New exhibit urges importance of heritage

A new exhibition at the Robert Langen Gallery on campus examines Sandra Brewster’s take on an immigrant’s process of adaptation.

Brewster is a Toronto-based multi-media artist and graduated from York University with a bachelor of fine arts.

The Cord asked Brewster how she settled on this particular theme for an exhibit and she replied, “My parents immigrated here from Guyana and I grew up in a mixed Guyanese community. My parents are also active members of the Senior Guyanese Friendship Association.”

Specializing in drawing and painting, Brewster draws inspiration from the stories told by her immigrant parents and grandparents by creating amazing works of art through a mixture of mediums like charcoal, acrylic and gel.

Her multimedia installation is a visual narrative meant to explore issues of culture, identity and representation. The exhibit is filled with everyday domestic settings like dining room tables, plates, cutlery, photos, books and other trinkets and pieces of Caribbean, South American and Canadian culture.

The drawings and paintings on the walls show immigrants engaged in their everyday activities and the space is a recreation of a typical migrant home. Brewster was able to create her art through a grant from the government, while the installation itself has been a long process of collecting things over time, she said.

The filming of the video was the most important part, an undertaking that took the better part of three months, according to Brewster.

“I’ve always admired those people who dropped everything to come here,” she continued, emphasizing that it was important for her to make connections between fellow migrants and relatives back home.

Brewster is referring to a period during the 1960s and 1970s when there was a large surge of immigrants from the Caribbean and South America, who came to Canada in hopes of making a better life for themselves. In that time many of those immigrants found adapting to life in Canada very different from what they had known back home.

The cold, harsh winters and the changing seasons were a stark contrast from their former lives in hot Caribbean and South American regions.

The societal differences and institutional structures in Canada were even more different and challenging to overcome.

The video in Brewster’s exhibit entitled “Listen” portrays these immigrants as they talk and share their cultural experiences along with the disconnections they found between life in Canada and their lives back home.

The exhibit provides viewers an opportunity to think and re-examine issues of culture and immigration in contemporary society.

To explain the title of the exhibit Brewster added, “The disconnect still exists today. The youth are very Canadian and disconnected from their heritage, there is a need to bridge the gap. That’s why we must honor the elders’ stories. Each story in the video has a lesson to be learned.”

The exhibit will be on display for the community to view and listen to until Oct. 23.

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