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Mobile mural invites Londoners to reflect on diversity, make their mark

Shirug Faraj helps blend new elements added to the canvas, on July 19, 2017. Liny Lamberink/AM980

Locals were invited to leave their mark on a participatory art project, sprawled out on the sidewalk Wednesday afternoon on Queen’s Avenue near Wellington Rd.

The mobile mural — four bright and colourful pieces of canvas that span 28 feet — was originally crafted by youth at the Cross Cultural Learner Centre (CCLC); they’ve been bringing it to various locations throughout the city, collecting stories about diversity and belonging.

“We’re [asking] people what does diversity mean to them, in one word. So people can write it here, and [it lets] them understand how we are all one, we are all together, and we stick together no matter what,” said 19-year-old Shirug Faraj, a refugee from Saudi Arabia who moved to London last fall.
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She pointed to the words ‘united’, ‘acceptance’, and ‘multi-cultural’ on the canvas, integrated with colourful painted faces.

“These are our friends’ faces, that we all painted together,” she said, explaining how one of the women depicted is a Muslim Egyptian woman, who faced discrimination roughly 30 to 40 years ago when she first moved to Canada.

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Melanie Schambach, head of Youth Recreation and Community Development at the CCLC, said the project is important because it addresses racism and discrimination.

“Integration is a two-way process. As much as we support newcomers to integrate into society, we also need to address with the rest of the population of how to make the city more inclusive and more welcoming to all the different languages and the different abilities and the different cultures.”

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Schambach believes art is valuable for that process because it engages people on an emotional level.

“When we’re clicking through our computers and we get all these emails, there’s only one side of the brain that’s really working… we’re aiming to engage the public through their emotional system so they can connect with stories empathetically.”

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The mural will be open for participation when it goes to Innovation Works next week, for a long-term stay.

Schambach said it won’t ever be finished; even when the painting part is done, its impact on youth and those who added to it will create a ripple effect.

“As long as the conversation continues, the painting is still alive.”

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