Guerilla Mag Ottawa, Voicing Refugee Identity

Ottawa’s Guerilla Magazine reviews Voices of Refugees Installation at the Parliament of Canada, June 2009.


Ottawa’s Guerilla Magazine reviewed the Voices of Refugees Installation at the Parliament of Canada in a piece call Voicing the Refugee Identity by Tony Martins in May 2009.


Tompalski and Thompson’s Voices of Refugees Installation featured portraits and videos of refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Guinea, Congo, Darfur, El Salvador and Guatemala. The show was presented at the Parliament of Canada, June 15, 2009 during World Refugee Week. The presentation also featured speeches by the Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and Abraham ABRAHAM, the senior representative of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Canada. The event included a live presentation by Guatemalan singer/song writer Tito Medina. Special thanks goes to Ontario Arts Council, City of Ottawa, Canada Council, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

Guerilla Magazine Review Segment

The show was cover by Guerilla Magazine’s g-Gallery on June 22, 2009, and ran as follows …..One of the cool things about Canada: perhaps more than anywhere else, everyone gets a voice. Consider, for example, how the latest incarnation of the Talking Portraits project by husband-and-wife team Sherry Tompalski and Graham Thompson articulates the stories of some new Canadians who need it most: refugees. The newest portraits—each featuring mixed media and video components—took centre stage on Tuesday, June 16 at a Parliament Hill reception in recognition of World Refugee Day (Saturday, June 20). Key speakers at the event were the Honourable Jason Kenny, Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, and Abraham Abraham, Canada’s representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees..

CBC All In A Day, Alan Neal Forced Migrations

CBC’s All In A Day covers Tompalski’s Forced Migrations: Portraits of Refugees from Africa, Central America and Central Asia at La Petite Mort Gallery.__01-consuelo-1500x1200

Alan Neal of CBC Ottawa Radio’s All In A Day program interviewed Sherry Tompalski regarding her show Forced Migrations: Portraits of Refugees from Africa, Central America and Central Asia at La Petite Mort Gallery in October 2009.

About the Show

All in a Day is music, news, current affairs, culture, theatre, movies, politics, history, humour and conversation, all wrapped up in an engaging and entertaining package. Airing weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. in the greater Ottawa, West Quebec and Kingston areas, All in a Day helps you wind down from a hectic day and get ready for the evening.


Regular features include D Is For Dinner, a mouth-watering recipe prepared live on the radio to tantalize you on the drive home. The Political Panel gives an insider’s take on Parliament Hill, while the Book Panel presents the high and the low brow of the latest in literature. And on Thursdays, Robert Fontaine’s film reviews are always entertaining, even if the movie isn’t. All in a Day’s dynamic, up-to-the-minute pace ensures that if you miss a minute, you’ll miss a lot!


About the Host – Alan Neal

Alan Neal is host of Ottawa’s favourite drive home show All in a Day, on CBC Radio One, 91.5 FM. Alan is known to CBC Radio One listeners in Ottawa as the former host of Bandwidth and Ontario Today on CBC Radio One. During his stint on the noon show, he traded thoughts and quips with musicians including Blue Rodeo, Barenaked Ladies, The Arcade Fire, Feist, Hawksley Workman, Sarah Harmer, K’Naan, Sarah Slean, Metric, Emm Gryner, Most Serene Republic, Divine Brown and many more. (He actually feels a twinge of guilt making lists because he panics that people will feel left out. Then he remembers nobody reads these things. Which then makes him wonder why he’s typing this. And talking about himself in the third person. But anyway.)


He’s been at CBC for 10 years now, massive amounts of that being as a casual associate producer and syndicated columnist (his TRENDS column was syndicated across the country), filling in as host of shows including THE ROUNDUP, OTTAWA MORNING and ALL IN A DAY, and launching a national summer show THE OTHER STORY. While his own musical career has not extended beyond singing songs about Canadian Idol and Dallas on the radio, he has had some success as a playwright, something he hopes to get back to once he figures out these shows.

National Gallery of Canada, Global Voices 2012

Global Voices 2012 at National Gallery of Canada, 37 paintings, 23 videos and 18 artists of Central Asia, Africa, the Americas, Cree and Mohawk Nations.


The Global Voices 2012 event at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa Canada featured 37 paintings, 23 videos and 18 artists of Central Asia, Africa, the Americas, Cree and Mohawk Nations, including musicians Eman the Warrior & the Abezamutima Burundian Traditional Dancers and paintings and videos by Sherry Tompalski and Graham Thompson respectively in December 2012.


The Global Voices 2012 program featured:

  • Afghan Portraits and the Voices from Afghanistan video.
  • Native American Flute and World Beat composer David Finkle with Simon Handley (percussion, electronics) and  Andy W. Mason (percussion, guitar, vocals).
  • Iranian Portraits and a video of Iranian dancer Dr. Maria Modhaddam
  • The Abezamutima Burundian Traditional Dance Group
  • Residential School Portraits and the Irene Lindsay  video, Thomas Louttit video and Dr. Morgan Baillargeon (actor, costume designer and concept creator) in the Campfire, Tea and Bannock video
  • Eman the Warrior (Emmanuel Oletho) the Singer and Song Writer from Ethiopia
  • Central American Portraits and the Victor Fuentes and Tito Medina videos
  • Dr Lee’s West African Rhythms
  • Central American Portraits and the Delores of Guatemala video
  • African Portraits and Videos featuring the Hawa Kaba video and Hamid Ayoub vide


Who Organized the Project?

