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April 7th, 2024 · No Comments

Soil Soul Wholeness and the impacts on agriculture 

New mural at 380 Bloor St. W. pays homage to farmers. JAMES BULLANOFF/GLEANER NEWS

By James Bullanoff 

Soil Soul Wholeness, a recent mural installed in the Annex, invites those to consider the work of farmers and the impacts of large grocery chains on agriculture.  

The mural, located at 380 Bloor St. W., invites viewers to consider the “well-being of land” by supporting farmers. The mural was installed in September 2023 and was designed by local artist Leeay Aikawa.

“I wanted to uplift [farmers’] voices and their fantastic role of taking care of the land and also producing local foods, so that the buyers, consumers, us, can pay more attention to what’s grown here,” said Aikawa.

Aikawa used bold colours rather than her usual earth tones to convey how farmers are akin to “soul creators” because of their ability to see the value in the soil. Her focus was to show the value of local produce. 

“I didn’t want to promote people to go to big supermarkets like Walmart to do the shopping, because all those [corporations] are what’s kind of taking [the] livelihood from farmers, taking away their jobs.”

Aikawa mentioned how she drew inspiration from a variety of different artworks in the formation of her piece. The composition of the mandala—a circular symbol in Buddist and Hindu culture—in the middle of the mural and humans in the four corners is inspired by a mosaic she saw in the Vatican.

The centre ribcage with the tree seed flowing down is a reference to Aikawa’s Woven Earth Breath, a piece she created on Nov. 22, 2021, that is posted on her Instagram @leeay. This part aims to portray the “well-being of breath” from spending time in nature. She wanted to explain “something that [she] cannot explain in words.” 

Melanie Ramsay, project coordinator of the Bloor-Annex BIA, said she wanted to have a work  that paired with Talie Shalmon’s recent piece, across the alleyway at 378 Bloor St. W. The BIA seeks grant support every year from the City of Toronto’s Outdoor Mural and Street Art Grant to develop a new piece on walls that have been neglected. 

“You’re much less likely to get those kind of lazy taggers come in and vandalize the area and the space,” said Ramsay about the location. The wall on the opposite side of this mural, on the side of Vietnam Lovely Noodle, was the “most graffitied wall in the Annex” in 2021.

In the callout for artists, the theme of the mural was “urban food systems” and it needed to align with the “greening” objectives of the BIA and touch on current issues in the city, including food security, food equity, and sustainability. 

The BIA put in another application for vinyl mural printing, a process where the artist creates a digital design that is then printed on vinyl and heat-bonded to the wall. “I think it’s definitely a better product for us, because of the vandalism we see. This protects the actual brick itself,” said Ramsay.


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