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International Women’s Day: from single piece of glass to mosaic

Immigrant women in Halifax share their stories through art

4 min read
caption Ten women artists are in front of their mosaic arts.
Sixian Zuo

At Pier 21, 11 works of art tell stories from the perspective of 10 immigrant women from nine different countries. 

This mosaic arts exhibit, by the Immigrant Migrant Women’s Association of Halifax, is the group’s way to celebrate International Women’s Day — by expressing themselves, raising identity and connecting to the community.

“Togetherness, respect and tolerance,” are the three words Maria Dlutek used to describe her mosaic art. She is from Poland, but now she feels she belongs to the world.

She used glass and copper in her piece to help reflect her identity.

caption Maria Dlutek uses “togetherness, respect and tolerance” to describe her mosaic art.
Sixian Zuo

“If I am one of the small piece of glass, then I belong to the beautiful mosaic. And this is my life story,” Dlutek said Wednesday at the unveiling of the exhibit.

She has travelled to Germany, Scotland, South Korea and Spain, and every piece of colour in her art represents a period of her life. She also feels the colours work together.

“You see the blue is next to red, you may not see this very often. But on this piece of art, they feed in perfectly well,” said Dlutek.

Mahnaz Sobhani’s art is also on display. The sculpture she made looks like a corner of the yard. A carpet is under the tree and a big dragonfly is flying over the carpet.

“Let us find out where we came from, from roots,” said Sobhani to explain why she and other artists took part in this exhibit. Sobhani, originally from Iran, used to study art in Spain and has travelled the world.

“It makes me think about back home when I was young sitting on the carpet with my grandmother, when she talked about her sculpture,” said Sobhani, adding that after she left Iran she never saw her grandmother again.

“If you look at it really carefully, you can see memories from everywhere I have been … like different colours, different leaves (from this art), and different countries I have been to, and different culture I introduced myself to.”

She feels the art represents who she was.

“Dragonfly is my favourite animal and that is my identity,” said Sobhani.

caption Mahnaz Sobhani, left, and Katrina Tomas, right, in front of Sobhani’s art.
Sixian Zuo

Katrina Tomas, 19, is the youngest artist in the show. She tries to express what she feels by her dance performance.

She made the soundtrack for her performance. In it an American man was praying in Filipino for his mother-in-law, who was a Filipino, and got sick. It was his way to show her comfort. In her performance, she twisted her body, expressed her nostalgia, anxiety, comfort and courage.

After coming to Halifax from the Philippines, Tomas felt out of her comfort zone.

“Being uncomfortable is not always bad; it depends on how you look at things,” she said.

However, she feels that she came to Halifax for a reason.

“When you plant seed in the ground (and) if you know you won’t grow there, you have to put the seed in somewhere to be able to grow,” said Tomas. “The change is for the better life.”

She said she didn’t have self-esteem back home, but now she she tells herself “I can do this.”

caption Ten women artists are in front of their mosaic arts.
Sixian Zuo

Other artists featured in the exhibit include Sholeh Lotfi, Patricia Gonzalez Rivero, Pia Elustondo, Maribel Usuga, Fatima Cajee, Jhoanna Gonzales Miners and María José Yax-Fraser.

This temporary exhibit Mosaic: Identity and Community Connection will be held from March 8 to May 3 at the Hall of Tribute at Pier 21.

caption One of the art pieces in the exhibit.
Sixian Zuo


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    Betty Lou S. Penera

    Congratulations to the Women Immigrants of Halifax ! Your mosaic art works reflect the universality of the theme, that the world is indeed becoming a small community village. Yes, you all come from different countries, influenced by varied cultures, race,creed and yet...there is a common thread that binds you all , even your dancer expressed this so... unity in diversity.
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