London photographer’s exhibition highlights where newcomers feel most at home

Home isn’t just a place, it’s a feeling, according to photographer Bruno Belli of London, Ontario. And that’s the message he wants to show in his photography exhibition at London’s Multicultural Festival on Sunday.

In his project titled HouseBelli captured six families from London who had recently immigrated to Canada by asking them which public spaces in the city they felt most comfortable in and allowing them to write a quote of their choice in their native language.

“It’s basically a survey of feelings of belonging and ownership of public spaces by newcomers,” Belli said.

As a former newcomer to London from his home country of Brazil five years ago, Belli always wondered what made other newcomers feel welcome and comfortable, did he declare.

“It’s about how photography can be used as a tool to negotiate this new identity and your new space in a society you’ve recently arrived in, and how it can assert its presence and negotiate feelings of belonging to both to this new culture and to your home culture as well,” he added.

Belli said this project allowed him to reflect on his own experiences while exploring those of others, and he is happy to give voice to those navigating a new environment.

Public spaces, a unique experience

This is Sara Ali, who was photographed by Belli. Her prime location was the Stoney-Creek YMCA where she and her family spent most of their time during the COVID shutdowns. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

Sara Ali was one of Belli’s participants. She chose the Stoney-Creek YMCA because it was a place she frequented frequently during lockdowns, where her young daughter learned to walk.

“This place has seen us grow as a family. We’ve been through everything here, the good, the bad and the in-between,” she wrote on the photo in her native language, Urdu.

Originally from Pakistan, Ali moved to London in February 2020. As part of this project, she realized how much she had internalized the trauma of the attack on the Afzaal family last June, in which four of its members were killed in what police describe as hatred. – motivated because of their Muslim faith.

“I felt like a responsibility to participate in order to represent people like me, a visible Muslim,” she said. “I’m proud of my identity, but in this society I’m often made to feel that makes people uncomfortable.”

She hopes it can show people that newcomers are just as Canadian as everyone else and shouldn’t have to live in fear of being targeted.

London photographer captures the newcomer experience

London photographer Bruno Belli wanted to explore the places in the city where newcomers feel most at home. Here he describes one of the families he captured.

Belli found that each individual’s experience in public spaces is unique to who they are, what their beliefs are, and what memories these spaces evoke for them.

“Some have felt at home in a swimming pool because it reminds them of the river water in the city where they grew up; others have felt at home in certain public parks because that is where they could make friends and be social,” he said. .

He says the place that symbolizes his home is his neighborhood park, where he takes his five-year-old son Vicente to near Jack Chambers Public School. This is where Belli was able to meet other parents and make friends.

Belli hopes viewers can really see the people in the photographs and find common ground with some of their stories. He hopes the people in the photos can feel seen and understood.

“I want them [audiences] thinking about those stories and how they might interact with people in public spaces, and how that really influences our idea of ​​a multicultural Canada,” he said.

Belli’s exhibit will be shown at Sunday’s festival, after which it will move to Toronto and where it will be part of a larger project called Under the tent at the Aga Khan Museum.

About Bernard Kraft

Check Also

Artist envisions Queen Elizabeth II and Philip reunited in death in viral sketch

LONDON — As news circulated around the world that Queen Elizabeth II’s health was deteriorating, …