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Brnesh Berhe 

Theme: Education System
“Ana” spent 16 years working as a psychologist prior to coming to Canada from Peru. Her original perception of Canada prior to arriving was that of a place which offered great professional opportunities with support systems available for those who needed it. When she arrived as an international student to study English, she received very little help and was not legally permitted to work. Due to those factors and her inability to continue making payments on her incredibly high tuition, she ultimately lost her status. I wanted to show the contrast between where she was professionally back in Peru and where she is now in Canada. The academic structures in this country charge extraordinarily high fees
for international students, but don’t do enough to accommodate the burdens they ultimately face when they arrive.

Theme: Housing Discrimination
When “Triana” arrived in Canada from Uganda she, like many in her situation, had trouble finding work and housing. Many places refused to rent to her because of her status and her pregnancy,
but luckily with the help of NGOs and folks from the local African community, she was slowly able to get on her feet while navigating all the hardships and discrimination many newcomers go through.
I thought about how the community she cultivated helped her get her bearings a bit, even though she still had many hurdles ahead of her and struggled with her mental health. The support, in a way, helped take her life back in her hands–a metaphor I tried to capture using a Fisher Price-like playset not unlike something her child would play with now.

Mr. Gray
Themes: Employer Abuses and the Medical System
There are snakes in the world that are ready to take advantage of newcomers and the undocumented for their own personal gain, and with many newcomers not aware of their rights, many of these abuses of power go unreported. Mr. Gray encountered this at work (an employer that went back on their word after promising to hold his job after an on-site injury) and at a hospital (a doctor that tried to take advantage of him after his health card wasn’t working, telling
his patient that he could just pay him directly instead). “Mr. Gray” described himself as someone who typically likes to do things himself and not ask for help, which reminded me of the loner-type lead characters in a lot of action movies or similar genres. So, it felt fitting to take his story and turn him into the lead in one of those films.

Theme: The Illusion of a Better Life
visited Quebec and Ontario when she was younger and left that trip with a positive image of Canada. She held on to this memory when she chose to make a life here with her daughter, fleeing the violence in her home country of Mexico which her mother was heartbreakingly a victim of. Her time as a tourist sold her a false reality–an illusion– of what life would be like for her now. The idea of illusion inspired this piece of her leaving her country with her daughter for something familiar but ultimately unknown.

Artwork Theme

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When I first approached this project, my concept was a satirical take on vintage Canada tourism posters, with captions like “Opportunity Awaits!” and ‘Quality Care for All!” contrasted with images that depicted the hard realities of the folks who shared their stories for this project. I selected a singular theme from each piece (education system, employer abuses and the medical system, housing discrimination, and the illusion of a better life) and highlighted the negative affect it had on the participants respectively. After some feedback, I realized that overall, I had focused it entirely on the suffering they faced from this broken system with no references to their journeys or their fights to overcome abuse and hardship. The concept of journeys sparked an idea to envision their stories as movies, which allowed me to make each person the lead or hero in their own story instead of victims in someone else’s. While I’m focusing on specific themes for each piece, the majority of these subjects overlap with all the participants.

Abril Mothers Story
00:00 / 01:30
Abril message to Canadians
00:00 / 01:42
Abril Expectactions vrs reality
00:00 / 01:57
Entrevista Abril distortionAbril
00:00 / 42:13
Full interview. EngAbril
00:00 / 24:43
Losing his job and Permanent resident oportunityMr. Gray
00:00 / 02:35
Full interviewMr. Gray
00:00 / 42:07
One thing to say to CanadiansMr. Gray
00:00 / 01:12
How he’s doing now, help from Muslim associationMr. Gray
00:00 / 01:34
Full InterviewTriana
00:00 / 25:34
Message to CanadiansTriana
00:00 / 01:26
Housing difficultiesTriana
00:00 / 00:54
Finding a Job while pregnantTriana
00:00 / 01:04

Background noise of this interview is because it was recorded in a park in Edmonton,

Full interview SpanishAna
00:00 / 01:04
Full Interview EnglishAna
00:00 / 07:04
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