Portraits of Canadian Women of African Descent

Curator's thoughts


Aïda Kaouk

Oral history is often a kind of salvage operation, but that was not what inspired me to gather and assemble the words of these women. I wanted to work together with them to create a space that would reflect who they are and perhaps even instil a desire to meet them.

That being said, this site is not merely a presentation of life stories or testimonies of the immigrant experience. It is also an exploration - and I believe a particularly fundamental exploration - of the act of meeting. Because it is impossible to talk about citizenship without talking about openness and encounters, and one cannot build citizen identity and the sense of belonging to a country without creating meeting grounds.

For these women, this project answers a desire to transmit their heritage - a valuable, legitimate and commendable desire to pass on an inheritance to their fellow countrymen and to their children, to our children. For me, the goal was to give them a platform, to foster their active participation in the public space.

Meeting these women has been a great joy for me, and an extraordinary learning opportunity.

So here is a space for their words and their worlds. and a space for the poetry which I hope will bring a small spark of delight to your eyes.


When we travel to a location to meet with people in their own environment, it is in a sense the museum that travels. The objects, letters, postcards and family photos presented on this site were located in the women's homes, in their workplaces or the site of their community activities, and "displayed" in a setting chosen by them. The "exhibition space" is thus other than the museum. None of these objects was acquired by the museum. They belong to the women and their families. These articles testifying to the intimate, to daily life, and to the public arena are displayed here in a virtual space.

Each act of self-revelation constitutes for these women an act of sharing, each word is a means to connect with and participate in the life of the city. Rather than interfering in the lives of these women, I put myself at their disposal, guided only by our mutual desire to create together something beautiful and enriching for our fellow citizens.

This project was born of intuition and experimentation. Some of the ideas came later. I must acknowledge the invaluable and inspired collaboration of the members of my team. It is my hope that this project will contribute to the development of museological approaches featuring citizen participation, encounters and creativity.

Ada Kaouk