Denisa Kraus
The Navigator

Nanaimo. The ambiguous town in between the rural idyll of the twin cities in the north and the cultured chic of Victoria on the south tip of the Island.

A town loved by development contractors, frowned upon by overachieving hipsters, frenetically photographed by cruise ship dwellers, and casually ignored by the big city boys across the Strait.

A town with some sort of a coal mining heritage, a fun and filthy downtown,  many sterile subdivisions spread over miles of violated land, and  a strong sense of hard working to remain a community.

These are but a few pieces of the cracked kaleidoscope through which you can look at Nanaimo. Some people prefer to see a dull place where the city planner gave up halfway through, while others notice the potential for a glorious and inspiring future.

The purpose of this audio and photo documentary is to ask these people—residents, long-term visitors, students, and commuters—about their view of this town, to collect the pieces of the broken kaleidoscope, and, through the individual personal profiles, to see Nanaimo in its essence.

To participate in this project, visit

Amanda (student; VIU campus):



“We’re so lucky. The Nanaimo campus is amazing. The library has a full view of downtown. Everybody can rant about parking and this and that and the other, but who gives a shit? You can walk. And there are buses, though our transit system in Nanaimo is pretty terrible. Buses running once an hour is ridiculous. There are a lot of people in this town who depend on them, and for me to think that “Ethel” is out there in the rain with her Thrifty’s paper bag waiting for a bus for an hour… And it’s $2.50.

If I go to Woodgrove just to drop off a package, I can’t use a transfer to come back downtown. So then I’m paying five bucks to go to the north end and back. I could give you five dollars for gas and it wouldn’t even cost that much. If you’re gonna charge me $2.50, let me reuse the transfer and make sure there’s another bus coming, and not in an hour.

Jason (business owner; Victoria Rd, back alley):



Nanaimo has the best river on the Island in my opinion. I took up a hobby of river kayaking, and I just love the river  in general for swimming and stuff. I’ve seen the whole river, and I visit other rivers doing this, but Nanaimo is the best.

It has changed a lot in the last last five years. When I was growing up and in my [early 20s], I didn’t see any of it. I just saw Costco dudes and Walmart.”

Now downtown’s really developing. It’s a snowball effect […] but I would like a better core—one that’s not so spread out. What would I change? More eco-friendly businesses. I’m a bit of an environmentalist, but only in my mind.

Justin (co-op member; Protection Island):



“On the surface, it’s kind of a shit town, but there are a lot of people trying hard to make it special and unique, making things happen. My impression of Nanaimo is that it’s growing, and people are realizing they have to do their own things to make it work. I think for a while people were finishing university and were like ‘oh, what do I do now?’ They didn’t have much, so they’d go to other, bigger cities with their degree and find work there. But now I see people taking more initiative and risk and realizing what Nanaimo needs and providing that.”

Tabatha (student; Malaspina theatre):



My intent when I moved to Nanaimo was not to stay here—just do my education as a pit stop and then continue on wherever the money takes me. Although, I have applied for different jobs that would keep me here, so if I get an interview and a job, then I’ll stay and continue to make films and keep my production company going. But I’m not certain about staying here.

I have a little bubble which is my life, and in that bubble I have school, work, and volunteer work. In the summer I’m in Comox, and that’s a different bubble because I’m away from what I’ve built here. I’m not too involved socially because my time is so constricted by all these other things happening in this little bubble.”