The Global Voices 2012 Event was created and organized by Sherry Tompalski (painter) and Graham Thompson (videographer). The concept was based on the realization that many refugee artists and activists arrive in Canada with highly developed artistic skills and compelling personal stories of survival. As a result, the refugee’s work is uniquely suited to a multimedia presentation where audiences have the opportunity to see, to hear and to understand their personal accounts of, for example, walking across Chad, without food or money to escape the horrors of Darfur (Hamid Video).


A Transcript of the Global Voices 2012 Event at the National Gallery of Canada

My name is Graham Thompson. I am a videographer. I am one of many artists you will see this evening. for 10 years we have created events involving art, dance, media and music, the projects have included over 100 separate artists. artists from Australia, Peru, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, the Philippines, Taiwan, Venezuela, Bolivia, Canada and the United States. This work has been shown in Taipei, Manila, Belgrade, Chicago, Melbourne, London, Vancouver and Toronto. we wanted to acknowledge the extreme challenges many people face in our complicated world and we wanted to have a focus on survival and renewal. IN ORDER TO CREATE THIS WORK we have been helped by a great many Embassies, NGOs, Universities, Museums, Government Departments and Arts Funding Agencies.


Special thanks goes to: The Catholic Immigration Centre, The Canadian Red Cross, USC Canada, Ottawa Carleton Immigrant Services Organization, Odawa Friendship Centre, The Minwashin Lodge, Metis Nation of Ontario, The World University Service Canada, the University of Oxford in England, Carleton university, the University of Ottawa, York University, The United Nations, Library and Archives Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canadian Trade office in Taipei, Canadian Embassy in Manila, The Canadian Embassy in Belgrade Serbia, Canadian Heritage, the Parliament of Canada, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, The Canadian Museum of Civilization, The International TV Festival Bar Montenegro, the Coalition of New Canadians for Arts and Culture, Canadian Centre for International Justice, The City of Ottawa, the Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, SAW Video, the SAW Gallery and Donna Cona Inc


A Transcipt of the Event

TONIGHT WE OFFER DANCE, ART, MEDIA AND MUSIC. Representing Afghanistan, Sudan, Burundi, Ethiopia, Iran, El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Cree & Mohawk Nations of Canada.


WE  SHALL BEGIN  IN AFGHANISTAN. with the portraits, as shown on the screen,  of a family of refugees from KABUL. the paintings were created in Sherry Tompalski’s studio there were cameras covering the evolution of the artwork, and any comments the models wished to make we didn’t ask any questions, we simply let the people speak, if they wanted to for example, we will play 5 short videos from the sittings some people from the project, have requested that we use ONLY there first names. BAHARA from KABUL describes: a party which took place in her home which was invaded by patrolling soldiers as there  was a BAN on MUSIC. HER  BROTHER Remembers the escape from his village during an attack  in the Afghan war. HER other BROTHER Recounts his experience at the National football stadium where the Taliban used to publicly execute women accused of adultery. FATIMA who insisted that she not be photographed is shown through the creation of her portrait. Her story of 30 years of War in Afghanistan  is translated by Bahara.


WE Move to Iran, on the screen you can see portraits of the Iranian Scientist and Folk Dancer Dr. Maria Modhaddam our work with MARIA includes portraits, videos and dance performances. The work was first shown in the PARLIAMENT OF CANADA in 2009, The event included speeches by the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and Abraham ABRAHAM the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees  in Canada. later we worked together at the University of Ottawa, As part of the 2nd Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies. in the following video, which features dance footage from her own archive, Maria talks about the life of a REFUGEE.


IN PART 4, we feature the ABEZAMUTIMA  Burundian Traditional Dance Group the dance troop is made of highly experienced Burundian folk and traditional dancers. Through its artistic endeavors, the group hopes to share its heritage with communities and promote cultural diversity in the National Capital Region. ABEZA = beautiful inside, MUTIMA = heart or soul. Has anyone been to BURUNDI? Has anyone visited AFRICA? Burundi is located on the equator in eastern Africa.

IN PART 5, We move to CREE NATIONS  in SASKATCHEWAN and ONTARIO on the screen we see portraits of 5 participants in a project involving people who attended residential schools. I am grateful for the help of the Odawa Friendship centre and the Minwashin Lodge in helping with this section of the project. The Indian residential schools of Canada were a network of “residential” or boarding schools for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit funded by the Canadian government’s Department of Indian Affairs, and adminstered by Christian churches, according to wikipedia – The system had origins in pre-Confederation times. The last residential school was not closed until 1996. We have selected 2 video clips that will play after the portraits where IRENE LINDSAY and THOMAS LOUTTIT describe their experiences BOTH activists attended residential school  for 8 years after Irene and Thomas, we have a short instructional video showing a metis fur trader creating a campfire and tea and bannock on a winter’s day.


