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Portraits of Canadian Women of African Descent
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Lorraine Klaasen
Extrait sonore

A Mother's Embrace
A MOTHER'S EMBRACE

"My Mother was returning from a European tour. When I saw her, I asked her for a penny."


Lakushonilanga
LAKUSHONILANGA

"On International Women's Day, I paid tribute to my mother. Together we sang 'Lakushonilanga', in which I said to her: 'There isn't a day that the sun goes down without me thinking of you .'"

Lorraine Klaasen

I am privileged to have seen both worlds. To have seen apartheid, but without knowing it was apartheid. Because I had never known anything else. And then to come out of it, and to have really seen the change.

My grandmother always said, "You set your own standards. Never let anyone tell you that you are raising the bar too high. Set goals for yourself, and work towards them. When you don't succeed in reaching them, you tell yourself before you go to bed, 'Lorraine, I tried.' Then you lay your head on the pillow and you sleep because you have a clear conscience."

Remarks recorded during an interview.


Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Lorraine Klaasen grew up in a family of musicians. "I was a fortunate child because music was part of my daily life, of my heritage."

African Queen

AFRICAN QUEEN

In 1975, at the age of 19, she stayed with a group in Israel. For the first time, Lorraine discovered another perspective on her own country. "People were saying to me, 'You come from South Africa. How do you live under apartheid?' What? It was the first time that we had looked at our country from the outside. People were asking us questions that we would never have thought of ourselves." In 1976, student demonstrations and the violence of the repression forced Lorraine to leave her country. "One never leaves with the idea that one will not return," she says. It was during this period that several members of her family were killed.

She settled in Canada. In Montreal, the beginnings were difficult. "Winter came. It was my first experience of snow, of cold. I had no family, no friends. My husband was working. Imagine how alone I felt." If before, Lorraine had been inspired by American songs, the loneliness she felt in her new host country awakened her African identity. She replaced her "dresses à la Diana Ross" with African clothing and included in her repertoire traditional South African songs. "I was returning to my roots. Instinct took over. It was a turning point." Her encounters with artists from different backgrounds, as well as her various journeys, hybridized her repertoire and her music. "I work with Jamaicans, with Haitians, with Québécois ... When I wanted to understand their music, I went to their country. I was learning, then I was returning to my roots and incorporating in my music what I had drawn from theirs." South Africa is today a country to which Lorraine can return, a land where she recovers her strength, which inspires her and nourishes her life as an artist here. "I always remain close to South Africa. I go back there more often than before. I have succeeded, in the sense that I have realized my aims, reached my goal. I feel useful. When I return home, I recharge my batteries. That encourages me to return here and to continue."



Like a Dembele Woman
LIKE A DEMBELE WOMAN

Nelson Mandela, My Hero
NELSON MANDELA, MY HERO

My Mother
MY MOTHER

My Cousins
MY COUSINS

We Love You Lorraine and Jessica
WE LOVE YOU LORRAINE AND JESSICA

Lorraine with Her Two Daughters
LORRAINE WITH HER TWO DAUGHTERS