Many of us who are proud to call ourselves Canadians come from different backgrounds, speak different languages, and have our own traditions. However, as immigrants, we all have something in common: a story to tell.
Our stories represent a series of experiences that brought each of us to the place we now call our home. Immigrant experiences also helped to define Canada as a country whose core is based on the diversity of its people.
Inspired by their own stories and Canadian culture, artists Haneen Dalla-Ali and Paniz Moayeri are developing a project that uses of light and sound to showcase the homecoming tales of people from Waterloo Region.
They are two of the dozens of talented artists and organizations whose contributions will create Night\Shift: Halloween on Saturday, October 31st, 2015.
Bright Whispers will collect a total of 29 homecoming stories and inscribe them into narrow cylindrical structures, each a few feet long and made out of laser-cut card stock. Each immigrant’s story will be cut in the storyteller’s native tongue, and the cylinders – 30 in total, including one blank cylinder to speak for lost immigrant experiences – will hang from a ceiling, at a height representing how long each storyteller has spent in Canada (closer to the ground equals less time here).
A small, battery-powered light bulb will be placed in the middle of each cylinder so that each story also has a physical presence as a lantern. Once this maze of 30 lanterns is turned on, the homecoming stories will overlap and cast refracted patterns of illuminated writing on the ground, making new shapes.
To give each story its own voice, speakers will amplify audio recordings of the storytellers speaking in their many mother tongues. As festival explorers approach the Bright Whispers installation, the cacophony of voices will form a buzz of conversation. As people get closer to each structure, each voice and inscription will emerge as its own recognizable story.
The main idea behind their project, as Haneen and Paniz explain, is to “emphasize that at the core of each immigrant’s homecoming story, the identity of the storyteller remains intact as a driving force, even with the shift in their circumstances.”
The final result of their multimedia assemblage will be a maze of light and sound created from the otherwise quiet stories of people who now call the region home.
Haneen and Paniz are both recent graduates of the University of Waterloo’s Bachelor of Architectural Studies program. “Attending the School of Architecture [UWSA] for the last five years, we have been raised as designers in a close-knit community of creative minds from diverse backgrounds,” they explain. “Not only have we shared countless unique experiences together, but also, talking amongst each other over countless potluck dinners and late-night, passion-driven conversations, we have shared many stories about our lives and the series of events that have led us to this highly selective and stimulating program. It has always been very interesting to see how each year around 70 people – all with many different backgrounds – are selected to start this highly intense journey together at UWSA, forming this community. For many of us, our immigrations to Canada have been some of the most life-defining experiences of our lives, leading us to this point.”
Previously, Haneen has lived in more than 10 different cities around the world, all of which have played a very significant role in shaping who she is today. Even though she’s very proud to have called so many different places home, moving so often is never easy. Art and family are her sanctuary – the two things that have been constant throughout her life.
Paniz moved to Toronto from Tehran, Iran, when she was 15. Through books and other people’s stories she has been able to find her own way to escape from reality by immersing herself in the experiences of others. Her imaginary trips have also inspired many of her most successful artistic endeavours. She’s passionate about exploring memories and different perceptions and how both change with the passage of time and through different authors and means of storytelling.
Night\Shift is immensely proud to be showcasing the amazing work of these two talented young women. The spot where you’ll find Bright Whispers in the Night\Shift landscape will be revealed in October – stay tuned for lineup announcements.
Profile written by Cindy Aponte; photos provided by Haneen & Paniz, as well as Eric Rumble.