IMAGES-IN-NATION: The True North
I was very excited when I was approached to create a selection of films for VUCAVU; films which I felt would lend a more authentic appreciation of the “Canadian” experience, for so many of us who are ‘other.’
I am myself a naturalized Canadian citizen, having immigrated to Canada nearly twenty-nine years ago. I remember when first I arrived in Ottawa in 1988; I was about sixteen years old, and I really didn’t have any real understanding about Canadian society, or Canadian culture? After all; it was my mother's decision to relocate here. Really the only images I had of Canada were those of white men on horses wearing those weirdly shaped hats – (Mounties & campaign hats/forage caps), beavers (large, primarily nocturnal, semiaquatic rodents), and episodes of The Beachcombers and The Littlest Hobo. I much preferred The Littlest Hobo to Lassie by the way; Hobo didn’t need nearly as much validation as Lassie, and I really appreciated his sense of independence. I didn’t realize until much later on, just how historically, culturally, socially, and linguistically diverse Canada is. I didn’t realize that Canada is really a land of immigrants, a land of many voices and experiences. Canada is not a homogeneous nation; its peoples’ are as contrastive as its landscapes.
There is no doubt in my mind that Canada is one of the greatest nations on earth, and I’m certain that for so many newcomers this perception is also true. I’m also, however, appreciative of the fact that like myself many newcomers may not have a really clear ‘image’ of Canada; they might imagine Canada to be all about polar bears, boring cities, and long cold winters. They may also imagine Canada to be only inhabited by peoples of European descent. I wanted to create a VUCAVU playlist for newcomers that would somehow better reflect the true north.
This is why I chose Nadine Valcin’s experimental documentary fiction short Whitewash (an examination of slavery in Canada) which sheds light on a not so well known aspect of Canada’s dubious charitable history. This quietly poetic piece delineates the history of slavery on Prince Edward Island, told through a rich textured voice-over manifested on the bodies and faces of nine generations of female descendants. “It outlines how the descendants have assimilated into the general population to the point of quasi invisibility and how that process parallels the collective amnesia about Canada’s history of slavery” (Nadine Valcin, Whitewash synopsis, Vimeo).
I didn’t realize until much later on, just how historically, culturally, socially, and linguistically diverse Canada is. I didn’t realize that Canada is really a land of immigrants, a land of many voices and experiences.