2020 - Ongoing
This Land Was Made For You And Me is a retelling of history and an exploration of cultural identity. It is a story of a young woman Anna, a being of memory, narrative, and myth. It is a story rooted in the past, extending into our time. The story begins with the idea of belonging when belonging is impossible.
As a child growing up on the Canadian prairies, I understood that my family and I were different. My first memories of this are from 1967, I was six years old. I couldn’t speak English. No one outside our community could say my name. It is Lesia.
I am a descendant of Ukrainian immigrants who came to Canada in search of a better life. Instead, alongside 8,579 other men, women and children, they found themselves interned from 1914-1920. They were surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. Their dreams collapsed, along with their rights and freedoms.
I began work on the project in 2020 and unearthed a carefully curated past of marginalized histories: lands emptied by colonizers; the subsequent immigration of thousands as vehicles for the government’s economic expansion program and their later internment as weapons of war. This project is my response.
As if a travel diary, I use a coding system to unravel the emotionally driven plot and to explore the palimpsest/fluid nature of cultural identity. Hierarchies of historical storylines are flattened; archival texts accompany recolored pictorial landscapes of the time; government advertising posters precede images of Canadian winter landscapes; and newspaper cuttings follow Anna’s letters, which I have written as if a woman interned. These layers are inspired by Stuart Hall’s notion that cultural identity is “a matter of becoming as well as of being”; the letters express the lived experience of “the others”, as discussed by Eduard Said’s in his book Orientalism. I insert myself into the work, with image and text, as the enunciated – marked by hybridity – to open a dialogue on the post-colonial experience.