How this Montreal photographer is empowering young Canadian newcomers to process their past

Amina Jalabi is teaching a group of young women and men from Syria to document their experience with the project Flash Forward PhotoVoice.

Amina Jalabi is teaching a group of young women and men from Syria to document their experiences

Processing the past through photography

7 years ago
Duration 4:09
Featured VideoThese young women and men left Syria and arrived in Canada up to a year ago. A photography workshop has helped them process their experience and the places they had to leave behind.

"How, through art, can we document their journey of integration through their own lens, through their own perspective?"

This is the question photographer Amina Jalabi asked herself upon starting a workshop for young women and men who recently arrived in Montreal from Syria. Of Syrian descent herself, Jalabi created the workshop as a way to have a positive impact on the lives of some of the young people who began arriving in Canada around a year ago.

The results have been transformative. With donated cameras, the participants are documenting the world around them — as they experience it themselves. For one young participant, Asim, his images of the Canadian landscape remind him viscerally of the country he had to leave: "When I took pictures of lakes and boats, I remembered the people who fled and children who drowned in the sea," he says.

Jalabi's workshop plans to have an exhibition where the participants can show their work. And Jalabi hopes this will be an empowering experience for the students, who are enthusiastic about taking apart the stereotypes that often comes with the word "refugee."

Flash Forward PhotoVoice is a project whose mission is to empower young newcomers from Syria by telling us about their integration process in Canada through photography. This project is a collaboration between Jalabi and SINGA Québec, a non-profit organization that fosters social inclusion.

Filmmaker Oussayma Canbarieh is an award-winning Syrian-Canadian journalist. She was born in Damascus and has been living in Montreal since childhood. Oussayma has produced multiple radio and TV reports, and human-interest documentaries.

Watch Exhibitionists Sundays at 4:30pm (5 NT) on CBC.