Sameer Cash brings community together with This City colouring book

3 December 2020 / by Sam Dharmasena
This City colouring book courtesy of Sameer Cash

With the pause on performing, Sameer Cash has been finding new ways to express himself as a musician. On Nov. 24 he announced his Toronto-specific colouring book on Instagram and it sold out within a day. CJRU spoke with Cash about the messages behind the project, plans for restocking the sought-after book, and why it has captivated so many people already.

The book has 11 illustrations including Cameron House, Honest Ed’s, saree shops in Little India and more. Each location is accompanied by a written piece by Cash and either a recent photo of what has replaced the building or a decades-old photo of the same building. Cash explains that he has lived all over the city as a child and the colouring book is a look at Toronto through the eyes of his younger self.

“My parents moved around just based on, you know, they were in places just before they got turned over – got gentrified – and then they would move somewhere else, rent an apartment somewhere where it wasn’t a hip spot… moving around over the years, we were sort of getting displaced every few years,” Cash says.

This City Album cover
This City Album cover – Sameer Cash

Cash’s debut album, This Citywas released a day before Toronto went into lockdown. His partner gifted him a colouring book around the same time and he says that it was a running joke that they would create a colouring book of their own one day. As the pandemic continued with no return date for touring, it seemed like a good time to put their colouring book idea in motion. Cash explains that he explores concepts of place and home in his album, so a Toronto-specific colouring book made sense as a companion piece to it.

In fact, he finds that the colouring book has unlocked a new avenue of creative expression for him. His partner, Raven Shields, designed the book and they collaborated with 11 visual artists who donated their talents to the project. He says he wanted the project to be as pure as it could be, so all the profit from the colouring books are being donated to Sistering and the Black Solidarity Fund.

Cash is currently working on restocking the colouring book due to popular demand and to raise even more donations. He notes that donations are one way to contribute to change but doesn’t want readers to stop there. He hopes that the concept of a colouring book will allow readers to reflect on the shifts that are happening in the city and the various ways that they can fight against gentrification, the housing crisis, and more.

When talking about the latest wave of venue closures and the reality of being a musician in 2020, Cash remains hopeful. He says that the colouring book is commentary on his childhood and he’s still processing how the pandemic is changing the city. He feels for venue owners stuck in these precarious situations, but overall he believes that arts will always find a way to happen. Cash adds that arts communities have always been resourceful and are celebrated for thinking out of the box.

“Look at the history of art and music – it all happens during these moments of tension and less. When resources are less, people get creative,” he says.

To hear more, listen to the interview below.