In these paintings you will see Canada as a nation that reflects our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Immigrants have brought and continue to bring with them, into Canada, parts of their old countries and cultures, and in Canada their cultures have mixed and continue to mix resulting in the creation of the “Hapaist-Boivinist” style of art. Today, much of Canadian art shows traces of different cultures being mixed together; this type of art is very visible on the streets of our big cities; we see it in visual arts, music, theatre, and more. Memories of our different multicultural pasts are everywhere.
“When I first arrived in Canada, everyone was always labeling everyone - Italian, Greek, Nova Scotian, Torontonian, French, Native, Immigrant, African-Canadian, Anglophone – to the point that I was confused about what it meant to be Canadian. I wanted to become Canadian but I had great trouble trying to understand what the Canadian identity is. I knew that Canada was a multicultural nation, and that is one of the reasons why my parents wanted us to come here, but for some reason I thought that in Canada everyone was going to identify everyone as Canadian.
While I was searching for answers about our Canadian identity I found out that I was not the only one who was confused about what our Canadian identity is. Many people were identifying themselves as Canadian + something else, and quite often “that something else” was not the same as “that something else” that their neighbours identified themselves with. Click here to read the article.
When Jacques Dalibard, the senior designer for the Canadian pavilion at EXPO 67, together with a team of Canadian architects, planners, engineers, and historians, went to Dresden, Germany, to attend the five day international conference, they debated the Canadian identity and what it is that makes us Canadian. They had to come up with something because the main theme and the imposing title of the exhibition was “Monuments and Sites: Their Contributions to the Definition of Cultural Identity;” however, Dalibard stated that at the end, they still did not know what exactly made up the Canadian identity (Jacques Dalibard, 1985, p. 2-4).
I grew up in Windsor, Ontario, which is a very multicultural city full of immigrants from Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Germany, Arabic Countries, and many other countries, and there I learned to define Canada as a very multicultural country. Most of my friends were defined by a Canadian culture that was backed up with a foreign culture; my friends were either born outside of Canada or their parents or grandparents were born outside of Canada. So I learned to think of the Canadian National Identity as being very multicultural.
I am Canadian, but amongst many other things I am also Polish-Canadian. To some people I am an immigrant, to others I am Polish, to my French friends on the ships I am English because I am not from Quebec and to many of them anyone who speaks English is English, and yet to many of the English speaking people at my church I am French because I am married to a Quebecer and I have his French last name. I think that the next time that someone asks me about my background I will give them an answer that will describe me the best; I will say that I am “Polish-Canadian-Immigrant-Ontarian-Windsorite-Anglophone with a French last name, migrant to Halifax”; I think that defines me the best.
Sometimes people ask me about Poland and what Poland is like, and I try to be funny by telling them that I will Google it for them. That is because when people ask me about Poland I often stand dumbfounded because I was only a child when my parents left Poland and it has been 27 years since I have been to Poland. Although I don’t remember Poland all that well, sometimes people assume that I just got off the boat. I feel embarrassed for not knowing about Poland as much as I should, but I hear that Poland is amazingly beautiful and that people in Poland are really nice so perhaps next year I will visit.
However, I also realize that people ask questions about my background because they are also trying to understand their own identity as Canadians who live amongst people who have more recently come from all over; they are curious, they want to know who I am – well, I am just Margareta, the girl that loves to paint, and the best way to get to know me is to look at my paintings.
In this collection I wanted to portray our confusing national identity by presenting a beautiful yet confusing image of Canada. I wanted to portray our wonderful citizens who have either been here for generations or have come from all sorts of backgrounds, and show the contribution of immigrants to our Canadian culture through the storefront names-of-businesses in different languages.
Quite often people who have not travelled much around Canada, and don’t know Canada all that well, find my paintings confusing because they see parts of Canada that do not seem to exist to them. They ask me, “where are these places in Canada?” and I tell them that some of these places exist as they are depicted but some of them have been composed of different parts collected from all over Canada. They include buildings, lakes, waterfronts, waterfront-parts, and other individual items that I have seen in Canada that I have identified as having an immigrant or foreign origin mixed together with native and old-immigrant styles to create our Canadian local styles. Everything inside my paintings symbolizes the identity of our multicultural nation and our multicultural national identity.
Canada is very multicultural. We say that Canada is bilingual; however, almost all signage in the northern Canadian cities, such as Iqaluit, is written not in French or English but in the native language. Additionally, many sections inside big cities are being naturally divided by inhabitants of different ethnic backgrounds. For example: the city of Surrey in British Columbia is inhabited mostly by people of Indian descent; China town in Vancouver has become predominantly occupied by Canadians of Chinese descent; Iqaluit is inhabited mostly by native Canadians, but it is starting to gain influence from people who are moving there from other parts of Canada. Halifax' Africville once also served as the hub for Nova Scotia’s African Canadians until the space was taken away from them. Lastly, almost every big city has a China Town, and an Italian, Polish, Spanish, Jewish, or Arabic neighbourhood, and tourists love visiting these neighbourhoods.
