As I have regularly been to the Maison de la culture this November, I noticed that a group of ladies of various origins gathers there to knit on Saturdays. I could not help but ask to take a group portrait of them in action and to find a brave one among them who would agree to face the camera lens alone. It was Jocelyne who was designated.
It turns out that she is the organizer of this informal group that does not require registration or fees from the participants. Originally, Jocelyne had simply showed up at this leisure activity featured in the Café de Da program. To the dismay of the knitters present at the second meeting she attended, the leader of the workshop announced that she was quitting and that there was no one to replace her. As Jocelyne was the most experienced knitter in the group, she became de facto the new volunteer facilitator. For nearly a year thereafter, the ladies have been meeting every Saturday. Each time, they put a few tables together according to the number of participants, which ranges from four to twelve. Roughly twenty different women have joined the table over that period.
Jocelyne has always lived in Montreal, with the exception of a one-year stay in the country that confirmed that she was a city girl. Until recently, she had been living in Ahuntsic. Last year however, she gave up her large ground floor duplex flat to her daughter and grandchildren, who needed more space than her. She has since moved in a condo in nearby Villeray.
As we chatted, I learned that she has taught cinema for some thirty years, mainly at Cégep St-Laurent, but also at university level. She taught almost all the curriculum, from photography to production, through editing and photo processing. This explains why she was watching me go about with my camera with a critical look.
Over the years, she has volunteered in various activities, including a feminist book fair, and Silence, Elles tournes, a competitive festival showing films and videos by women. Sadly, she was president of the organization at the time it had to shut down as a result of significant cuts in its public funding.
Believing she had done her part as a teacher after all these years, she decided to retire on the day of her sixtieth anniversary, rather than at the end of the session. She told me that on that day, she showed up with a bottle of champagne and shared a toast to her health with all people around her! Over the following years, she wrote a handbook on the logistics of film shooting. A notice to interested publishers: it remains unedited to this day.
Subsequently, she has devoted a lot of time to her family and grandchildren. Now, she wants to take more time for herself. Knitting is a form of yoga for her, its practice leaving her mind free. Besides, the group’s labor serves a useful purpose. Their autumn production will be sold by the Sisters of Providence who, with the money generated by the sale of the items, will buy new wool. Their Sister’s hope is that the profit will give them extra wool so they can knit more items for the people they help.
I believe careful attention should be paid to these tranquil ladies. Could there be among them some Yarn Bombers, these graffiti-knitting activists who decorate trees and street furniture with their colorful work?