One year later – Art by Soheila Esfahani

Visual artist and university lecturer Soheila Esfahani grew up in Iran, moving to Canada in 1992, during the 125th anniversary of Confederation. It was therefore quite fitting that she should find herself in Charlottetown, the birthplace of Confederation, on Canada Day, 25 years later during leg 4 of Canada C3. She explains how C3 impacted her art practice.

Soheila Esfahani (c) Jackie Dives/SOI Foundation

My art practice explores the terrains of cultural translation and investigates the processes involved in cultural transfer and transformation. Returning to the etymological roots of translation as “carrying or bringing across,” A Trace of the Traceless series explores ornamentation as a form of “portable culture” that can be carried across cultures and nations.

A Trace of Traceless series, 2017 – acrylic & laser etchings on collected objects, mounted onto wooden panels

A Trace of Traceless: Canso

A Trace of Traceless: Charlottetown I   

A Trace of Traceless: Charlottetown II

During my time on Canada C3, I collected several stereotypical souvenir objects representing various locations that we visited along the way from Charlottetown P.E. to St. John’s N.L. I laser-etched these objects with a culturally specific ornamentation: an arabesque design from the city of Isfahan in Iran, where my ancestors are from. Through this act, I become both the tourist and the immigrant collecting/claiming part of a culture.

A Trace of Traceless: St. John’s

A Trace of Traceless: Pier 21   

My work questions displacement, dissemination, and reinsertion of culture by re-contextualizing culturally specific ornamentation and aims to open up the third space of in-betweeness.

A Trace of Traceless: Sydney

A Trace of Traceless: Halifax

The Canada C3 journey represented the third space for me, in which we were constantly negotiating the notion of cultural connections and translation. Through my art, I explore the third space by inserting cultural elements within my work and inviting the viewer to ‘read’ the work by bringing in their own narratives, allowing them to also enter the space of in-betweeness and take part in acts of negotiation.

During expedition, I spent Canada Day in the Confederation Chamber with a group of Canadians (from all walks of life and various parts of Canada,) around the Confederation table pictured in the commemorative plate below. We discussed what Canada 150 means and the notions of colonize/de-colonized Canada.

“I was here 150 years later” – Glass paint on collected porcelain plate 11 inches diameter, 2017

In this work, I’m ‘taking over’ the Confederation room by inserting my cultural image on top of depiction of the Confederation Chamber leaving the focus only on the ships in the background as a metaphor for the arrival of the colonizers.

“Mi’kmaq were here before the Bluenose” – Glass paint on collected porcelain plate 4 inches diameter, 2017

In the Bluenose plate, the design is again ‘taking over’ the colonizer, with an image of an original Mik’maq artwork that was gifted to the Canada C3 ship during this journey.

(The Students on Ice Foundation is currently in discussion with various venues to display artworks from all 15 visual artists on Canada C3. More information to follow!)