Across the Map: Arts and Migration
Migrante Alberta celebrated the launching of its comic book “Bridging the Gap: A Short History of Migration to Canada” last May 31, 2018 at Panciteria de Manila. Written by Marco Luciano, with illustrations by Mark Suva, the book is a Canada 150 project, which “provides a lens of the hardships of settlement and getting accepted in their new home”.
Bridging the Gap starts with a newly arrived Filipino student meeting his high school Jamaican teacher. On his first day of school, he is introduced to school staff and learns more about their respective backgrounds, thus providing the reader a bird’s eye view of the history of migration to Canada. A 48-page book, it is envisioned to be just the beginning of a series of books on migration stories.
The book launch, hosted by generous couple Bayani and Lorena Alcantara, was a night of story sharing by Clarizze Truscott, Ida Beltran-Lucila, Avnish Nanda, Poushali Mitra, “Lynn” and Vicky Venancio. Rod Loyola, MLA for Edmonton-Ellerslie, and Jon Carson, MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark, delivered messages on behalf of the provincial government. Stirring performances were provided by Lyla Luciano, and Julius Ylagan and Danielle Yu of Emma the Musical. The presentations touched on varying migrant issues: refugee experience, challenges for temporary foreign workers, the Komagata Maru, health care for Canadian children of non-status parents, and for my own part, the value of arts and culture in an immigrant society.
Sharing my own immigration story, I related how I anticipated my life in Canada as a regular 9-5 employee and complete giving up my persona as an artist. However, through time, I found myself revisiting my passion, i.e. dance, arts and culture. For the story of migration is a story of reconstructing one’s identity. When one uproots oneself from his/her home country, there is a sense of loss of social status, and of family and social networks. And this is where the points of art, culture, and migration converged in my life.
Art, culture and migration are rich with stories of aspirations, love, struggles, sacrifices, perseverance and success. Art provides a safe and personal space for self-expression and inclusion. Cultural activities foster a sense of community and belonging, and subsequently, mutual understanding. Furthermore, art provides a platform to reflect, to question, and to inform, thereby being an effective channel for social change. This is why art and culture play a crucial role in reclaiming our identity.
And so in my journey, the role of art and culture has gone beyond my personal realm and has extended to benefit the greater community. Our community is so diverse. It is said that diversity makes a society stronger. I believe this is true, but so long as the people are empowered with their cultural identity as well. This is the belief behind the Philippine Arts Council.
The Philippine Arts Council and Migrante Alberta have collaborated in different initiatives, most recent of which was the June Philippine Heritage Month Proclamation by the Government of Alberta. Two distinct organizations whose objectives share a cross-point. I am delighted with the launch of “Bridging the Gap: A Short History of
Migration to Canada” and in the decision to release it in comic book format. The message and the format, important as it is, renders it accessible as well to all ages and deserves to be disseminated as widely as possible. During the book launch, MLA Rod Loyola and MLA Jon Carson have pledged to provide all schools within their respective riding a copy of the book. Mabuhay ang Migrante Alberta and more power to you! To obtain copies of “Bridging the Gap: A Short History of Migration to Canada”, email firstname.lastname@example.org.