Ottawa artists respond to the refugee crisis
Curated by Petra Halkes
Michael Davidge, Asal El-Rayes, Zainab Hussain, Maria Gomez, Rachel Kalpana James, Farouk Kaspaules, Jaime Koebel, Zivana Kostic, Stephanie Marton, Jessie Raymond, Laura Taler, Mohamad Thiam, Tavi Weisz
January 23 – February 27, 2016
Opening Saturday January 23 at Gallery 101 , 2pm to 5pm with performances by Maria Gomez and Michael Davidge
Jaime Koebel will lead a specially created Indigenous Walk starting from Gallery 101 at 1pm , Saturday February 20th
Free but please RSVP by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info on Indigenous Walks please visit: www.indigenouswalks.com
Feb 6: 2-4pm: "Should We Abolish Borders?" Round table discussion with Professor Victor Konrad from Borders in Globalization (Carleton University, Geography and Environmental Studies) and Professor Jamie Chai Yun Liew (Ottawa University, Faculty of Law) , moderated by Rachel Kalpana James (Artist)
Feb 20: Indigenous Walk, Potluck and artist walk-about with all the artists present.
Feb 27: "Re-Making a Life in Ottawa". An Info session on how Ottawa helps integrate newcomers, with personal stories and speakers from various local organizations. Details TBA
In conjunction with the exhibition, There's Room, held at Gallery 101, January 23 - February 27, 2016, two nearby Ottawa galleries will be opening exhibitions that closely relate to migration issues that are also touched on by the artists at Gallery 101:
The Enriched Bread Artists' gallery presents: Left Behind, www.facebook.com/events/166820187014606/
The RIA Artist Project Room presents: Mana Rouholamini: War, Recycled, www.researchinartottawa.wordpress.com/ria-artist-project-room/growing-up-human/mana-rouholamini-war-recycled/
Prompted by the refugee crisis, Gallery 101 has invited local artists to reflect on what it means to leave one’s hometown behind and to become part of a new one, the City of Ottawa. Some of the artists in this exhibition were born in Canada and have lived here for years, while others chose to come to this city more recently. Some carry with them recent or long-entrenched memories of traumatic forced migration across many international borders. Together, they create a new unity in the gallery.
The artworks in this exhibition deal with many aspects of leaving and arriving, of making new connections and re-creating one’s identity. Ottawa, established on unceded Algonquin territory, is itself deeply entangled in the human history of territorial wars and colonization. The borderlines that have been drawn, and the laws and directives that have come from the seat of government in this capital city have at times brought terrible injustice and hardship to the lives of indigenous people, as well as to migrants and immigrants. Yet, the shared societal memory of leaving a life behind and re-inventing oneself in a new place provides Canadians with an empathetic vantage point from which to consider the many difficulties newcomers experience.
While Ottawa is awaiting the arrival of thousands of Syrian refugees, the exhibition There’s Room provides a place where people are invited to empathize, listen and talk to artists and viewers with vastly different lifestories that are nonetheless connected by a memory of displacement and resettlement. Integration depends as much on the openness and understanding of people who already live here, as on the efforts of the immigrants themselves. There’s Room enacts, in some ways, the social process of integration and renewal that continually takes place in the city at large. In view of this, interaction between and among artists and viewers is facilitated in this exhibition by the placement of chairs and tables in the gallery space. Information on activist groups in the city, and on ways to help out, is made available, while an effort is made to reach out to other galleries, organizations, institutions and events that focus on the influx of newcomers to the city at this time.
In addition, There’s Room aims to serve as a site for discussion on some of the underlying causes of the current global mass-migrations, such as wars, fundamentalism, and greed. A roundtable discussion on national borders as one system of division (and consequent personal suffering) long taken for granted, will be organized in February.
*The title of the exhibition is inspired by a Cree word for “welcome” that translates to mean There’s Room: “Tawaw” Curator, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, shared this word with us at the We Are Cities roundtable discussion group at Gallery 101, November 28 2015, where we spoke about indigenizing the English language.
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