On September 27th, This is Worldtown unveiled the full work of seven emerging media-makers taking charge in telling new stories about migration, space, healing and love at our group show, Unbound: Stories from Behind the Dust.
The exhibit was the culmination of a year-long program that used creative workshops and mentorship to assist in the creation of six visual stories that unearthed the complexity of female labour, love, archiving, memory and representation.
The featured media-makers are Samah Ali, Aleia Robinson-Ada, Eli Farinango, Soko Fong Negash, Mashal Khan, Aniqa Rahman and Shazlin Rahman.
To kickoff the evening, TIWT’s founder and creative director Sana A. Malik led a panel discussion with the artists, where they shared their inspirations and process.
“I was looking to mainstream media for a reflection of myself, and every time I didn’t see myself being reflected, it eroded my self-esteem and my self-worth. [My grandmother] has been a source of strength for me. And through doing this work, and sharing it with other people, I discovered that a lot of other women of colour like myself are also dealing with the same questions.” – Shazlin Rahman
“What does it mean to wander free in a brown body, in the place that you grew up in? With this project, I wanted to add to the cultural imaginary of what it could look like of women just existing. I wanted the viewer to focus on the gaze of the women, and how strong they are, despite what they’ve gone through.” – Mashal Khan
“I feel like making pieces that are relatable for the audience I want to speak to that are these people that look like me is really important.” – Aleia Robinson-Ada
“The mark that I want to leave behind with my work is representation, but also acknowledging our land and taking care of it, as well as our relationships with our families.” – Eli Farinango
A complete video of the panel discussion can be viewed here:
Unbound: Stories from Behind the Dust will be on display next at Mississauga Civic Centre from October 23rd to November 7th. Entry is free and will open with a reception from 5-7pm at the Great Hall on Tuesday, October 23rd. RSVP here.
Over the next few months, we will be featuring articles and conversations from our Behind the Dust Visual Series Mediamakers. This is the sixth in the series.
Born and raised in Taiwan, Fong-Chia-Ho is a Toronto-based artist with an insatiable passion for documentary photography. I first met Fong at Centennial College where she was announced as one of the winners for 2018 CLIX Photo Competition at the Story Arts Campus. Fong has had an interest in photography since childhood, and before arriving to Canada she studied film at the Wenzao Ursuline University. She started as a photo assistant under photographer Jason Lee, who became her mentor. This apprenticeship helped her find her love of documentary photography and develop her storytelling eye.
“The initial purpose of taking this photo was that I friend asked me to photograph for her at the festival, but when I clicked, I saw there were something more than just an ordinary photo. I realised that the person who was in the frame was also photographing me.” — Fong H.
As a budding photographer, I couldn’t resist exploring her brilliant portfolio and was instantly drawn to her captures of street life. Her touch of black and white imagery with lurking shadows made her photos more dramatic.
“Although I love colour and black and white photos, most of my photos are in black and white because I like the gradience which gives the pictures more sense and power. However, I also love colour photo especially contrast, complementary colours because they make a photo more compelling and intriguing in a sense.” — Fong H.
What ultimately drew me to Fong’s work was her captures of the Taiwan’s marketplaces– in particular, of women taking ownership of the marketplace. This is a stark contrast to what I see back in my home country, Bangladesh, where I can’t recall seeing any women in charge of butcher shops. Street culture can speak a lot about how a community operates, the stereotypical roles that people are assigned to, and how we as individuals enable those views/behaviour.
Having said that, there is another looming disparity seen in Bangladesh’s malls and marketplaces: the division of socioeconomic classes. While marketplaces and bazaars are open to all, malls on the other hand, are targeted exclusively for middle to higher class consumers.
Mainstream malls, from what I see, are considered to be progressive spaces which sells as well as advertises the latest innovation and luxury goods, whereas marketplaces are viewed as one-stop shop for “low-quality”, traditional handmade or homemade goods. In Bangladesh, many marketplaces are associated with poverty and violence, female shoppers are prone to go missing or experience sexual violence in these spaces, which is why you will encounter fewer female business owners operating at these markets.
I asked Fong her reasoning behind photographing the street markets. He responded that she found these amenities to be unique. “I have travelled to many different countries, and whenever I look back at my home country, I realised how unique it is,” she explained Every vendor is approachable; every price can be bargained depending on the relationship between the seller and the buyer. Fong continued, “In addition to that, in a market, some vendors are an inheritance from generation to generation, and this is I rarely can see this from other countries, especially western countries.”
For Fong, her memories of growing up in her hometown and being surrounded by marketplaces are entrenched in her heart and in her mind. She believes that these places which were once buzzing with people, are now disappearing due to growing lifestyle changes and younger generations choosing to move to cities for work. Capturing images of street markets is what Fong believes will help preserve these memories. She hopes to share these photographs with her family and relatives to remember the tradition. These photographs can indeed serve as a greater narrative for folks who are also keen on learning the history of street life or culture in Taiwan. Fong hopes that viewers who see her documentary photographs are able to relate to the same feeling of adventure or beauty that she sees in the street markets.
Aniqa Rahman is a recent University of Toronto graduate, where she earned her Honours Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She owes much of her success in life to not only her family, friends, and mentors, but also to Community Arts which has been an integral part of her healing process as well as growth towards her individuality. Raised in a diverse neighbourhood in Scarborough, Aniqa has been immersed in the Arts since 2013. She has participated in ArtStarts’ Sew What?!, East Music and Project Management with Scarborough Arts, We are Lawrence Avenue with Cultural Hotspot, UforChange photography classes and Collecting Personal Archives by Truth & Dare Project.