To know a forest you start with roots.
"Seeing Evergreen" is the title of a photo exhibition that offered 12 participating older adults the opportunity to connect with local youth and share their story through a series of one-on-one conversations. The youths, who are part of Jamii’s Laini initiative (mentoring young women in leadership), were invited to design and create an exhibition of portraits that encapsulates these older adults' stories through words and photography. The creative process was facilitated by co-leaders Maysam Abu Khreibeh and Ana Higuera.
Produced and presented by Jamii
Created, curated and designed by Jamii’s Laini youth: Dani Gakumba, Aela Kuria, Sophia Leopold-Muresan, Gennavive Marshall, Tenzin Paldon, Pushpa Saha, Anhar Salem, Morgan Tortolo, Zhenmei Wong-Ward, Nancy Hydee Lanuza Villatoro
Creation process facilitation: Ana Maria Higuera and Maysam Abu Khreibeh
Photography: Ana Maria Higuera
Project Management: Maysam Abu Khreibeh
Project Direction: Isorine Marc
Graphic Design: Iris Unlu
Illustrations: Juliana Bandeira
Process facilitation guidance: Usha James
Presented as part of Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival
Supported by: RBC Foundation, TD Ready Commitment, Rama Gaming House, Government of Ontario’s Reconnect Festival & Event Program
Community Partner: St Lawrence Community Recreation Centre
Seeing Evergreen on Media:
Jordana Franklin has interviewed Isorine March, the director of Seeing Evergreen and Maysam Abu Khreibeh, the manager and one of the facilitator of Seeing Evergreen, and Ana Higuera, photographer and the other facilitator of Seeing Evergreen. The interview published on Canadian Stage's website and newsletter and can be read here: Canadian Stage
Seeing Evergreen was highlighted on the April 2022 issue of a local newspaper, The Bridge an be read here: The Bridge
Artistic Statement by the 10 young women who conceived, designed and created this exhibition:
In our busy lives, we look over many things.
Passing other humans without a thought.
Forgetting those in our community who are closest to us.
Everyone becomes a stranger. We close before we open.
Judgement starts before the story begins.
Assumptions are made, taking away worth from those we see as burdens.
We are in danger of missing without shooting, losing without playing, and we live without meaning.
Or do we?
“Seeing Evergreen” is an exhibition that explores and builds bridges between generations. From feeling unseen to being seen. From the invisible to the cherished.
People’s value in society does not decrease as age increases. We never stop learning and growing; and like a forest, we form an ecosystem. We are one, intertwined and interconnected – one generation with the next.
With this exhibit, our intent is to share and bring to light the value of the “grand-parents” of our community, the lessons they can give, and their perspectives on life. Connecting conversations to preserve stories.
They are the roots of the community, the seeds that grow and make the Esplanade what it is. Roots hold trees through the storms of time, and as younger generations we can only learn from those who are grounding us. Saplings cannot grow, flourish and mature without the protection of trees, sheltering them from the harshness of outside forces and teaching them how to be.
Evergreens are timeless, just like the knowledge the grandparents of our community share with us. We must make connections, from young to old - like a forest of evergreens, we are forever growing together.
Photos: Delphy Photography, Maysam Abu Khreibeh, Isorine Marc, Aéla Kuria, Zélia Kuria, Ana Maria Higuera
As one might imagine, this past winter has been especially hard for many of the seniors in our neighbourhood. Jamii's intention is to feature the voices and stories of local seniors and invite them to take a central seat in our community as we share moments of their journeys, aspects of their resilience, and the richness of their stories.
This project offered 12 participating seniors the opportunity to connect with a local youth and share their story through a series of one-on-one conversations. The youth, who are part of Jamii’s Laini initiative (mentoring young women in leadership), were invited to design and create an exhibit of portraits that encapsulates these seniors' stories through words and photography.
Our group of Laini youth conceived, curated and designed this exhibit. They wrote each piece of poetry, conceived the concept for each illustration, chose the exhibit title, location, display, and also wrote, through group collaboration, the poetic “Seeing Evergreen” artistic statement.
The youth, guided by the artistic leadership of Ana Maria Higuera and Maysam Abu Khreibeh, embarked on a series of 10 workshops, one-on-one conversations with their “grand-parent”, and photo-shoot sessions to create their portraits. The youth exercised creative leadership skills through exchanging ideas, perspectives and opinions, while delving deeply into the “why” and "how" of honouring the stories of their community members.
We are extremely proud to carry their voices and to present this exhibit to everyone in David Crombie Park this Spring.
Staying true to the heart of Jamii’s mission, we hope this project will contribute to enhancing social cohesion in our community during this heightened time of isolation. We hope this project gives the opportunity to create new memories for all who took part in this journey, and that we are successful in nurturing the seeds of leadership for this brilliant and passionate group of Laini youth.
To Carol-Anne, Chet, Ilse, Joel, Nancy, Naomi, Stella, Victoria, Vivienne, Wajdan, and our two participants who would like to remain unnamed: we thank you for being brave and being a part of this project, sharing your story with all of us. It takes a lot of courage, and trust and we do not take this for granted.
To Aela, Anhar, Dani, Gennavive, Morgan, Nancy, Pushpa, Sophia, Tenzin, Zhenmei: your future is bright, we are extremely proud of you, and we will always be there for you wherever life may take you next.
Maysam Abu Khreibeh
Maysam is a Muslim settler with Palestinian and Syrian roots, who was born and raised in Tkaronto (Toronto) in the Esplanade community - Jamii’s home community. She is a graduate with a degree in Global Development Studies and Bachelor of Education with specializations in First Nations, Metis and Inuit studies, and History from Queen’s University. Maysam is an aspiring educator, a published emerging poet, and community organizer. She specializes in teaching and working with youth deemed “at-risk” through her work with Roots and Wings Kingston, Family and Child Services, and award-winning Toronto District School Board Oasis Alternative Secondary School.
Ana Maria Higuera
Ana Maria Higuera is a self-taught photographer and videographer who captures the poetry, raw beauty and extraordinary of the everyday, focusing on nature, women and community initiatives.
Juliana Bandeira is a Latin American visual artist and graphic designer from Brazil. She has been living in Toronto since 2016 when she started studying Graphic Design at George Brown College. Her works involve everyday themes, body investigations and feminine/feminist experiences. Besides daily visual explorations, she loves black coffee, music and cooking.