Art for Integration was a collaborative endeavour designed to create a safe, artistic platform for 360 Adult Middle-Eastern Newcomer / Refugees across 3 regions in the GTA (including Downtown Toronto, Scarborough and Mississauga) to learn ways to integrate positively into Canadian society. This project was implemented in collaboration with Syrian Canadian Foundation, Scadding Court Community Centre and Arab Community Centre of Toronto.
Mixed Company’s philosophy of adult education is grounded in the belief that every individual is creative and that learning happens in spaces that respect and draw from each individual’s experiences. The drivers of our adult education philosophy include community storytelling, community healing, participatory idea creation, and finally, pursuit of socio-political inquiry, dialogue and action through the arts.
Here’s how the project saw its way through. First, we engaged community members who identified as newcomers from Syria, Palestine and Egypt in theatre-based workshops that elicited stories of their personal experiences related to their journey and arrival in their new home. Each community then co-created a universal story/script that explored the power dynamics in their everyday life here that posed challenges in their journey to adapt to their new home and community in Canada. With the help of our amazing Forum Theatre facilitator Natalie Abdou and community activator and interpreter Jobran Kanji, the participants created and presented their universal story about two primary issues that seemed most pertinent to them: identity and traditional ideas related to masculinity.
After many days of rehearsal and artistic development, our community performers finally presented their Forum Theatre scenarios to an audience of over 150 newcomers, refugees, and many other community groups! Titled Home Away From Home, the event comprised two shows performed by our very own community participants on Dec 15 and 16 2018!
The community audience had some most wonderful insights that were reflected in their Forum Theatre interventions, the part of the show where they could step up on stage to replace a character they felt could do something different to overcome the challenges being discussed. The dialogue that emerged from these interventions left us with so many areas of learning when it comes to how we can help foster respect for different cultures, healthy relationships, positive power dynamics in the family, and how we can come together as diverse communities to support newcomers and refugees from other lands.
We want to thank all our community partners, participants, facilitators, and volunteers who brought this project to life. Special thanks to Jobran Kanji for his leadership with community outreach and mobilization efforts. Thanks to our generous sponsors Catherine Donnelly Foundation and the George Lunan Foundation for making this project possible.