Stories of shoes lace immigrants from around the world together in Vancouver
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Would you be able to condense your life story into 600 words and narrate it in your second or third language to a room of strangers?

That’s what 12 female immigrants will do for the Shoe Project: Walk in Their Shoes — a writing workshop-turned-performance piece making its West Coast premiere at the Museum of Vancouver, June 22.

The women have been working with a local writing coach since February to put together stories of finding refuge here, on the condition that it’s themed around shoes.

“'The shoes I wore to Canada, the shoes I dreamed I’d wear when I came to Canada, the shoes I left behind, etc,'” project creator Katherine Govier explains.

The project began as a writing workshop seven years ago in Toronto at the Bata Shoe Museum, and it was the curator who suggested the prompt. Since inception, there have also been performances in Calgary, Canmore and Halifax.

Govier was inspired to help women coming to Canada with literary, language-focused backgrounds who were being held back by their level of English.

“I wanted the rest of Canada to know what they have to say, what they’re bringing with them,” says Govier, who recognized early on that vocal and performance training could also help these women. 

Nima Bolow says incorporating shoes into her story about fleeing Somalia 10 years ago was akin to taking a personality test.

“Once we recognize the importance of shoes in our life, it taught me who I am as a person,” says Bolow. “I’ve learned how I am connected to my tradition and my shoes represented the choices I made, what my values and priorities are.”

Bolow wrote poetry back home, but says that starting her life from scratch in Canada left very little time and energy to pursue old hobbies and habits.

“All my focus went on how to integrate -- you reach this goal and you go to another one, goal to goal.”

Bolow says working with the other performers made her appreciative and thankful for her own experience, which she plans to continue writing about after the project. 

"Sometimes you think you have a hard life or difficulties but then you see others and realize how lucky you were," Bolow says. "It’s amazing to see someone else from the other side of the world go through the same journey as you, on different roads and paths, but same challenges.”

Source: Vancouver Courier, June 13, 2018 by Becca Clarkson. Read full article