring, VEMU became an increasingly bustling centre of activity and energy. We offered culturally enriching experiences, including everything from a youthful Zumba class to film nights and a riveting photography exhibit. Many of the events featured a focus on sports and movement, as the Republic of Estonia’s Ministry announced in January that 2023 would be the year of movement. So what was VEMU up to this spring?

Starting off March was a fun-filled evening Zumba class with instructor Julia DeSotto. Together we celebrated the year of movement and participants seemed to really enjoy themselves. While the class focused on individuals aged 55+, it was definitely not a limiting factor to participants.

Following right after was a captivating workshop titled “Turning Your Story Into Art”, which was run by young EstoCanadian artist and educator Camille Intson. The goal of the workshop was for participants of all ages to reflect on their relationship to Estonian identity and culture through creative writing and oral storytelling exercises. All involved left feeling uplifted and culturally enriched.

To celebrate “emakeelepäev” or Mother Tongue Day on March 15th, we held a film screening of “Language Rebel. Mati Hint.” Annika Koppel’s documentary film told the story of the life and creative path of Estonian linguist, essayist and educator Mati Hint, who also played an important role in the political landscape during Estonia’s reindependence in 1991.

Kicking off April was the opening of the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory’s photographic exhibit “A story about Siberia. Photographer Vello Hindreus 1930-2020”. The exhibit was a collection of photos the Hindreus took during his time as a deportee in Siberia, in the Sonskoje area. This is one of the very few photographic collections documenting Siberian refugees that has been preserved. Ülle Kraft from the Institute of Historical Memory presented an interesting lecture on the topic.

The series of events focused on the year of movement was continued by a delightful, interactive Laughter Yoga Class led by instructor Lynn Himmelman. We experienced laughter on a whole new level, with it being the actual exercise! The class offered many tips and tricks on living a healthier life by including laughter in everyday life.

The end of the month brought with it VEMU’s annual fundraising event, and this time, in light of the year of movement, we invited renowned Estonian sumo wrestler Baruto aka Kaido Höövelson, to be the honorary guest and main speaker at the dinner on April 29th. The evening’s focus was on Japanese culture as well as the year of movement and featured Japanese traditional music by Toronto duo “tan tan,” delicious Japanese cuisine courtesy of Toronto’s EDO restaurant as well as sake served by local Estonian Ken Valvur, owner of the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company. Baruto also presented a lecture in Japanese at the Japanese Foundation, met with a judo club at the Japanese Canadian Culture Community Centre and much more. His visit was a great example of how to utilize the connections forged thanks to the Bloor Street Culture Corridor.

Moving on into the month of May, KESKUS and VEMU co-presented “Meet the Filmmakers!,” an opportunity to meet with the creators and teams of a record-breaking four Estonian films that were included in this year’s HotDocs film festival. Included among the renowned discussion panels was Anna Hints, director of “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood”, winner of the Sundance 2023 Directing Award; the film had its Canadian premiere at HotDocs.

After a long while, we were again treated to not one but two nights of Estonian theatre performances at Tartu College. Kalev Kudu’s Nullteater from Tartu presented two pieces, the first being “Ma tahaksin olla kui lill” on May 5th, which told the story of Estonian poet Juhan Liiv’s imaginary trip on a TartuValga train to a Buddhist cloister. Talented young actor Karl Edgar Tammi played Juhan Liiv. The second piece on May 6th was “Endspiel. Luuletaja H. Visnapuu viimased päevad New Yorgis.” The premise was a rainy afternoon in New York in 1951, and Estonian poet Hendrik Visnapuu (played by Kalev Kudu) reminisces about his youthful years, remembering his first love, lost home and homeland, time in Siuru, and his beloved wife Ing.

But May featured yet another instalment in the series of events related to the year of movement and that was a competition “Count Your Steps With VEMU!” In connection with museum night taking place in Estonia, the theme of which is “There are steps at night”, invited everyone to get moving from May 16 to 21 to enjoy the fresh air of spring and count their steps. Participants input their step count every night of the race week on the website prepared for the occasion. The competition winners were (in order from 1st to 3rd place): Katrin Sõmermaa, Merli Tamtik, and Teele Marzelas, with runners-up Kerly Ilves and Kivimoor.

But we have more to offer before we take a summer break! On Saturday, June 3rd, we have our next event dedicated to the year of movement, which is a Jane’s Walk through Toronto’s York Cemetery! Since its opening in 1948, York has become a resting place for many Estonians and Latvians. On the tour, we will be visiting some of their graves as well as learning many other interesting tidbits.Mart Salumäe and Andris Kesteris lead the walk.

Following that, on June 7th, we will be opening the Estonian National Museum’s photography exhibit about fathers at Tartu College for Father’s Day in June. ENM’s exhibit was formed using photographic material that was gathered from Estonians during a collection campaign. VEMU organized a similar collection campaign, and now both Estonian and Canadian-Estonian fathers can be seen at the exhibit until September 17.

Finally, a delegation from Creative Destruction Lab Estonia will be visiting Toronto in June, and they look forward to meeting the local Estonian community and everyone else interested in innovation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration. We invite everyone to come to meet with them, Estonian entrepreneurs, Jane´s Walk in York Cemetery Photo: Piret Noorhani investors- plus research and innovation experts- at the networking event that will take place on the evening of June 12th at Tartu College. The event will feature a “fireside chat” and plenty of opportunities for connecting with people. Our partners for the event are Creative Destruction Lab, the Estonian Central Council in Canada, the Estonian Embassy in Ottawa, KESKUS, Tehnopol, and Latitude 44. Lots to come and see during June; join us for these events!