Immigrants and refugees fight stereotypes through art

In Communities /

By Natalie Rodriguez

The New Canadian Life is a radio project for Newcomers of Canada, in collaboration with The Scope at Ryerson (CJRU) and CultureLink Settlement Services. Since May they have been providing workshops for new Canadians and have been collecting diverse stories from newcomers.

This project hopes to help newcomers feel at home and gives Canadian citizens the chance to hear their stories in attempt to combat stereotypes placed upon immigrants and refugees.

Jacqueline Tucci and Jonathan Rodil, both project coordinators, hosted a luncheon at Oakham Café on March 30. With Tucci ending her time at the radio station she wanted to conclude it with a meaningful project.

“It’s a big celebration of newcomers in Canada,” Tucci said. “To give a platform to newcomers, to have their voices heard because in mainstream media there is a lack of representation for newcomer voices, and representation of stories within those communities.” The project aims to allow newcomers to counter the negative image seen in media.

The luncheon included a small art exhibition by refugees and immigrants of Canada. Paintings, drawings and photographs  were displayed throughout the Oakham. A few of the art works surrounded the theme of refugees, while others used art as a form of expression.

Alongside stories, an authentic three-course Syrian meal was included. A pie-style dish called Kibbie Bil Sanniyeh, topped with toasted pine nuts, followed a starter dish of Baba Ganoush, topped with walnuts and pomegranate, with multigrain flatbread on the side. To end the meal, guests enjoyed a Syrian-style milked pudding, called Mhalabia. As guests enjoyed the cultural food, they listened to the stories of newcomers.  

Poonam was one of the artists who shared her story during the luncheon. From India, she unexpectedly came to Canada with her husband and child due to her husband’s job transfer. Adapting to a new lifestyle was difficult especially during terrible weather conditions, with such a drastic change in environments. She shared how shocked she was by how polite and welcoming people were. As an artist, her work revolves around folk style.

“We are always open on hearing stories because these are valuable things especially the cultural exchange that we have in the city,” said Rodil. “It’s really important to hear and know about these different perspectives, these different backgrounds and really just celebrate culture we have in the city.”

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