Dr. Aïda Kaouk
Canadian Museum of Civilization
The first of its kind in Canada, The Lands within Me is an important exhibition that assembles the work of 26 Canadian artists of Arab origin. It looks at the immigrant experience and at métissage, or cultural intermixing, a theme explored through the work, the life experiences and the words of the artists.
The exhibition does not attempt in any way to emphasize the "exoticism" of the work produced by Canadian artists of Arab origin. The variety of works presented attests primarily to the unique character of each artist. In other words, the works are presented not as examples of "ethnicity," but as expressions of a social experience where the individual and the universal are brought to the fore - one and the other, and not one without the other.
What the artist seeks to express with images, words and objects is often an identity constructed from multiple belongings and an "I" that has been culturally blended. This is all the more evident among artists of Arab origin, who have come out of multiethnic societies marked by several great civilizations.
A place of choice for the expression of hybrid imaginary worlds, migrant art bears witness to a reality that increasingly defines our world today. The Lands within Me invites us to broaden the way we look at others, who may differ from us in their ethnic origins, but who resemble us in their métissage and in their human condition.
When ethnic and religious belonging are being used - with devastating effects - for political ends, when questions of identity and métissage become the order of the day in social discourse, it is important to be aware that cultural identities in the contemporary world are at once multiple and complex, and that cultural hybridity is a reality of our time.
It is with this awareness that the exhibition The Lands within Me was created
as a chant d'amour, a love song to the culturally interwoven worlds of the imagination.
A curator and researcher at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Aïda Kaouk is also in charge of the Museum's South-West Asia and Middle East Programme. She is particularly interested in groups originating in this region that have established themselves in Canada.
Dr. Kaouk holds a Ph.D. in the sociology of culture from the École des hautes études en sciences sociales de Paris, and she continued her training at the University of California in Berkeley, winning several prestigious research grants along the way, including Fulbright and Ford Foundation grants. She has worked in university research environments in the Middle East, France, the United States and Canada.
Aïda Kaouk devotes much of her work to issues related to immigration, cultural identity, social relationships and minority groups, as well as to arts and culture practices.