Migration as natural movement has been occurring for thousands of years, and the earliest evidence of humans being aware of migration dates back to the Stone Age. Some rock art images, portraying animals moving across the African savannah, are as old as 20,000 years. Presently human migration is still a very pressing issue, and it is essential to contribute to meaningful dialogue within our public spaces to create awareness. Daily Migration strives to express the ties that connect us to nature and the earth on which we travel, weaving voices from diverse demographics, integrating personal insights/lived experiences.
Daily Migration is a community based, participatory arts project offering social connection to three unique yet interconnected programming threads; community engagement sessions, collaborative arts workshops, and culminating exhibition featuring artwork and writings of workshop participants. This project is led by artist by Shalak Attack, in partnership with STEPS Initiative, and with support from the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, TD Bank. We would also like to thank our collaborator, the West Neighbourhood House in Parkdale for igniting the spark that led to this project.
Because of the current Covid-19 pandemic, workshops were reimagined to follow social distancing protocols, and were offered online. In total there were 15 individuals from the City of Toronto who self identified as migrant and participated in workshop sessions each based on story-telling, shared experiences, and art making. Each participant was inspired by the theme of Daily Migration either through the lived experiences and stories of their own lives or from a universal perspective.
We invite you to witness these strong and inspired visual contemplations created with watercolour and mixed media approaches as well as their creators below in this online exhibit.
Migration is heaviest when we confront the reality of rising out of our identities, spilling out childhood dreams, personal belongings, and the push-away of home. Migration does not start with the physical movement; it starts with the process of rising and joining other migrants in their adaptation to new homes, belongings, and identities.
Title: Don’t Jump, Fly
Short Description of the artwork: This artwork is inspired by a real life incident. I had imagined myself jumping off of a bridge at old mill subway station during a depressive period of my life. And then on a later date, when I was feeling happier, I imagined myself flying around the same bridge with wings (an image that was whimsical, euphoric, uplifting and freeing). I have drawn three symbols on the bridge to represent a few of the things that I struggled with the most as an immigrant in Canada. The two angry and sad bulls represent my parents fighting. Immigration is a stressful experience that often cause serious financial struggle for families; which result in conflicts amongst family members. The Maple leaf with the Ashoka Chakra ( a part of the Indian flag) represent my struggles with my identity as a Canadian and an Indian. The homeless girl on the right dreaming about a house with people over represent my constant fear of being homeless. Even after seven years of being in Canada, my family still struggles financially because both me and my brother are still in school and neither of my parents are able to establish a career in Canada.
My name is Sienna Park. I was born in South Korea and moved to Canada as a baby. I painted two pieces to represent elements of Korean culture fused with symbols of migration. I chose to produce my paintings in a fan shape because it was a creative way to fuse another layer of Korean culture, and a metaphor for the butterfly, to symbolize migration of people and aspects of their culture.
The fan has been in many Asian cultures for thousands of years. In the fifteenth century it was brought to Europe by explorers returning from Japan and China. It was adapted into European cultures including the Spanish where it is used in flamenco dancing. By the seventeenth century it was being commonly used by women in high society. In nineteenth century Europe when it was not deemed appropriate for women and men to socialize together the fan was being used as a form of non-verbal communication (or a secret language) between men and women. How the fan was held or what direction it was waved could indicate different meanings. For a period fans as a fighting tool in some ancient Asian martial arts. Fans are the heart of a popular Korean performance art called the fan dance (Buchaechum).
Sam Taegeuk is a tri-coloured pattern commonly seen on Korean fans, although on a different fan shape and a rigid form. There are three lobes in red, blue, and yellow. Red represents earth, blue represents heaven, and yellow represents humanity. I chose this symbol because it is significant in Korean society, yet its parts hold universal significance.
Titles of artwork series: Journeyed Pangs of Hope
I came to Canada first in 2014 and lived part in Canada and part in the US as I tried to transition my life and career to be with my husband in Canada. It was a challenging transition. I was a newly-wed who was also trying to help my mother endure a Terminal Illness battle against Pancreatic Cancer. By the time I had made Canada home, my marriage had entirely broken apart. I became a Canadian citizen and a divorced woman in 2019. I am the happiest I have ever been. I finally found home in Toronto and each day I am here is a happier existence as I rebuild my person and my artistic practice in my new home, in the community I love.
Gladys' watercolor portrait explores the idea of home and identity. As someone who travels constantly, Gladys struggles to find her sense of belonging in one place. Using the imagery of a bird, her portrait suggests the idea that home is wherever one is. Placing the national symbols of Hong Kong and Canada in parallel with each other, the portrait addresses Gladys' dual roots in the two nations. Sunflowers, the symbol of Gladys' pursuit of happiness and freedom, further emphasize the significance of both places in her heart.
