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Local newcomers brought together through the cross-cultural power of art

The Nov. 27 workshop was thanks to a collaboration between the SCIC (Sask. Council for International Cooperation) and MJMC (Moose Jaw Multicultural Council)

The Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation (SCIC) and the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council (MJMC) concluded a community art workshop on Nov. 27. At the event, newcomer youth from all over the world now residing in Moose Jaw honed their art skills under the guidance of Muveddet Al-Katib, the program’s art facilitator.

The purpose of the event was to foster a sense of community and cultural exchange through the power art has to bring people together. The project helps youths connect with their roots and to branch out into their new community.

Art bypasses any existing language barriers and helps to facilitate cross-cultural understanding.

“Youth who are heard, invited into social dialogue, and (who) see that their voice and actions affect the world in which they live are much more likely to honour the social norms and rules of law of that society than those who feel silenced and disenfranchised,” wrote Al-Katib.

“Art can transcend cultural, linguistic, and social barriers, creating a universal language that resonates with people from diverse cultures,” she wrote. “Whether it’s a painting, a piece of music, or a performance, the emotional impact can create a common ground for people to connect on a deeper level.”

The goal is for the artist to say “Yes, this is what I wanted to tell others,” and for the listener to respond with “Yes, I understand what you want to share.”

These experiences should be shared because integration requires the individual and their community to engage with one another.

Born in Antioch (Antakya), Turkey (Türkiye) in 1978, Al-Katib grew up in a city of extraordinary significance. Throughout history the centre has been “a collection point for art, politics, religion, and travel in a mosaic of cultures and history,” she explained.

In 1998, Al-Katib completed her Fine Arts degree (BFA) and following that, emigrated to Saskatoon where she continued to develop her art.

“At that time, my language and life experience in Canada was limited,” she said. “My art became a strong tool to connect and helped me engage with my community and (other) artists.

“My own experiences as an immigrant woman and an artist made me realize the powerful impact of art on newcomers,” she wrote. “Art gathers newcomers under the same roof, regardless of language, religion, race, and gender.”

Al-Katib is active as a community artist and works with several programs. She also works as a studio artist through her own practice.

“As a studio… and community artist, my works have primarily focused on the struggles of cultural adaptation and cross-cultural communication throughout my artistic evolution,” she wrote.

“I’m fascinated to meet with newcomers and listen to their stories,” she explained. “I met resilient young people moving from country to country and settling in Saskatchewan.” Her fundamental belief is that we all have a story to tell, and that story is shaped by our experiences and the people we meet.

“They were shy because of the language barrier, but with their young age, they already knew more than two languages and were adapting to (their) new home, culture, and language in Saskatchewan.

“They carry tremendous history and stories with them. They don’t even realize that,” wrote Al-Katib.

Al-Katib lives in Saskatoon and works as a lead artist with the SCIC and its partner organizations.

The Youth Empowerment Workshops are organized and funded by the SCIC, a coalition of Saskatchewan-based organizations involved in international development and social justice organizations. This includes the Regina Open Door Society, Yorkton East Central Newcomer Welcome Centre, the Saskatoon Open Door Society and Global Gathering Place, and the MJMC.

These workshops promote a sense of global citizenship reflected in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda. This agenda identifies 17 SDGs and is designed as a shared blueprint for global peace and prosperity now and into the future.

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