IN PART 6  We MOVE to ETHIOPIA. Specifically, to a singer song writer called EMAN his music promotes peace, love and inspiration. Emmanuel Oletho was a refugee for three years in Kenya Yet, he was granted a scholarship to study at Carleton University through the World University Service of Canada. He is graduating in 2013 with Bachelor of political science. EMAN WILL SING – SHINE A LIGHT


IN PART 7, We move to CENTRAL AMERICA, these portraits are refugee artists from Guatemala and El Salvador, we have selected 2 video clips for tonight that will play after the portraits. VICTOR, whose music you hear in the second video was almost killed in El Salvador in a torture chamber. TITO, whose music you hear in a video,  was just a kid when his songs got him into trouble in his home country Guatemala. some of the portraits were created with mixed media using a collage of sheet music from an Ottawa orchestra, symbolizing the person reassembling themselves in a new setting, in Ottawa. Some of the portraits have exported video frames from their videos clips, which symbolize the person having to reinvent themselves in their new country.


In PART 8, we return to AFRICA, to listen to DR LEE’S WEST AFRICAN RHYTHMS Dr Lee  studied in Guinea, West Africa with renowned drum master Aboubacar Camara. Dr Lee has collaborated with the Cirque du Soleil and The Soul Jazz Orchestra. 2 YEARS AGO, Dr Lee performed with us at the National Library and Archives of Canada. the installation featured 65 works of art, 25 artists, 23 videos, 19 speakers, 13 NGOs & 2 plays.

PART 9, we return to CENTRAL Amerca, these portraits are created with graphite on paper and  ink and graphite on paper. AND we have selected 2 video clips, that will play after the portraits of the participants. The following video is NOT SUITABLE for YOUNG AUDIENCES, as there are graphic descriptions of violence Ms D, whose name is withheld by request, provides a detailed account of the destruction of her family during a labour dispute. Her story includes graphic details of her kidnap and imprisonment.

IN PART 10,  We again feature singer song writer EMAN, He is a voice for the voiceless. EMAN is an advocate for the poor, the victims of genocide, HIV orphans, and humanitarian related issues. EMAN WILL SING –  I AM A WARRIOR

IN PART 11  We look at portraits and videos of artists  from Guinea and Sudan we have selected 2 video clips that will play after the portraits of the participants that are shown on the screen. HAMID describes his escape from Sudan through the deserts of CHAD he Escaped, on foot, and without food, water or money. He trekked across the desert day and night, through small villages avoiding the main highways, and the possibility of detection. He survived a violent car jacking episode on his way to Niger. HAWA, who is A Refugee Artist from Guinea, West Africa, also tells her story…. she was sent to jail, because she filled out an application for a passport. In order to leave the jail, she was forced to sign a confession, that said she was a counter-revolutionary. HAWA exhibited paintings at the 2010 library and archives event.

IN PART 12 WE FEATURE COMPOSER DAVID FINKLE AGAIN, along with Simon Handley on percussion and electronics, and  Andy W. Mason on percussion, guitar, and vocals we have worked together since 2008 when David performed with NORTHERN VOICES in a large installation of 20 video screens and 8 computers. The installation featured 100 short videos of 30 aboriginal artists.

IN PART 13 we return to the ABEZAMUTIMA  Dance Group, the ABEZAMUTIMA Burundian Traditional Dance Group have created a 2nd dance for us this evening. Then  ALL MUSICIANS ON STAGE, DANCERS join musicians on stage, ALL speakers and behind the scenes people on stage playing available percussion instruments play a final song and dance.

I want to thank everyone for all their help and support in the creation of this GLOBAL VOICES 2012 event, including Sherry Tompalski, Petra Hawkes, Richard and Darren the Technicians, the national Gallery of Canada, The Abezamutima Dancers, David Finkle, Simon Handley, Andy W. Mason, Dr Lee, EMAN, the camera work of CE SOIR FILMS. This marks the end of our 10th international event in 10 years, involving over 100 artists from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, tonight we have selected an overview of a project that contains over 50 portraits, and 5 hours of video. Thank you for coming tonight.

Library Archives Canada, Refugee Voices

Voices of Refugees Installation – Central Asia, Central America and Africa at Library and Archives of Canada 2010.


The Voices of Refugees Installation was exhibited during Ottawa’s World Refugee Week Celbrations  at Library and Archives of Canada in June 2010. The 5-day event featured 65 works of art, 25 artists, 23 videos, 19 activists and 13 NGOs from Central Asia, Central America, Africa and Canada. The project was organized by painter Sherry Tompalski and videographer Graham Thompson.


Tompalski’s “Hamid” mixed media on canvas

World Refugee Week Celebrations June16-20, 2010

World Refugee Week Celebrations at Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street Ottawa, will featured portraits, videos, presentations and live performances of artists and activists from around the world. The work is open for viewing daily from 1-10PM in room A on the ground floor of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) with presentations and live performances given at 3PM daily.


