Portraits of Canadian Women of African Descent



Emma Mbia

I learned so much from these radiant women. from their stories... from their experiences.from their courage, these women who faced so many trials, fought so many battles.

Participating in this project of portraits of women gave me the opportunity to revisit my own migration, to put my personal history into perspective by listening to that of others. A recent immigrant myself, I was not able to remain cool ( !) when hearing these women's stories. Without knowing it, they touched my heart, conveyed their emotions, humanity and compassion. It was one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever received.

The life of these women who told their stories... touched my life.

Each of us had our own reasons for coming here. Some fled their country because of war. even risking their lives. They showed me the world. the conflicts that separate people, often against their will, and force them to start life over in a new place, whatever their age. Others, like me, came by choice. All immigrants share the courage to start over from scratch.

I never sensed any rancour or bitterness from them. What impels them, rather, is a deep desire to participate, to enter the new society. To move forward, to fight, to continue, to persevere. Persevere, the key word in immigration, as Radegonde said, after more than 30 years in Canada, a comment that set me thinking...

Thanks to them, I also became aware of the importance of memory. Carrying your recollections and passing them on, so as not to forget, not to forget your self. "Displacement" intensifies that need, as Perpétue notes: "In a world where nobody knows your past, it is you and you alone who maintain your memory." Pathways of memory offered to future generations. Granny Henriette's voice broke when she talked to me about her little darlings, her grandchildren who, one day, will grow up and be able to read the words of love that she has passed on to them... They too are bearers of the experience of an immigrant woman.

Having a mother of mixed origin and a Cameroonian father, and being a recent immigrant, I have been sensitized to other worlds. I see this as a richness that has opened me to "the other", to others. Yet I was struck with admiration in the face of the strength and dignity of these women. And I did not emerge unscathed from this experience. Even today, I feel the echo of their voices.