The Salle de diffusion de Parc-Extension presents ‘Birds Crossing Borders’

The exhibition shares refugee stories through innovative multimedia practice

Artist Khadija Baker brings to life the stories of three Syrian refugees. Photo Amany Mohanna

The Salle de diffusion de Parc-Extension is currently hosting the multimedia exhibition Birds Crossing Borders. The exhibition was created by Syrian multidisciplinary artist Khadija Baker, who designed an audio-visual installation to display the stories of three women who survived the civil Syrian war and arrived in Canada as refugees.

Baker’s aim is to show the human side of refugee tales that don’t appear in mainstream news media, and to allow the Canadian society to learn more about the newcomers. 

“It's an exhibition that is created to share different values [and] different experiences between community members,” said Baker. “It is a way for me to tell the local people, the hosting society, that these people will have stories to be shared as they become part of this place.” 

The women Baker interviewed—Amel, who appeared in a blurred video for identity protection purposes, Zain, and Muzna Duried, the only woman who revealed her last name—all came from different Syrian regions. Baker explained she focused on women's stories as they usually have more details related to their children's and families’ lives. 

‘Birds Crossing Borders’ features video and object installations. Photo Amany Mohanna

Through the installations we learn Amel had to journey crossing the siege imposed by the regime’s army in Al-Ghouta. She walked under bombings to take her two-year-old daughter to the hospital after she got poisoned. These are only some of the experiences the exhibition reveals. 

The installation combines different elements to achieve the goal of developing human bonding between Canadian and Syrian communities. While interviews with the refugee women are displayed through videos projected on textile, Baker installed in the center of the room a circle of boxes filled with different levels of water connected by tubes. This is meant to represent the immagration process refugees go through when seeking safety and equal opportunities. 

Read more: New multiple disciplinary exhibit in downtown Montreal examines our vision of nature

Read more: Meet Montreal-based clothing brand Em & May

“I decided to create a kind of installation that is really reflective [and] makes people ask questions,” said Baker. 

‘Birds Crossing Borders’ runs until Jan. 30 at the Salle de diffusion de Parc-Extension. Photo Amany Mohanna

Birds Crossing Borders premiered for the first time in 2018 in Montreal. Following that date, it was then showcased by the University of Lethbridge and the Atassi Foundation in Dubaï. Baker has since added written notes that hang beside the displayed videos about the lives of the women now living in Canada and their achievements.

The exhibition has gotten positive feedback. “I think that the three [women] are chosen really well with really a lot of care and delicacy. It's like we have three generations of women speaking, but from three different kinds of experiences,” said Rhonda Meier, an attendee. 

According to Geneviève Roberge, the cultural agent of the Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension borough, Baker’s Birds Crossing Borders exhibition fits perfectly into the gallery’s mission—to promote culture in all its forms through innovative and creative practices. Furthermore, the Syrian refugees are considered a part of the high immigrant population in the borough. 

“It is very important for us to reflect the diversity of the Parc-Extension district in our programming choices,” said Roberge.

The borough plans to host other cultural events related to refugees. Events such as J’irai migrer chez vous performed by the collective Passeurs de Voix will be scheduled at Maison de la culture Claude-Léveillée next June.

Birds Crossing Borders runs until Jan. 30, with free entry.