For the first time an exhibit in North Vancouver features the arrival stories of Iranian Canadians as the largest immigrant population on the North Shore.
The oral history exhibition entitled ‘Sharing Our Stories’ is part of North Vancouver Museum & Archives (NVMA) Diversifying History Project. The exhibition which is on now displays the stories and memories of 12 Iranians living on the North Shore.
“The reality is that Iranians have a noticeable presence on the North Shore and have made significant contributions to the larger community,” said Fereshteh Kashefi, a member of the project advisory board.
Iranian immigrants started to arrive in early 1950s. Based on Canada’s 2011 census, 35,700 Iranians live in Greater Vancouver with almost 11,000 on the North Shore.
The oral history project began in 2012 and its goal was to document the growth of the Iranian community on the North Shore and to tell stories about individuals.
“It was a chance for us to learn and to help the rest of the community to learn” said Shirley Sutherland, NVMA assistant director.
“People in Vancouver have been fortunate enough to have this cultural group who has brought a different perspective, wide range of skills, and a desire to be here; they have purposely come and settled here, so they value this area,” she said.
History and culture
An advisory board was established to sort through the stories and ensure that a broad range of ethnic and religious points of view were shared.
“We had to be selective and we had to choose people from all walks of life representing significant accomplishments,” said Ms. Kashefi.
At the exhibition, background panels provide information about Iranian art, literary traditions, festivals, food and demographics.
The memory boxes also portray pictures, artifacts and excerpts that represent the interviewees’ life stories and accomplishments.
Artist Reyhaneh Bakhtiari creates paintings that introduce Iran’s nature, history and culture.
Reyhaneh Bakhtiari is an Iranian artist whose arrival story has been featured in the project. She moved to Canada 15 years ago together with her husband and their two children and settled in North Vancouver.
“It was really difficult at the beginning but we tried hard and now we’re happy with our life,” she said.
Ms. Bakhtiari believes the Canadian community has provided an atmosphere for her art to flourish. She has responded this generosity with “lots of volunteer work and helping newcomers to get involved in society.”