Thanks to the hard work of Cameras4Change volunteers Maxine Bulloch and Kathryne Racich, ten recently arrived refugees and immigrants to Canada were provided with cameras and equipment from Nikon Canada, Lowepro and Sandisk to document their first thoughts and interpretations of Canada. The project, entitled FLIGHT was in collaboration with local organisations, DIVERSEcity and MOSAIC with support from SIETAR.
The purpose of the project was multifold: for participants to create their own story of what it is like to start a new chapter in a foreign country and create a visual time stamp of where they are right now; to increase communication of what it is to be a refugee/immigrant in the wider community; and to forge connections and help create communities for participants.
Participants came to Canada from Myanmar, Thailand, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, and had been in Canada from between two months to two years. During the workshops which were constructed as an absolute safe-space and operated from a ‘do no harm’ frame, the participants talked about their experience of photography, what they were hoping to learn through their participation of the project and they learnt how to use their Nikon camera. At the follow-up workshops, participants shared what was opening up for them and their photos they’d taken, and photos were beautiful! Each person turned their camera and attention to what was important to them, with topics of interest including nature, symmetry, and symbols of the future. This was very much an exercise of ‘through the eyes of’, rather than having participants be in front of the camera – although if they wished to do so then by all means were free to! It was so great to see participants’ confidence grow during the project, and that reflected in the photography they did too.
From the images taken, the participants selected their favourite five and wrote descriptions to go alongside each and the chosen images were printed and exhibited from 1-7 April in a weeklong gallery located in Chinatown, downtown Vancouver in a space kindly donated by This Open Space. The opening was organized by SIETAR, and there were four speakers – Farooq Al-Sajee (Iraq/Syria), Josiane Anthony (Togo/Ghana), Daniel Tseghay (Eritrea), and Yashar Nijati (Iran), who helped educate the visitors of FLIGHT about the realities of the refugee experience. Farooq also serenaded us with his amazing classical improvised talents on the Oud.
– We are looking at connecting with organisations and city halls that are within the participants’ communities and beyond, in order to extend the exhibition. We are doing this with the aim of continuing advocacy and raising awareness – to increase understanding and to contribute to the building of stronger, more connected communities through dialogue and inner reflection.
– As a result of participating in the project, participants have expressed a desire for more programs, and for these subsequent projects to have longer durations. Thus, one of our future endeavors is to secure funding for the continuation of this powerful program, keeping in mind the needs and wishes of the participants.
– We are also looking for future collaborations with organisations and people who are interested in supporting newcomers and other societal groups going through transition or those who desire self-expansion through creative self-expression and dialogue.
To see a copy of the FLIGHT report and up-to-date news of what else is going on head on over to the FLIGHT Facebook page.
Check out this gallery of some of the work and words of the FLIGHT participants!
Waheed, Afghanistan – “This is my favourite photo. It represents my longing for education in Canada, a desire I could not achieve as a refugee in Pakistan. University is something that builds someone’s capacity. I have sent an application and have been accepted to study.”
Rafi, Afghanistan – “I like how the tree stands right in the middle of nature and the future. I think it represents how we are destroying nature and we think we’re making the world a better place but we’re really making it worse. I like how the tree doesn’t have a single leaf. It’s like the chemicals from behind have made it dry.”
Paw December – “In the evening me and my nephew went outside to a pond because we wanted to see ducks. We brought duck food, and my nephew fed the ducks which they enjoyed very much. This is my favourite photo.”
Omar, Iraq – “Everything you see here is old. The chair, the clock, everything. I see English heritage in this photo. It is a classic look.”
Maryam, Iran – “These two flowers represent that we can live together and share everything.”
Ku Shee, Myanmar – “This shows that Canadians love their pets. Even if they go to the snow they bring their pets. It makes me feel very happy that people walk with pets in the snow.”
Hlah, Myanmar – “This is my favourite photo. It’s well known that people in big cities live a hectic life. I personally enjoy an easy life in a busy city.”
Eh Hser, Myanmar – “My family took a walk with our neighbour. We’d never seen a tree like this, as we don’t have it in Burma. There were no leaves on it, just flowers. My son was so happy so I took a picture of him.”
Bahar, Iran – Grande Prairie Alberta.
“Be strong against the problems. I took this photo as a memory on the last day that I was in Grande Prairie.”
Fatemeh, Iran – “The snail in this photo showed me to live in any way that I want even if I am going to be alone sometimes because we only live once.”