“Soon you’ll be able to weave anything you want. Anything you can see and anything your heart can imagine. Your very own world.” – from “Witches” by Daisuke Igarashi
On Saturday, May 6, the Migrant Rights Network launched the United for Status Migrant Art Exhibition in downtown Toronto. The exhibition, which runs until May 15, represents the coming together of migrants from all walks of life, including children separated from families, parents separated from children, undocumented migrants, workers, sex workers, students, and refugees. The art itself delivers a clear and powerful political message: we need status for all and the regularization of all migrants, and we need it now more than ever.
Bringing Together Migrant Struggles
United for Status is made up of two main exhibits. The first is a collection of drawings by migrant children of and about their families. The drawings are in a variety of sizes and media, ranging from notepad marker drawings to full-size pencil sketches. Some also contain messages, to both loved ones and viewers. “Mommy…I miss you,” reads one. “Please help us stay together in Canada,” reads another.
Be it through stick figures or more true-to-life portrayals, the works convey the importance, strength, and love of family; a bond stronger than borders yet severed by them all the same. Presented together, the drawings read as the collective message of migrant children to the rest of society: that borders hurt families, and that status for all is the only way for everyone caught in the Canadian state’s exclusionary immigration scheme to live full, happy lives.
The second main exhibit is the Migrant Unity Quilt (pictured above). Stitched together from 152 fabric squares decorated by migrants across the Canadian state, the quilt covers almost an entire wall of the exhibition space. The squares themselves contain art, designs, and messages. Some contain political messages, including “Stop deporting Somali youth. Over 400 youth are at risk of being deported. Treat us equal” and “Trans people matter too.” Others simply convey a message of hopefulness, including a square that says, “There is HOPE! Status for All!” and another that just says, “Hope & New Beginning.”
The quilt acts as a metaphor for the exhibition and the work of the Migrant Rights Network: that the toll of Canada’s immigration system is best understood when individual stories come together as a collective, like fabric squares in a quilt. When individual stories come together, patterns emerge. Every migrant has a story, and by bringing these stories into one space, immigration status for all becomes not a pipe dream, but a need, a demand, a requirement for the millions of people and families in and outside of Canada whose lives have been upended by displacement. The sheer amount of space that the quilt covers is a reminder of how important and widespread the demands of migrants are.
Status for All, Now!
Much like the squares in the quilt, it is only by coming together that we can create the world we want to see, where migrant rights are a reality. It is no coincidence that the exhibition is happening as the federal cabinet is set to discuss regularization for migrants this month. Petitions, flyers, and posters at the exhibition give attendees a clear path to follow through on the art’s calls to action.
Both art and politics implore us to imagine new worlds, and in doing so the impossible becomes possible. United for Status reminds us that even among suffering, migrants have lives, hopes, and dreams—dreams that we can all realize by fighting for status for all.
Please take a minute to sign the Migrant Rights Network’s petition for Status for All. United for Status can be viewed until May 15 from 10 AM to 6 PM at A Different Booklist, 779 Bathurst St, Toronto. You can find more information here.
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