I’ve Not Always Been Canadian is an exhibition of photography and stories. The exhibition is currently at the Greater Victoria Public Library / Central Branch through April 30, 2018 and is moving to the Bruce Hutchison Library Branch from May 1 – 14, 2018.
To book this exhibit, please contact Paulina Grainger, ICA, Arts and Outreach Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here we have two perspectives, one from Paulina Grainger, ICA’s Arts and Outreach Coordinator, who was born in Bukoba, Tanzania, and the other from Quinton Gordon, ICA’s Strategic Engagement Manager and a Documentary Photographer, who was born in Toronto, Canada.
How do you define a Canadian? What influences your sense of belonging? Do you feel Canadian?
These are the pointed questions we asked newcomers to Canada, immigrants and refugees who have recently arrived and who came in the distant past. Their answers are points in time on their journey to building a new life in Canada. The reality of coming from somewhere else, leaving everything we’re familiar with and settling here, is not an easy one. It sometimes takes years before we are comfortable enough to call this place our home and to feel like we belong — let alone embrace a Canadian identity. We may experience a lot of joys and successes along the way but, many times, we’re trying to reconcile being from two different worlds, cultures, traditions. We’re constantly trying to tally all we have gained against all we have lost in the hope of reassuring ourselves we’re making strides in this new country. And, in the midst of this struggle to keep our heads above water and to fit in, we’re often considered outsiders because of the way we speak, look, dress, or pray. Not easy.
Even though we encounter many similar experiences along the way, each one’s path to being Canadian is a personal one. The stories told here are just part of the larger, more complex story of integration. They are shared honestly and openly, not only to highlight our shared human values, but in the hope that they inspire a deeper conversation about our ever evolving Canadian identity.
This project has been deeply personal for me, an immigrant from Tanzania. I moved to Canada 16 years ago, but I recognize myself in many of the stories told here. Through them, I have re-lived the early years of not only my excitement, but also my anxiety, confusion, and disconnection.
Today, I feel lucky to call Victoria home and one of my proudest moments was seeing the generous and welcoming outpouring of support this community showed to the newly arriving Syrian refugees in 2016. We can only build on this.
By Paulina Grainger, ICA’s Arts and Outreach Coordinator, born in Bukoba, Tanzania
The dialogue around immigration, the growing cultural diversity of Canada, and the evolving Canadian identity is vital to us moving forward as a society, unified by strong values, mutual respect, and a positive future. Canada is, by definition, an immigrant nation, and settlers, migrants, and refugees have come to this land for centuries now, to a land first held by a rich and diverse Indigenous population whose history stretches back tens of thousands of years. It is to their land that we have come, to build new lives, new homes and to prosper. All those who are not of First Nations heritage have an immigrant story in their history, and this history must pave the way for us to have open hearts and minds in an increasingly globalized world.
As a visual storyteller and photographer, I cannot aspire to tell a complete story, but it is my hope that the portraits and words here will inspire in all of us the strength of human connection and open our eyes to the power of diversity. My work offers me the privilege of stepping into people’s lives where they grant me some insight and it is without exception that those I have worked with are strong in character and full of compassion and have so much good to offer Canadian society. Whether they are here by choice, or by circumstance, each is striving to find their feet in a new country, retain their cultural identity while forging a new one, and find a way to make their contribution to Canada.
By Quinton Gordon, ICA’s Strategic Engagement Manager and a Documentary Photographer, born in Toronto, Canada