Feature photo by © Claudia Chan Tak
Harleen Bhogal (har leen) is a Montreal-based South Asian artist, performer, writer, educator, and community organizer, whose practice is entrenched in feminist and anti-racist principles and community building approaches. Harleen’s writing and performance often tackle issues such as mental health, chronic illness, gender-based violence, systemic oppression, and identity. She understands that artistic self-expression in safe and loving settings can become a catalyst for collective healing and inducing transformative change, and is dedicated to creating these spaces in her community.
Harleen has performed her spoken word poetry for public festivals such as Festival Phénomena, Fierté/Pride Montréal, Montreal Bach Festival, and Lux Magna. For the youth in her community, Harleen facilitates writing workshops with Vallum Society for Education in Arts & Letters, as well as organizes Unravelling in Rhymes, a writing workshop series for racialized youth living in Montreal.
During autumn of 2021, Harleen launched her debut poetry collection, lullabies for warriors. Reading like a memoir written in verse, her collection uses magical realism to tell a story of depression, loneliness, addiction, love, heartache, trauma, and healing.
Born and raised in Montreal, and educated in Toronto, I have always found an outlet for learning and healing through art. For example, in high school when I found myself struggling with my mental health, I discovered painting as a practice of self-care and regeneration. Over time, I discovered more mediums for creative expression, particularly a love for photography and its use in sharing my story.
As a teenager, I often doodled in the form of poems to fill moments of tension or boredom. In the winter of 2015, in a fever dream and desperately needing a safe way to hold my emotions, I wrote a poem entitled, “a house and a storm“, and this began a more structured practice of writing. Since then, I have been using poetry to release moments of delirium and anxiety, and I continue to be inspired by new ways to tell my story as a woman of colour.
Performing spoken word has also become a very significant part of my life. It provides for me a sense of joy, excitement and validation of my story. More importantly, sharing the stage has become a channel that I use to connect with other people, provide support to others in gaining confidence to tell their own story, and ultimately build stronger, safer and creative communities.
With the release of my first poetry collection, I am reminded that I have been met with encouragement and love from other local artists and the people of colour in my community. I continue to be thankful to be part of this beautiful connection that is created through the courage of being vulnerable, and I am awestruck by the magic that continues to surround me in this world of joy and madness.
My other hobbies include playing the ukulele, hiking, kayaking, graphic art, yoga, and killing it on the dance floor.
My artistic practice is interconnected with my full-time job as a youth educator. With a Bachelor’s in Social Work and working in the field since 2011, I have extensive experience in youth work and community organizing. I currently work at the South Asian Women’s Community Centre as their Youth Programs Coordinator. I know the value of arts-based approaches in empowering marginalized communities and creating programming that is not only safe and promotes well-being, but also allows for the space to share the stories of people of colour and discovering old and new ways of storytelling.
I currently facilitate programming in high schools across Montreal, consisting of educational workshops, support groups, and creative self-expression programs.
I also run support spaces and community-based projects for people of colour, such as Uncensored Chai (a support space for South Asian youth of marginalized genders), Storytelling is a Love Language (a storytelling open-mic), Unravelling in Rhymes (a writing workshop series for youth of colour of marginalized genders), as well as facilitate intergenerational dialogue in the South Asian community using storytelling and other artistic mediums.
For bookings, collaborations, and performances, please visit my Contact page.
I offer my experience as a youth educator, community organizer and artist in the form of facilitation for a wide variety of workshops. Visit my Workshops page, and contact me to see if I am a good match for you!