The 5-day multimedia event includes: the Coalition of New Canadians for Arts and Culture,  Canadian Centre for International Justice, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,  USC Canada, The Canadian Red Cross, Catholic Immigration Centre of Ottawa, Centre for International Migration and Settlement Studies, International Settlement Canada Quarterly, Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization, Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre, World Skills Immigrant Settlement Support Agency, National Capital Region YMCA-YWCA, Sherry Tompalski (Designer / Canada), Graham Thompson (Videographer / Canada),  Hamid Ayoub (Painter / Drummer / Sudan), Hawa Kaba (Painter / Drummer /Guinea), Dr. Lee (Percussionist / Canada), Yannick Ndongmo (Singer / Cameron), Tito Medina (Singer / Songwriter / Guatemala), Victor Fuentes (Painter / Singer / El Salvador), Martin Mbesha (Painter / Drummer / DR Congo), Marcela Bautista (Activist / Guatemala), Consuelo Perez (Activist / Guatemala), Sandra Hernandez (Activist / Guatemala), Dolores Bautista (Activist / Guatemala), Nubia Cermeno (Singer / Venzuela), Aisha Matar (Body Painting / Sudan), Selma Hassan (Folklore / Sudan), Gustavo Saavedra (Guitarist, Bolivia) and Maria Sabaye (Dancer, Iran)


WEDNESDAY JUNE 16, 2010 – Dr Lotta Hitschmanova  + Marion Dewar

5:00 PM:  DOORS OPEN – Refreshments & Food, Video Installation, Paintings, Information Tables, Refugee Artists Victor Fuentes, Hawa Kaba, Hamid Ayoub
5:30 PM: RECEPTION: Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund: Celebrating One Year of Community Success organized by the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO).
5:45 PM: Opening Talks by Hy Shelow, UNHCR Senior Protection Officer and Philip Landon, Director of University and College Programming WUSC.
6:00 PM to 7:30 PM:  PROGRAM: Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund: Celebrating One Year of Community Success, SPEAKERS: Tyler Meredith President OCISO Board, Donna Holtom Chair MDSF Committee, Barb Gamble Artist and Community Advocate. Backgrounder, Application, Invitation ENGLISH. Invitation FRENCH
8:00 PM: Susan Walsh, USC Canada’s Executive Director, will provide a talk about Dr Lotta.


THURSDAY JUNE 17th, 2010 – Central Am Artists, Centre Int’l Justice, Asylum Players

4 PM: “Voices for justice: Canadians seeking truth, accountability and redress” a program developed by the Canadian Centre for International Justice begins with Introductory remarks by Jayne Stoyles, Executive Director, CCIJ
4:15 PM: Reading by Monia Mazigh  from her book, ‘Hope and Despair: My Struggle to Free My Husband, Maher Arar.
4:45 PM: ‘Lemkin’s House,’ a play reading directed by Sarah Mahoney
5:15 PM: Musical interlude by Victor Fuentes
5:45 PM: Closing remarks by Jayne Stoyles (and Alex Neve, TBC)
7 PM: Guatemalan artists Tito Medina, Sandra Hernandez, Dolores Bautista, Marcela Bautista, Consuelo Perez.
8 PM: Peter Showler’s play “Excluding Manuel” performed by the Asylum Players of the University of Ottawa.
1-8 PM: The Installation will feature: Paintings and videos of artists from Central America, Central Asia and Africa, Youtube videos submitted by refugees from around the world, Portraits of featured refugee artists Tito Medina, Hawa Kaba, Hamid  Ayoub, Victor Fuentes and Martin Mbesha by Sherry Tompalski.
1-5 PM: Information tables presented by The Catholic Immigration Centre, The Canadian Red Cross the Centre for International Migration and Settlement Studies World Skills, YMCA-YWCA and USC Canada.


FRIDAY JUNE 18th, 2010 – Central Asia Day + World Music Circle

3 PM: JP Melville of the Coalition of New Canadians for Arts and Culture will provide the opening remarks.
3:15 PM: The installation will feature Afghan poetry translated by Shahbaz Eshani (Iran).
3:30 PM: The installation will feature Iranian dance by Maria Sabaye (Iran)
5 PM:  World Music Circle: Musicians, in support of World Refugee Week, gather to celebrate and to create music together.
1-8PM:  The Installation will feature: Paintings and videos of artists from Central America, Central Asia and Africa, Youtube videos submitted by refugees from around the world, Portraits of featured refugee artists Tito Medina, Hawa Kaba, Hamid  Ayoub, Victor Fuentes and Martin Mbesha by Sherry Tompalski.
1-5 PM: Information tables presented by The Catholic Immigration Centre, The Canadian Red Cross the Centre for International Migration and Settlement Studies and the Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre, World Skills, YMCA-YWCA and USC Canada.