The “Through Canada with a Camera and a Paintbrush” collection I painted in the “Hapaist Boivinist” style.
About the “Hapaist Boivinist” style of art:
When people hear that I am an artist, they often ask me about my style; however, in the past it was difficult for me to describe my artistic style because my style does not fit the existing styles of art. So when I used to describe my style, I often described it as “a mixture of this and that”. Eventually, I had to coin my own style of art, but it took a while for me to come up with a term that would perfectly describe my artistic style.
One day I went to see a performance by Fabuku Daiko and one of the artists spoke about “Hapa” - it was the first time that I ever heard someone mention this term. I immediately related that term to my art work. “Hapa” is a term that originated in Hawaii to describe people of mixed ethnic heritage. So I coined my art style “Hapaist Boivinism”.
The term “Boivinism” comes from the French words “Boire,” meaning to drink and “Vin,” meaning wine. “Boivinism” utilizes many different styles of art in order to speak about subjects that deal with social issues. Sort of like a person who had too much wine to drink and they start speaking about things that they would normally not have the guts to speak about. To do so, “Boivinism” combines different styles of art; in my case my art combines Photography, Folklore, and Classicisms, and utilizes Salvador Dali’s vivid colour scheme.
Together, “Hapaist Boivinist art” is a product of globalization and a product of a mixed culture that became eclectic due to technology and social media. This style of art is generated by people who feel that they don’t belong to just one culture; their culture is a mixture of cultures. It is a style of art that stems from the interaction of cultures produced by globalization, media influences, generational influences, and the mixing of cultures.
I wanted these paintings to seem real and at the same time unreal because from travelling around Canada, and having lived in many different places in Canada, I found that many of the most beautiful places in Canada were so beautiful that they almost seemed unreal.
“Through Canada with a Camera and a Paintgrush" questions the meaning of what is Canada and what it means to be Canadian in a diverse nation that is not only bilingual but trilingual. French in Quebec, and in many parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Native in the Canadian Arctic, English in most parts of Canada, and very multicultural/ recent-immigrant in many of the biggest Canadian cities. The biggest cities that are most prosperous and economically profitable in Canada are full of immigrants, and are very diverse in culture and language.
We say that Canada is bilingual; however, almost all signage in the northern Canadian cities, such as Iqaluit, is written not in French or English but in the native language. Additionally, many sections in big cities are being naturally divided by inhabitants of different ethnic backgrounds, for example: the city of Surrey in British Columbia is inhabited mostly by people of Indian descent; China town in Vancouver has become predominantly occupied by Canadians of Chinese descent; Iqaluit is inhabited mostly by native Canadians but it is starting to gain influence from people who are moving there from other parts of Canada. Halifax's Africville was also inhabited by African Canadians until it was taken away from them.
These paintings depict Canada from my experiences as a Polish-Canadian-Immigrant-Ontarian-Windsorite-Anglophone who has a French last name, and is migrant to Halifax. I was inspired by my travels around Canada; from coast to coast, and from the most southern part of Canada to the arctic. Realizing that the perception of Canada, and of what it means to be Canadian can vary from person to person depending on where they grew up, what background they have, and how much they have travelled, I tried to capture the bits of Canada that everyone can relate to. During my travels, I have observed fusions of different Canadian cultures, and I decided to depict it all in my art.
These paintings have a touch of my Polish background in them. They depict cities with shops that display signage in different languages in order to demonstrate the multiculturalism and how immigrants have contributed to what Canada is today. They depict the Native elements and culture that Canada should be so proud of because Native Canadians demonstrate high values and culture in their artistic talent and creativity like nowhere else in the world. Native Canadians are strong, and despite the fact that for so long they have been oppressed by some early settlers, they continued to create incredible works of art. In Canada, multiculturalism is part of our Canadian National culture. In many big cities throughout Canada such as Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver, immigrants from Africa, Poland, Germany, Italy, France, Caribbean, Lebanon, and other countries have created the most vibrant and interesting cities in Canada.
Diverse not only in landscape but also in ethnicity, Canada has been formed by Native Canadians, and immigrants from England, France, Poland, Germany, Ukraine, India, Africa, Lebanon, China, and by many people from other places. And although a child who grew up in Surrey and has been subjected to Indian traditions may have a different perception of Canada than a native child who grew up in Pond Inlet, or an Italian child who grew up in Windsor, Ontario, our understanding of Canada and what it means to be Canadian is fused by our past memories from different cultures. This is what “Through Canada with a Camera and a Paint Brush” is about.
This painting is based on my travels with the Royal Canadian Navy to Iqaluit