One of my earliest core memories has been fighting for and longing to live in a world without gender, caste, and patriarchal hierarchies. My father and I would debate on such matters, him advocating for Punjabi tradition that upheld such hierarchies and me advocating for Sikh tradition which abolished them. This dissonance has strained our relationship ever since I was a little girl. I’ve questioned tradition ever since. 

He would take me to Dukhia uncle’s house as a disciplinary event, hoping the town’s academic-leaning Sikh elder would impart some perspective to change my way of being. I was too young to articulate this fluid world I wanted to live in- one that felt more aligned with my own Sikh beliefs than any socio-cultural segregational societal orders of others.

As I grew older, in order for me to continue any feminist abolition work, I vehemently centred radical love, eroticism, and joy as a manifesto to resist the deterioration of our current yuga. In doing so, I had the privilege to build a relationship with Debi Wong, founding artistic director of re:Naissance Opera. We connected over our shared thoughts on abolishing old systems of hierarchy and societal organization and approaching new world design from a space of joy rather than trauma. Our conversations coincided with Black feminist scholars I was reading at the time and the exploration of what it means to be a Sikh feminist abolitionist. My understanding of what Audre Lorde writes is that old systems of design cannot be dismantled by the master’s tools. It can spark a temporary change but not sustain the necessary changes of good that are required. Non-profit structures and governance models have been failing IBPOC-led organizations for a long time and consequently, IBPOC audiences as well. The events of the past three years during the pandemic have exposed the white supremacist and patriarchal biases in the systems and structures we worked within and organizational change has often been framed by corporate vocabulary and values.

We quickly realized that we’d need to assemble a team of IPBOC thought leaders from all aspects of societal design to think about new world design with us. This formed the Imaginarium, a year-long arts-based cross-sectoral world-building initiative to find solutions for governance and organizational structures. We built a team of IBPOC artists, storytellers, mental health workers, climate change scientists, leaders in the tech sector, and Indigenous knowledge keepers. This team of dreamers, as we called them, engaged in science-fiction inspired world-building workshops to imagine a society that embodies our shared core values and enshrines IBPOC worldviews marginalized by mainstream culture. Debi and I met weekly for eight months where we spoke about our prayers for the future, our ideas on approach, and hope for possible outputs. Willendorf collected this feedback and designed the approach and felt experience in order to achieve what we intended to: safeguard the spirits of the participants so they can dream of better futures. We wanted the dreamers to feel safe, healed, joy, playfulness, and intelligence and to leave feeling a sense of renewed hope and community that surrounded them even once the physical experience was over. We thought about all aspects of the experience and emotion that we hoped to create for the participants of the Imaginarium and began to think about who to invite: Micheal Running Wolf, Howie Tsui, Renae Morriseau, Dahae Song, Stephanie Wong, Teiya Kasahara, Debi Wong, Will Selvis Trevor Twells, Tarun Nayer, Kunal Lodhia, Dr. Andrea Fatona, and Rinaldo Walcott.

We flew those with available schedules to Vancouver, British Columbia to participate in person. They were paid above the suggested daily fees that CARFAC proposes. We lodged and fed everyone in a mansion surrounded by the old trees of Shaughnessy. The space had enough rooms for everybody and many spaces that encouraged group participation. We meditated together to inspire connectivity. We foraged natural materials from the backyard and built physical worlds out of the materials collected. This inspired childlike wonder and a reflexive, joy-based creation. We didn’t invite anybody to document or photograph the Imaginarium. We didn’t want any external factors to shift our collective energy, observe our activities, and/or attempt to synthesize our ideas.

This issue for Newest imagines some of these new futures we dreamt of. A new world created from a place of healing rather than trauma. We’re thinking about futures that resist patriarchal colonialisms. Futures that, based on ancestral knowledge, build ecologies of truth serving all visible and invisible beings as a collective consciousness. This hope transcends race, caste, class, sex, borders and property.

We asked our contributors to imagine this new world with us and I’m proud to share it all with you.

A special thanks to Debi Wong, Robert Bolton, and Meghan Lindsay for being so excitingly intelligent and caring.


raji kaur aujla