SATURDAY JUNE 19th, 2010 – Africa Day

3 PM: Jayne Stoyles of the Canadian Centre for International Justice will the provide opening remarks.
3:15 PM: Nubia Cermeno, activist from Venezula, will sing and display the art work of refugee children from her “I Wish” program at the Catholic Immigration Centre.
3:45 PM: The installation will feature a talk by Hamid Ayoub (Sudan) accompanied by drummers Dr. Lee, Hawa Kaba (Guinea), Martin  Mbesha (DR Congo), singer/dancer Yannick Ndongmo  and a demonstration of Sudanese henna body painting by Aisha Matar and Sudanese folklore and costumes by Selma Hassan.
1-8 PM:  The Installation will feature: Paintings and videos of artists from Central America, Central Asia and Africa, Youtube videos submitted by refugees from around the world, Portraits of featured refugee artists Tito Medina, Hawa Kaba, Hamid  Ayoub, Victor Fuentes and Martin Mbesha by Sherry Tompalski.
1-5 PM: Information tables presented by The Catholic Immigration Centre, The Canadian Red Cross the Centre for International Migration and Settlement Studies, World Skills, YMCA-YWCA , USC Canada and  Heather Thomson, RN, BScN photonovel project on nutrition, created with a group of Congolese women.


SUNDAY JUNE 20th, 2010 – World Refugee Day

3 PM: Dr. Adnan Turegun of Carleton University will provide the opening remarks.
3:15 PM: Nubia Cermeno, activist from Venezula, will sing and present the art work of refugee children from her “I Wish” program at the Catholic Immigration Centre.
3:30 PM: The installation will feature a talk by Hamid Ayoub (Sudan) accompanied by  drummers Dr. Lee, Hawa Kaba (Guinea), Martin  Mbesha (DR Congo) and singer/dancer Yannick Ndongmo and a demonstration of Sudanese henna body painting by Aisha Matar and Sudanese folklore and costumes by Selma Hassan.
1-4 PM:  The Installation will feature: Paintings and videos of artists from Central America, Central Asia and Africa, Youtube videos submitted by refugees from around the world, Portraits of featured refugee artists Tito Medina, Hawa Kaba, Hamid  Ayoub, Victor Fuentes and Martin Mbesha by Sherry Tompalski.
1-4 PM:  Information tables presented by The Catholic Immigration Centre, The Canadian Red Cross the Centre for International Migration and Settlement Studies World Skills, YMCA-YWCA,  USC Canada.



World Refugee Week Artists/Presenters – Partial List

Dr. Susan  Walsh: Executive Director of USC Canada
Susan initially worked at USC as a Program Officer in the late 1980’s, and in the interim, helmed the World Food Day Association and worked for over a decade with Canadian Lutheran World Relief as that agency’s Director for Latin America Programs. USC drew her back to Ottawa in 2004, this time as the agency’s Executive Director. During these past two decades, Susan has spearheaded strategies designed to promote the legal, cultural, and livelihood rights of indigenous peoples and marginalized farmers, strengthened though the completion of a doctoral degree in cultural anthropology at the University of Manitoba, and a year of SSHRC-sponsored field research on the biodiversity conservation and resilience strategies of indigenous potato farmers in Bolivia’s southern highlands.


Tito Medina: Singer / Song Writer (Guatemala)
Medina is a Singer-Songwriter and an icon for Guatemalan revolutionary music. His voice and musical work started to emerge during the national protests the early 70s on the streets of Guatemala City, rapidly Tito was touring the country side of his native Guatemala with his bands Camino and Grupo Taller, then with the Estudiantina of the University of San Carlos and later with Kin-Lalat Revolutionary Music Ensemble. Freedom, equality, hope, love and consensus have been Tito’s inspirations across the time.

Dr. Monia Mazigh: Finance Professor / Writer
Dr. Mazigh was catapulted onto the public stage in 2002 when her husband Maher Arar, was deported to Syria where he was tortured and held without charge for over a year. During that time, Dr. Mazigh campaigned vigorously for her husband’s release and later fought to re-establish his reputation and sought reparations. In January 2007, after a lengthy inquiry, her husband finally received an apology from the Canadian government and was offered compensation for the “terrible ordeal” his family had suffered. Dr. Mazigh has since authored a new book called Hope and Despair which documents her ordeal after her husband was arrested and how she campaigned to clear his name.


Hamid Ayoub: Painter / Drummer (Darfur, Sudan)
Ayoub, born in the Darfur region of Sudan, fled the expanding civil war in East Africa, to walk on a perilous journey on foot across Chad with the constant threat of famine and attack by wild animals. A graduate from the College of Fine and Applied Arts, Sudan University of Science & Technology, Khartoum, Sudan, Ayoub has exhibited in
Sudan, Nigeria, Germany, England, United States, Niger, Canada and Holland

Dr. Adnan Türegün: Executive Director of CIMSS
Dr. Adnan Türegün is Executive Director of the Centre for International Migration and Settlement Studies (CIMSS) and an Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University. His research interests include the labour market integration of immigrants and refugees with a particular emphasis on their access to regulated professions and trades.

Jayne Stoyles: Executive Director of the CCIJ
Stoyles is a lawyer, the first Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for International Justice, and an Ashoka Canada Fellow.  Jayne served for several years as the Program Director of the NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court in New York, a network of 2,000 NGOs worldwide that helped bring about the establishment of the Court and that was twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She has been a Senior Adviser to the Institute for Global Policy in New York on issues of human security, UN reform and international justice, provided International Humanitarian Law training for the Red Cross, and taught international law at Carleton University. The Canadian Centre for International Justice is a national charitable organization that works with survivors of torture, war crimes and other atrocities to seek redress and bring perpetrators to justice in Canada and internationally as part of the next phase of the international justice movement.

