Making art is hard. Artists often work in solitude, trying to create something meaningful, second guessing themselves like it’s their job. Imagine trying to do that in a new country, where language barriers and isolation can seem like insurmountable hurdles.
Huwaida Medani, Sohelia Hashemi and Youmei Chen who work for Immigrant Services for the Halifax Public Libraries, understand this struggle and are trying to do something about it. Together they came up with The Art of Belonging: An Art Exhibition by Immigrant Women of Halifax. Opening March 1 at 3:30pm at the Keshen Goodman Library and running until March 25, the event is in commemoration of International Women’s Day and is inspired by themes of community, friendship and inclusiveness. Local female artists from immigrant communities have been encouraged to share their artwork, creating a group show that is inspiring and fresh.
New and established artists have come together in this show, which features glasswork, beadwork, painting, photographs and needlecraft from artists Tae Hea Kim, Golumba Kim, Fatima Eisa, Mitra Sharifi, Inae KIm, Asna Adhami, Achan Niyago, Yurianna Lee and Mahnaz Subhani (with more artists TBA).
“There is a large number of immigrant women in Halifax, but they often aren’t connected to the greater community,” says Medani. “We thought this was a great opportunity, we wanted them to have a sense of ownership, to feel like this is our community, we belong here and this is our art.”
Though the artists have emigrated from China, Korea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Iran or Egypt, Medani says most of the work is made in Nova Scotia, about Nova Scotia, noting that for some of the artists involved this is their first time showing their work. “Some of the artists are shy about their work or they don’t think it is important,” says Medani. “We want to acknowledge them as artists, most of their English is limited, but we want people to recognize that they highly talented no matter what their religion, background or language.”
There will be a rotating display throughout the month featuring different artists, and the opening will feature live harp music, a poetry reading by Asna Adhami, and immigrant women artists' speech given by Mahnaz Subhani. For the exhibit closing event, Medani says that other established artists from the community have expressed interest in participating. “The artists themselves are very enthusiastic about this opportunity,” says Medhani. “They’re very happy to show their work here, most of them live in this area, which is a very multicultural area.
“It’s all very inspiring and beautiful work.”