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OteshaAn Otesha participant triumphantly raises her bicycle.
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Otesha Bike RepairLearning how to repair your bike is part of the Otesha experience.
The Otesha Project Connects Communities through Pedal Power
By Adele Woodyard
The very nature of bicycle touring brings travelers closer to the people and landscapes they pass, through the simplicity, gentle pace and intimate vulnerability put forth only by the bicycle.
Setting out on an eco-conscious adventure, where biking 1000s of kilometers is merely the platform on which the real message is delivered, is the type of ‘summer adventure’ to expect from The Otesha Project. This national cycling non-profit brings a message of hope and small-scale empowerment, moving the minds of Canadians living in small towns, and downtowns, to believe that it is possible to make real change in the world. Young people in search of a summer venture, not interested in leaving their politics and ambitions at the door, might just find themselves knee-deep in road-side rehearsals, 1000s of kilometers from where they started. The Otesha Project is a youth-led organization that mobilizes and equips Canadians to create local and global change through individual and collective choices.
When the original team of 12 rode their bicycles across the country in 2003, creating the first cycling and performing tour, they never imagined what the organization would become. The organization runs a handful of two-month regional tours each year, and has reached over 100,000 audience members through their theatrical presentations and thought provoking workshops. The average tour rides 1,240 miles (2,000 kms) of roads, highways and driveways into Canada’s biggest cities and smallest of communities. Past rainforests, over mountain tops, next to blown out truck tires and discarded paper cups, tour members come face to face with our true Canadian landscape.
The presentations and workshops are based on The Otesha Book: From Junk to Funk, with chapters and scenes on food, transportation, clothing, coffee and media. Speaking with audiences from urban middle school students, to Albertan cattle farmers, the environmental politics that Otesha presents become a continuous dialogue between both team members and communities. The message is to promote individual actions; however, to be realistically attainable, each person must evaluate how these ideals fit into their belief systems and realities. Knowing what is the ‘right’ thing to do for our planet cannot be reached without considering the social, cultural, geographic and economic backgrounds of both the tour and community members.
The tours are designed to be a living example of ‘walking the talk’ of the presentation content. When 12 minds come together within locations that are constantly changing, one’s politics might just follow suit. Anyone who has participated in an Otesha tour will attest to the fact that daily dialogues regarding the mandates of the tour play a crucial and central role to the richness of an Otesha tour experience.
For more information, visit www.otesha.ca.
Adele lives in Victoria, BC, coordinating programs for the Bike Lab Society and creating bicycle-inspired performances with the Velo Vixens, building a culture of celebration in Victoria’s cycling community.