Migrating from Winnipeg to Churchill to Italy and back again

Demetra Penner is a musician, filmmaker and visual artist like no other

  • Originally from Altona, Man., Demetra Penner’s “lone migration” has taken her all over the world. The time she has spent in Churchill, Man. was a significant influence on her album. – Jared Falk

“Everything I do, I have no choice,” says local musician and visual artist Demetra Penner, 26. “I’ve just needed to create ever since I was 15.”

The artist has studied filmmaking in Florence, Italy (via the New York Film Academy) and has travelled the world non-stop since she finished high school.

It all began with something simple: she found it difficult to bring her paint on the road, so she explored photography instead - and it evolved into what it is today.

“When I started singing and recording four years ago, I did it for the necessity,” she says. “It is a life force inside of me, I just start creating.”

Her debut disc, entitled Lone Migration, finds Penner displaying her inspired work and lone travels of the North. Penner will officially release the album with a multimedia concert at Cinematheque on Wednesday, Jan. 25.

“Lone migration is a personal journey that we all have,” she says. “The theme is about following your heart, that calling that you have deep inside you.

“Animals have a migration route that they follow, it is in them, instinctual, and so we as humans have that as well. Following what our heart is telling us, emotionally, physically and spiritually, we all have that calling, to give us that maximum growth of the soul.”

A collection of projected documentary style videos and 16mm film will accompany the musical component of Penner’s show.

“They are clips of my travels to Churchill where I have been going during the polar bear season these last six years and as well as Repulse Bay,” she says. “I wanted to capture the inspiration of the North and its people, the landscape and the solitude.”

There is pioneering sense about Penner, a one-of-a-kind artist that is rare in her originality.

She has no formal musical training, but has an in-depth intuition about her work, be it the experimental film or the haunting tunes. In all her songs, you feel a notion of belonging, an understanding - a sense that the subject she sings about is finally able to have the truth heard.

“Truth. Everyone has truth. You go inside yourself, and it is like a perfect peace, no worry and fear,” she says. “In addition, when you access that you can channel that, and that is why my work looks the way it is. That magic, so to speak, that place where that comes from, when it is accessed, it is like breathing.”

Published in Volume 66, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 18, 2012)

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