Hawa Kaba: Painter / Drummer (Guinea)
Kaba’s art is greatly influenced by her early years in Africa. Her interest in women and women’s issues stems from wanting to push beyond the injustice of existing boundaries – a push for freedom to fulfill life’s dreams regardless of perceived limitations. In her native Guinea, art has traditionally been the exclusive domain of men, while women are left to mind the household and raise children. Through her art, Kaba hopes to encourage women, in particular African women, to become interested in painting as a means of expression.

Philip Landon is the Director of Programs for the WUSC
Landon has been involved in international development and education for over twenty years. His work has focused on the design and management of sustainable education and international development projects and programs that address marginalized populations and engage Canadians in the issues. He is currently the Director of Programs at World University Service of Canada, responsible for strategic orientation, program development and implementation of WUSC’s programs in Canada and overseas.

Sandra Hernandez: Activist / Artist (Guatemala)
Hernandez, as a student in the National University San Carlos, was a founding member of the Environmental University Commission, an organization that  worked with Greenpeace Central America to create a front against the transportation of toxic waste to Guatemala. Upon her arrival in Canada, Hernandez organized student delegations from around the world,  to raise awareness of issues of toxic waste. As well Hernandez has worked with Union member and indigenous leaders to raise awareness of human rights issues in Guatemala.

Victor Fuentes: Painter / Song Writer (El Salvador)
Fuentes came to Canada from El Salvador with his family as refugees in 1990. Though his country has been ravaged by endless civil war, the spirit of the El Salvadorian people remains strong. Victor is the co-founder of the art group “Harmony Hopes” and is instrumental in organizing the Annual Harmony Hopes Art Exhibition to raise funds for the Youth House, Cal-Pipil in San Salvador.
Victor is a strong advocate for change in social and economic justice and development in El Salvador which inspires him to write poetry and music relating to the continued injustices to his countrymen.

Gustavo Saavedra: Singer / Song Writer (Bolivia)
Saavedra, a leading voice of the Bolivian Choir Society, and founding member of the People’s Centre of Art and Culture Music Workshop, was featured on the “La Explicación de mi País”, a musical resistance compilation during Bolivia’s era of dictatorships. His work developed into the prestigious international “Arawi” Music Workshop. He has performaed in Canada, Bolivia, and Chile.

Jessica Solomon – Comedian (Montreal)
Jessica was working as a war crimes lawyer for the U.N. when she decided to pursue a career in comedy. Frankly, she thought, it was time to get serious. Jessica works out of Montreal, Canada, where she performs regularly at the Comedyworks and the Comedynest as well as every alternative comedy room in town. No audience is too small. Seriously, a single bus stop dweller will do. But she does love a crowd, so Jessica has also traveled to cities with large amounts of English speakers. She has performed in Ottawa and Toronto at Yuk Yuks and Absolute Comedy. Internationally, she’s hit the Comedy Café in London and the legendary Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago, amongst others. She has also auditioned for Just for Laughs. When she’s not writing and performing Jessica likes to check in with her old colleagues in The Hague. She enjoys hearing how sad the war criminals are without her observational wit and storytelling to keep them going. She believes they are jealous of her comedy audience and regret what they have done.

Nubia Cermeño: Singer / Songwriter (Venezuela)
Known for her engaging performances and social work with Catholic Immigration Centre, Nubia’s “no barriers music” has been featured in variety of local festivals and  Women’s  Day events. A receiptient of the Community Builder award from the United,  she has served on the Steering Committee for the City for All Women Initiative and  the Board of Directors of the Ottawa Folk Festival. Her work with the “I Wish” program provides opportunities for refugee and newcomer children to exhibit their paintings at local venues such as the Ottawa Folk Festival, World Refugee Week and City of Ottawa events.

Special Thanks goes to the following Contributors:

The Ontario Arts Council, Library and Archives Canada, Nanda Na Champassak and Ryan Thom, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Bhat Boy (, the Centre for Afghan Progress, Peter Showler of the University of Ottawa, Adnan Turegun and James Milner of Carleton University, Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization, Department of International Development (QEH) of the University of Oxford England, the Canadian Centre for International Justice and the Coalition of New Canadians for Arts and Culture.

The Voices of Refugees Installation History

Parliament of Canada, June 16, 2009: As part of World Refugee Week celebrations, the Voices of Refugees Installation featured 8 portraits of refugees from Central America, Central Asia and Africa, segments of their life stories displayed on four large screen video monitors and a live performance by Guatemalan revolutionary singer Tito Medina. The event included speeches by the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and Abraham ABRAHAM the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Representative in Canada.

University of Ottawa, June 2, 2009: As part of the 2nd Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, posters, videos and performances by revolutionary singer Tito Medina were presented at the conference.

World Refugee Day, June 20, 2008: Posters and videos from the Voices of Refuges Installation were presented on World Refugee Day 2008 at Ottawa City Hall. Video was presented on the University of Oxford England web site and posters were distributed to relief organizations in Islamabad, San Francisco, Dublin, Tokyo, Melbourne, New York, Washington, London, Brussels, Cairo and Johannesburg.

