Chimwemwe Undi | 2023 Riding Mountain Artists’ Residency

Photo: Imalka Nilmalgoda. 

The Riding Mountain Artists’ Residency provides professional Manitoba artists with time to focus on their work in the beautiful natural setting of Riding Mountain National Park.

The first artist-in-residence for 2023 is Chimwemwe Undi. Ahead of her time in the historic Deep Bay Cabin, Chimwemwe answered a few of our questions about her work and how she’ll be spending her residency.

MAC: Tell us a little about yourself as an artist and your practice.

Chimwemwe Undi: I am a poet. My background is in spoken word, and I love to perform, but most of my recent involvement has been through publishing and editing work. I have the profound honour and pleasure of serving as Winnipeg Poet Laureate for 2023 and 2024.

Tell us about your project—what will you be working on in the Deep Bay Cabin? 

I will be working on my debut collection, Scientific Marvel, which will be published by House of Anansi in spring 2024. I wrote and reworked most of the first draft of it here, last year, so it feels right to return to this place to tie a bow on it and prepare it for its journey into the world. I will also be working on collaborations with Nathan Krahn, a brilliant cellist and composer who I happen to be married to.

What is your relationship with the park, and what are you most looking forward to exploring?

I participated in the Riding Mountain Artists’ Residency last year, and that was my first time at Riding Mountain National Park. It is not an exaggeration to describe the experience as magical. It was the first time in a long time that I was able to focus so completely on my writing, and to do so in the beauty and calm of the park was alchemistic.

How do you hope the park will influence or inspire your project or practice?

Poetry is the practice of noticing, a practice that enriches and focuses my connection with the world. I hope that the park influences the collection the same way that the world does – when I am present and open to what the world offers, I am always pleasantly surprised by what decides to show up in my work. I live and work in downtown Winnipeg, so there is a stark difference between what is on offer there and here, in this new, green environment.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers and the Riding Mountain National Park community?

I write for people to read! I think poetry scares people off because too many of us are taught that it is best written with a quill and a pen, ideally in an ivory tower stuffed with hardcover philosophy books and surrounded by a moat. Now, I would happily do that residency too, if it exists, but I think the best, most interesting poetry practices are deeply informed by people and directed by people. Which is to say, if you see me wandering about, say hi!

The Riding Mountain Artists’ Residency is offered in partnership by the Manitoba Arts Council and Riding Mountain National Park.

Interested in the staying in the Deep Bay cabin? Find out how to apply to the Riding Mountain Artists Residency through the Learn – Residencies grant stream. Apply by November 1, 2022 for a residency in the summer of 2023.