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Halifax exhibit captures Venezuelan immigrant experience

Venezuelan artists explore how they deal with immigration through their own unique artistic lens

4 min read
caption The exhibit features eight Venezuelan artists who immigrated to Canada.
Feleshia Chandler

Venezuelan artists are coming together to showcase their work at the Khyber Centre for the Arts on Hollis Street, where they explore the shared theme of the immigration experience.

Titled “Memorial: Work by Venezuelan Diaspora Artists,” the exhibit opened to the public on Thursday.

Over the past several years, Venezuela has been in crisis, forcing millions to leave the place they call home and seek refuge elsewhere. 

Once a country known to often host refugees, Venezuela is now dealing with its own displacement problem among other issues, such as violence and shortages of essential services like medical supplies.

It is estimated that 5,000 people on average are leaving Venezuela daily, and the number of migrants from the country could actually double to eight million by the end of 2020. 

Artist Camila Salcedo is the exhibit’s curator. She said the art exhibit is not so much about placing a heavy focus on the political turmoil in Venezuela, but more about the similar, yet different, experiences of those who are part of the Venezuelan diaspora. 

“It feels like an opportune time to make this exhibition now, when so many of our families are leaving the country and so many of us have left the country as well,” said Salcedo. 

Salcedo is also featuring her own work in the exhibit. Her piece, titled “Alternate Reality,” features images from the cities of Santa Paula, El Cafetal, Caurimare and Caracas.

It depicts a video collage created using 360-degree images from Google users and YouTube videos in an attempt to recreate a 3D visualization of the neighbourhoods where she grew up.

caption Camila Salcedo’s piece ‘Alternate Reality’ seen here, being screened on the wall.
Feleshia Chandler

“It reflects on the fact that the Venezuelan government banned Google Street View. I’ve always used Google Earth and Google Maps as a way to visit the country again digitally,” Salcedo said.

“So, I thought, how would a video look if I created my own Google Street View from memory and found footage.”

Sebastián Rodríguez Vasti, an Ontario College of Art and Design University student and featured artist in the exhibit, stressed the importance of contributing to the art show.

In an interview, he said it was not only an expression of his art, but an opportunity for him to connect with fellow artists and friends and experience personal growth. 

“The importance of getting involved in this didn’t strike me before doing this, it was the aftermath,” Vasti said. “At first it was exciting and fun.”

caption Sebastián Rodríguez Vasti‘s piece, titled “Estela/Wake.”
Feleshia Chandler

Vasti’s piece features framed family portraits, including a framed video performance of him thoughtfully poring over another portrait.  

“I was staring at some pictures that I took of a recent trip. I was missing my family very much. I saw my reflection in the computer and I didn’t know I was making those sorts of faces when I was looking at pictures of my family and I thought that was a nice, small gesture we can all relate to,” he said. 

Salcedo said many of the Venezuelan artists were creating similar works about related topics.

“We’re all making these things in isolation, so why not come together and talk about these things together and feel safe with each other, enough to share this work,” said Salcedo. 

On Jan. 18, they held a fundraising event during the exhibit.

All donations will go to non-profit organization Venezolanos por la Vida – Canadá, which collects and safely sends medical supplies and medicine to health service providers and human rights organizations across Venezuela.

The resources will be shared with neighbouring countries to help Venezuelans forced to flee their homes, often by foot, to neighbouring Colombia. 

The exhibit runs from Jan. 16 to Feb. 15.

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About the author

Feleshia Chandler

Feleshia is a freelance journalist who has contributed to the Coast and Quench Magazine. She enjoys writing about feminist issues, LGBTQ issues...

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