Canadian Centre for International Justice, June 26, 2008: Posters from the Voices of Refuges Installation were shown at the formal launch of the Canadian Centre for International Justice at Library and Archives Canada. The featured speakers were Maher Arar, Lloyd Axworthy and Ellen Gabriel.

Library and Archives Canada Overview

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is a federal institution tasked with acquiring, preserving and making Canada’s documentary heritage accessible. The Dominion Archives was founded in 1872 as a division within the Department of Agriculture and was transformed into the autonomous Public Archives of Canada in 1912 and renamed the National Archives of Canada in 1987. The National Library of Canada was founded in 1953. Freda Farrell Waldon contributed to the writing of the brief which led to the founding of the National Library of Canada.[11] In 2004, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) combined the functions of the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada. It was established by the Library and Archives of Canada Act (Bill C-8), proclaimed on April 22, 2004. A subsequent Order in Council dated May 21, 2004 united the collections, services and personnel of the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada. Since inception LAC has reported to Parliament through the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Global Voices 2012 Catalogue Launch

Global Voices 2012 Catalogue launched at Research In Art, 2013. 


The Global Voices 2012 Catalogue was launched at the Research In Art Artist Project Room  May 11, 2013. During the event, Sherry Tompalski spoke about her paintings from the Global Voices Project during the period 2008 – 2012.

Artists Graham Thompson (media) and Sherry Tompalski (painting), create videos and portraits that draw attention to human rights issues and organize multimedia events that celebrate diverse communities in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. Their last event was held in the auditorium of the National Gallery of Canada in December 2012. See the Global Voices Board at Pinterest and at the Global Voices Page on Facebook.


A catalogue was produced for this occasion with an essay by Petra Halkes, “Shaping Identities in a Turbulent World.” Although Tompalski’s paintings were featured in Thompson’s videos, this will be the first time the painted, collaged and drawn portraits will be shown, on the walls of the RIA Artist Project Room.


Sherry Tompalski writes: Talking Portraits is a series of videos and portraits of people whose lives have been derailed by and engulfed in trauma. These deeply personal narratives were recorded while their portraits were being painted. Narratives bravely spoken aloud that beg to be mirrored back, so that what was once in pieces, often hidden and dreamily disorganized can become known, experienced and integrated…so that the unburdening can begin. The reassembling of the fragmented self experience becomes the foundation of the portrait and the culture they reassemble in symbolized as pieces of sheet music, helping to hold together, patch and harmonize the sharp edges as they knit together.


I wanted to bring to life with humanity the different adaptations to trauma and deprivation. I hope the participants feel the work is a honest reflection of their experience and furthers their own healing. Moreover I hope it is a catalyst for further inquiry and dialogue about trauma and recovery. I have had two career paths. I started in Fine Arts in Saskatoon in the 70’s only to segway into medicine and psychiatry in Vancouver in the 80’s, and then continue with both of them in Ottawa over the past 18 years. Each has informed, enriched and given voice and meaning to the other. In both I strive to be helpful, emphasize beauty and facilitate the mystery of healing. Sherry Tompalski.


Shaping Identities in a Turbulent World – An Essay by Petra Halkes

In one way, Graham Thompson and Sherry Tompalski’s ongoing collaborative project Global Voices holds a mirror to personal lives lived in a tumultuous globalized world of interconnection and dispersion. The project includes painting, drawing, collage, video and organized events with invited speakers, dancers and musicians: it presents a fusion of sounds, images and voices. Bright patches of paint, repeated photo-images, words and musical scores vie for attention in Tompalski’s portrait paintings, while Thompson’s videos cover a myriad of film formats, from quiet, straight monologues with abrupt beginnings and endings, to kaleidoscopic montages, jump cuts and tracking shots against a range of background music; Global Voices reflect the world we live in.


In another, more pertinent way, Global Voices goes beyond representation, and demonstrates how people build personal identities within a frantic world. Thompson’s videos were recorded in Tompalski’s studio during the portrait sittings. Their process of listening to and looking at the sitters and consequently recognizing and validating the storytellers’ experiences through representation in video and painting, illustrates in a concrete and artful way how identities are constructed in everyday life. As the renowned cultural theorist, Stuart Hall wrote:  “Perhaps instead of thinking of identity as an already accomplished fact, which the new cultural practices then represent, we should think, instead, of identity as a ‘production,’ which is never complete, always in process, and always constituted within, not outside, representation.” [i]

Global Voices includes videos and paintings of people from a wide range of backgrounds, but the majority of participants have had to overcome traumatic experiences brought on by forced migration from strife-torn countries, or, in the case of First Nations people, internal displacement.  The importance of telling stories has long been recognized as a personal way of healing, and as a way to re-build a communal identity, augment official history with deeply personal stories, and prompt socio-political action.[ii] Thompson and Tompalski’s focus is not on political systems and histories of who did what to whom; what comes through in their unstructured recordings and in the paintings is the effect that ideologies and state institutions have on the personal lives of individuals. This is felt most intensely in politically troubled areas of the world, but also in post-colonial countries such as Canada.

