‘From Here On’ is my latest project with musician and producer, Waleed Abdulhamid. The album explores migration through storytelling and diasporic music. I wanted to do this project because of my own experience and the intersection of culture, nationality, language and ethnicity that chiseled me into the person I am. And when you live in a city like Toronto, migration stories are all around you. This is our attempt to celebrate, politicize and bring to life some of the stories that shape our lives, our city and our country.
Because sometimes there are stories that swell up inside of me – like misplaced memory, or unhinged stories that get lost in translation. Because sometimes there are hidden pieces of bone in my mother’s breath, as though she spat out history – the parts that tried to tame her and claim her as conquered land.
My grandmother left India for Israel with 3 young kids and lived in an asbestos hut with no electricity and an outdoor toilet. There were snakes in the grass outside the hut and, as she relives the experience, she tells me she was always worried about her children getting bitten by a snake. She worked as a janitor cleaning empty high schools and eventually learned the language and became a teacher.
My mother left Israel with two young kids and lived in my father’s country, England, for 10 years. She had no family there. The language got stuck in the back of her throat. After the divorce, she had three mouths to feed, a hot temper and an endless stack of bills. Being alone in an unfamiliar country is like waging a war with no ammunition.
I came to Canada when I was 18 with two suitcases and a draft date for the Israeli army. Leaving Israel was complicated and painful. My older brother and I reunited in Toronto and became legal guardians to our younger brother. We lived in a two bedroom apartment with no furniture and a crazy dog. I found a minimum wage job and eventually got myself into university. A decade later, I’m an artist, archiving these migration stories so that I can one day tell my daughter how much strength the women who came before her had; because more than anything, migration demands resilience.
When people ask me where I’m from, it’s not a straightforward answer. I tell people I’m Canadian but I want to tell them I’m from colonized land and lost language. I want to tell them I’m from a boat that shipwrecked two thousand years ago off the Konkan Coast. I’m from an archeology of oral tradition; a descendent of the ten lost tribes. There are reasons people leave their homelands that remain unnamed – I am from the shadows of those reasons. I’m also from so many new beginnings – if you hold this story up to the light, you’ll see refractions of your own story.