Gladys Lou is currently pursuing her degree in Art & Art History in the joint University of Toronto and Sheridan College program with a double major in Psychology. As a solo traveller, she has backpacked across Europe and Africa, studied in Hong Kong, the UK and Canada. She works with multiple media to explore the boundaries of visual art and performance.
With a background in medicine, Gladys has witnessed the resilience and fragility of the human mind in life and in death. Intrigued by the complex yet enigmatic nature of human cognition, she combines the physical components of the world with subliminal perceptions in her artworks, weaving an abstract, alternative reality. Presented as mysteries to be solved, Gladys’ works invite viewers to decipher and conquer their own minds.
This drawing is joining a series of hand-drawn illustrations for my ongoing storytelling project “I Am From Uzbekistan”.
This project is my artistic response to discrimination and prejudice I have been facing living and travelling abroad as an Uzbek citizen. In the world, where the bias of today's media has such a profound effect on how some nations/ethnicities/religions are treated, I want to inspire everyone to replace the fear of the unknown with genuine curiosity and encourage learning about the world and its cultures through real people's stories, and I want to start with myself telling about the place I come from.
Chimamanda Adichie is right - “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, it is that they are incomplete.” In this illustrated introduction to my culture, I invite people to learn about the most beautiful and heartwarming sides of Uzbekistan, and come with me on a joyful journey in time and space to the heart of Central Asia.
1. Composition with JMB
After the first virtual class I was inspired to make a portrait on the paper I was working on with watercolour. At the time I was working on a portrait of Jean Michel Basquiat so it was easy to use this subject as part of this work.
2. Migration is
During this workshop we have worked with a grid on watercolour paper practicing with watercolours. On the video screen my image of the participants was a gallery grid so taking inspiration from this I have decided to recreate a grid of the participants on the paper which was decorated with watercolour drawings representing a landscape of a travel, a migration. I’ve asked the participants to send me a word, in their own language, on what migration means for them that I later put on their own image.
Facades of Toronto - Idea trigger
During the Daily Migration workshop, sharing our migration experiences, and talking about art as a tool to express harsh feelings related to this process, made me reflect on my art work. Facades of Toronto is a project that displays a beautiful face of Toronto streets. The facades are drawn in a realistic way, capturing the actual details, from the building to the garden features. Despite being a relaxing exercise for me, the accuracy and control of my style do not allow me to bring light to my anguish. My art does not express my feelings or thoughts, in the same way as facades cover what is going on in the building's interior.
Daily Migration Workshop - Creative process
My first insight was to open these facades of Toronto: show indoor spaces as an alive and vibrant body. In this move, I thought of all the feelings I have felt since I decided to start anew in Canada: hope, lack of belonging and identification, fear, pessimism, impatience, helplessness, anger, unmotivation, sadness.
Once I knew what I wanted to do, I tested various techniques. I found references of colours and images to represent those feelings. I defined the colour palette and painted different scenes. As the result was not what I expected, I looked for images in old magazines that I could use as a collage. I opted for using mixed technique: watercolour and ink painting juxtaposed with collage, that was placed under the paper and revealed by holes, creating a kind of a mask. The words used in the background originated from questions I asked people about Parkdale and from various store signs in the neighbourhood.
Behind Facades Symbolism
A singular facade in Toronto can hide the multiple realities that co-exist and co-habit behind it. While living conditions are a relevant aspect to the migration process, housing affordability is one of the biggest issues in Toronto. Many single family houses were converted into multi family buildings, as a way to be both profitable for landlords and affordable for tenants. Generally, landlords live on the ground floor and have access to backyards and frontal gardens. They are the ones that see and are seen in the neighborhood. Tenants are most likely to occupy basements and upper floors, close to the roof or the ground, in rooms with small windows, limited visibility and integration with the environment. Migrating is a process of looking inside of ourselves. It is a very intense self discovery during a non linear journey. I used masks over collage because I wanted to show the daily transition and evolution of feelings and migration status along the time. I wanted to contrast vulnerability/uncertainties and stability/opportunities, showing the same feelings in different rooms, ups and downs everywhere. I prioritized showing anger and impatience above while soft feelings below, playing with the symbolic spheres of holy and evil. It can also be interpreted as an analogy of living in the ground floor and level of integration with the city. The main door is located here, to welcome newcomers, as well as the gardens that help grow immigrant roots.
Behind Facades I, II and III is a series of paintings that were developed during the Daily Migration Workshop, a collaboration with the artist Shalak Attack and STEPS Initiative.
Behind Facades I - Our ghosts
Behind Facades II - Our Colours
Behind Facades III - Resilience
Title: "The promised land"