Global Voices provides a site for ordinary people to speak about the personal horrors inflicted on them by impersonal powers. Hawa Kaba, an artist from the Republic of Guinea, landed in jail through an activity as innocuous as applying for a passport; it changed her life forever. Fatima Parween from Afghanistan tells us, through translation, that she has “really bad memories from the time of the Russians and the Taliban,” and she flatly lists the names of the young men in her family who were killed.  In Canada, a cold political decision to assimilate aboriginal people, made in nineteenth-century colonial times, continues to reverberate in the personal lives of many to the very present. For Maggie Jefferies of James Bay, the governmental policy caused the loss of a brother. For Irene Lindsay from One Arrow, Batoche, Saskatchewan, it led to a troubling estrangement from her father.

As a former psychiatrist who has worked with refugees and soldiers, artists, couples and families, Tompalski is deeply aware of the power of such stories. Silence condemns victims to an unbearable, inhuman loneliness that precludes healing. Speaking out can facilitate a process of re-building a life of normalcy, transforming the horror of the past into the creation of a new strong identity. “Basically,” she writes, “I’m trying to understand the processing of loss and the tendrils of hope that allow us to survive.” [iii]Building on her professional experience of immersing herself in the lives of others, Tompalski became a prolific portrait painter. Her painting style of brightly coloured patches shows identity formation as a dialectical process of breaking-up and coming-together of personal and communal experiences. Although the faces are tightly cropped to foreground the individual subject, what is left of the background is filled in, in some paintings with words picked up from the video and in others with multiple photographs of the sitter. The portraits themselves are often multiples: the young Bahara Parween is painted eight times, Tito Medina, a musician from Guatemala, appears several times. Identity is not a singular truth; the paintings suggest that an ongoing multiplicity of events and choices shape and reshape our identity.

The past, and the places where the sitters came from, are signified in the culture-specific symbols and patterns that make up snippets of their clothing: a collar here, a bit of a shirt there. The paintings (and videos) do not deny that cultural heritage forms a vital part of people’s identity, but the exotic lure that such heritage could have provided for the viewers is denied. In some portraits, the artist adds scraps of paper that came from her own place, from her own collection of sheet music and paper cuttings: a gift to be taken into the mix of cultural influences that become part and parcel of building an identity. To the degree that we all live with such a mix, we are brought face to face here with people like us, people in our neighbourhood, and we get to know them just a bit better.

Identities are formed in a process of loss and renewal, but the personal control we have over this process depends to a great extent on the happenstance of the place and time of our birth. For over one hundred years, aboriginal children of Canada were taken away from their parents to attend boarding schools that were often overcrowded, underfunded and unhealthy. The children were not allowed to speak their native languages and sometimes did not see their family for up to a year. “For Canada,” Justice Murray Sinclair, the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada writes, “this is a shameful story.”[iv] Much of this shameful story is still coming to light, thanks to the work of people such as Irene Lindsay, who is featured in Global Voices. A grandmother of nine, she runs a Residential School Outreach Program in the seniors building she lives in. Among the stories she tells is one of her own eight years in residential school. She talks of becoming so estranged from her father that she couldn’t grieve for him when he died. Only years later, when a friend’s father was dying and she witnessed the warmth and care of the family that surrounded him, was she able to shed tears. It is not just the physical and sexual abuse, and the high death rate that turned the residential schools into such a disastrous failure. It is, as Lindsay says, “the other things, in between,” such as languages and traditions that can only slowly be relearned, and bonds between parents and children that can never be recuperated.

Lindsay is one of the heroes in the story of the Residential Schools in Canada, heroes who “continue to do the heavy labour of sharing their stories, and, by so doing, educating their children, their communities, and their country.”[v] At the events organized by Thompson and Tompalski, Lindsay shares a virtual stage with heroes like her, who have arrived in this country from elsewhere fleeing from other disasters. The people in Global Voices talk not only about what has happened to them in the past, but how they shaped their personal history of responses and choices and create an identity that continues to evolve. They show that self-identity is constituted, as Hall writes, “not outside, but within representation.”[vi]

Global Voices shows a world that continues to spin around us, influencing our thoughts and our feelings, never stopping to let us “find ourselves,” never providing a static identity. Through their videos and paintings Thompson and Tompalski have acknowledged and validated the life stories of others, and have provided a site for viewers to do the same. They have shown us a process of representation and recognition through which the past can be transformed and tentative new identities can emerge.

Petra Halkes, November 2012

[i] Stuart Hall: “Cultural Identity and Diaspora.” In Jonathan Rutherford, ed.: Identity: Community, Culture, Difference.  (London: Lawrence & Wishart 1990) pp 223 – 37 (p.222)

[ii] The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum maintains a database of oral history testimonies:

Oral histories have played an important part in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa 1995 – 2006, and in the TRC commissions that followed in many countries, including Canada.

[iii]  Sherry Tompalski, exhibition proposal 2011, unpublished.

[iv] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: They came for the children: Canada, Aboriginal peoples, and residential schools. (Winnipeg: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2012) p. 1  Electronic resource:

[v] Ibid p.86

[vi] Stuart Hall, ibid p. 236