Art Project 1400 Third Stage: Roots, Culture, and Communal Healing/Resilience Building

Art Project 1400 Third Stage: Roots, Culture, and Communal Healing/Resilience Building

ICC health committee is proud to start the next phase of its Art Project with great enthusiasm. Since the last two phases of ICC Art Project 1400 well-received by the community, the ICC health committee is embarking on the next stage of this project. As we have emphasized before, the Art Project 1400 is about mental health. More precisely, it is about using art and artistic expressions for creating resilience and community empowerment in facing massive upsetting events such as the current pandemic.

It is well-known that traditions and understanding cultural roots give people a sense of belonging. Emphasizing on our roots and being belong to something greater than ourselves generates solidarity, and help us, as members of a community, to feel closer together and to have the experience of valorizing common roots, which in turn elevate our community morals to a higher level of tolerance, hence help us in facing calamities. At this stage, we intend to explore the domain of arts and artifacts that are bearing or expressing cultural value as a role player in the community’s mental health.

As research shows, migrant communities benefit greatly from a boost in their morals when they can be energized by celebrating their cultural heritage in their hearts and in their new environment. In Canada, with its multiculturality, the common policy is to encourage the members of each cultural community to embrace other migrants’ heritage and culture. For this reason, at this stage of our project, the committee has decided to launch an online exhibition of arts and artifacts from both Iran and Canada side by side with a focus on pottery. Our objective is to highlight the Iranian and Canadian cultural heritage as staging a spectacle of diversity and pride for the Iranian Canadians. By creating an online exhibition, where our roots and cultures can be celebrated and cherished, we hope to create a visual enriching and exhilarating experience.

Our decision has been based on research findings that indicate that racialized and ethnic minorities, immigrants included, are subjected to various discriminations. And we know that discrimination severely impacts people’s mental health[i]. Moreover, studies show that racial and cultural minorities in Canada, in our case the Iranian immigrants are likely to have less access to mental health care services[ii]. Lack of access to the services is also a problem with non-racialized communities, but the issue is more severe for the racialized/immigrant communities due to increasing evidence of systematic racism. For this reason, ICC is trying to focus on the community’s mental health more seriously.

We wish to bring the community together to ease tensions and create a sense of belonging during our project. We want to celebrate Iran’s cultural heritage alongside with that of the First Nation Canadian to establish a sense of communal empowerment and create a feeling grounded in history and culture.

Our emphasis is on pottery for two reasons: first, pottery is closely related to the earth. Pottery has thousands of years history in Iran, and for the First Nation the earth is sacred as one of the vital elements that has close ties to the environment. The second reason is that in pottery, the artist can prompt a sense of being rooted in a highly turbulent time as we have been witnessing. Being engaged in traditions and practicing cultural heritage can be a psychologically meaningful experience that can generate a sense of unity and connection.

[i] McGuire, T. G., & Miranda, J. (2008, Mar-Apr). New evidence regarding racial and ethnic disparities in mental health: policy implications. Health affairs (Project Hope), 27(2), 393-403.