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Saturday, 22 April 2017

Visual Storytelling

Last year I delivered Visual Storytelling workshops to the Children's Discovery Museum here in Saskatoon. This spring I was honored to offer a similar opportunity to newcomers; specifically immigrant and refugee women.  Let me just say that I REALLY like being hired to work with groups to do art related projects.  This workshop was something I put together myself, based on the concept of paper quilts.  Using paper and fabric and scissors and glue, participants made 'quilt' blocks based on themes.  The resulting collection of finished blocks were put in poster frames.

On Day 1, with the help of translators, the theme I gave was 'what makes you strong?'  The blocks they made then became all about family, children, inner strength, and skill sets.  I was pleasantly surprised at how open the women were to jumping in and creating symbolic versions of their very personal and often painful stories.  Of course, I had needles and threads there for some extra embellishing.  It was great to see their existing talents really shine through with their creations.

This is Emily who runs the Women's Program at the Saskatoon Open Door Society

On Day 2, the topic revolved around future.  The women were asked to create pieces that spoke to the hopes and dreams they have for themselves, for their children, and for their new life here in Canada. They had so much to say.  It was important to add text to the art for people to better understand the meaning in the symbolism.  Even for myself, I wouldn't have known the stories behind the shapes. All of the stories are incredibly moving.

At the end of the week, there was a wonderful event!  There was a Women's Celebration put on by the Saskatoon Open Door Society that all the newcomers were invited to attend. There were guest speakers, performances, and a cultural fashion show too!  (A joy for me to photograph for the hosting organization with so much fabric, colour and embellishments!)

Then these brave women from my group had the opportunity to stand with their pieces in front a large hall full of women.  One by one, they went to the microphone to tell their stories.

The Women's group sharing their stories at Queen's House of Retreat

Some required the aide of translators.  Some spoke alone.  There were tears and silence and smiles and applause.  And you know... when one women starts crying - well, everyone teared up.  It was amazing for me to watch their determination in sharing what they went through and what they hope for, even if it was a painful thing to share.

I will be doing a repeat of this workshop one more time with the next group of newcomers in May so that we will have a good amount of art to fill the gallery space I've secured.  I am excited to have a public spot booked for the month of June where all of these pieces can be seen!  My goals for this project are to create a safe space in our community for these women to tell their stories because their stories are important, and in turn educate the public in the hopes of moving toward acceptance.

Thank you so much to Emily and to the Saskatoon Open Door Society, and of course, to the amazing participants.  : )



Verna G said...

Great work you are doing Monica!

Lin said...

Amazing to hear all those ladies stories I am sure. xx

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