PHOTOS Part of I love here now which is a photo project on her mother. ©Maya de Forest
Maya de Forest
I love here now
Interview by Myungsook Lee
Your project I love here now was exhibited in 2007 at the Access Gallery in Vancouver. This project is very strong and shows a part of Canadian identity with the figure of mother and the Canadian landscape through still images. I read an article that your mother has been in hospital. Since this project, are there any changes in your life related to your mother or family?
Maya de Forest: My mother suffered from a stroke last year so I have been temporarily living back in Winnipeg. She has made a huge recovery, but her English and also her walking have really taken a hit. She is able to still live in her home though. We are all really happy about that. My mom was looking after my father who has Alzheimer¡¯s, so we ended up having to move him to a nursing home.
In your work, I love here now, your mother, originally from Japan, is corresponding with many other aging women. Yet, she represents not only those women but migrated or marginalized people who may have similar circumstances or experience. As a displaced person moving from her native country to new country, Canada is not only her story. Nevertheless, choosing the title I love here now is very interesting. It can be interpreted as a positive transition such as being reconciled or adjusted. Yet for me it seems more like making a compromise. What does this title imply?
Maya de Forest: I love here now came from my mother¡¯s response to my question ¡°how do you feel about Winnipeg?¡± I thought it worked as a title because it uncovers a lot. Her broken English and her use of ¡°now¡± after forty years living in Canada really embodies her withholding or reluctance, whether conscious or not, to completely assimilate. I was actually taken aback by how heartfelt her answer was. I wasn¡¯t really expecting that. But, I think at this stage in her life, she has had to finally reconcile with truly living between these two cultures.
Could you tell me how your childhood memory of your mother affects this work? As a child of intermarriage (western and eastern) how has your parent¡¯s heritage affected your daily life? Were there any challenges, difficulties or confusion in your early days?
Maya de Forest: The work definitely comes out of a love and admiration for her and my perceived notions around her struggles and challenges as a visible minority and immigrant. I think I was always incredibly sensitive around my mother being obviously different, being Japanese. I grew up in a very white community and I just felt this vulnerability for her. I don¡¯t know if she necessarily felt that way, but I took it on and felt very protective of her. Being a child of an intermarried couple with no peers to relate to aside from siblings had its isolating moments. I generally had a happy childhood, but I know there were subliminal messages and self-questioning happening.
In looking at the setting for I love here now, shooting at night and/or in snow plays a significant role in your work which tells viewers to notice the mother¡¯s emotional isolation from her environment. Was this part of your intention?
Maya de Forest: That was part of the tone I was attempting to create in the book, but I also think those images represent my own feelings around her mortality.
As a temperate - weather Vancouverite, I feel a distance from harsher Winnipeg weather. This may be interpreted not only as physical ¡°distance¡± but also a cultural distance between Winnipeg and Vancouver. Why did you move from your home town of Winnipeg to Vancouver? How are they different culturally and also in the natural surrounds?
Maya de Forest: I left Winnipeg when I was 18 and have moved around a lot. I was actually working in Toronto before making the move to Vancouver. The main motivating factors being the ocean, the Asian population and wanting to get out of Toronto. After ten years in Vancouver, I still find it hard to pin the city down culturally because it is changing constantly and so many of us living here are from other places. Winnipeg on the other hand, is a city where people either never leave, or leave but always end up coming back to, so there is a very strong sense of culture that is uniquely its own. Historically it is also very culturally diverse. It is strange to say, but I do feel more connected to nature in Winnipeg than in Vancouver because of all the old trees and the two rivers running through it. In Vancouver, nature feels more like a backdrop to me.
Distance also can be seen in the relationship between you and your mother due to your position behind the camera. In my experience, working with my mother brought out very complicated emotions as being in the role of observer. Through the viewfinder, I saw a woman who has half of my genes yet, also was a stranger separate from me. How was your experience working with your mother?
Maya de Forest: My mother and I are very close, so it wasn¡¯t a huge stretch to start photographing her, although she put up a fight at the beginning. I think the distance between us really is just not being able to share her language, which is a huge part of who she is. My Japanese is equivalent to a four year old. As she has aged, her English has deteriorated to the point where I really struggle to understand her. Now after her stroke she can barely put a sentence together. She has also, over the past ten years become more immersed in all things Japanese: friends, reading, the computer, so that outside of her family she doesn¡¯t need to think or speak in English. So, that shift was a huge motivating factor for making this work.
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DIVERSE 5th Issue
We are pleased to announce that DIVERSE 5th issue, Summer 2011 has been released.
12 Diversity in Canadian Workplaces What are the obstacles to a better form of ¡°diversity¡± in the workplace?
- Open Door Group
- BC Workplace Diversity Inclusion Awards
6 BC¡¯s Diversity through 30 portraits
2 ThePower of Exchange A Historic Collaboration between Germany¡¯s
Premiere Art Collections and Canada¡¯s First Nations
28 Ezra Kwizera Born in Uganda to Rwandese refugee parents, Canadian Musician and genocide survivor speaks on the art of forgiveness and of adapting to Canadian culture
42 Dana Claxton
The Mustang Suite: Questioning mobility, freedom and autonomy
24 Gung Haggis Fat Choy in Vancouver, BC: The Diversity of Canada
38 Denise Brillon Breaking barriers in the fashion world
32 Pysanky¡¯s Resurgence
Joan Brander¡¯s contribution to the renaissance in traditional
Ukrainian egg art
10 Publisher¡¯s Note
27 Benefits of being a bilingual writer
31 Canadians come in all differences
NEWS & INFORMATIONS
35 News Briefs on Multiculturalism
36 Publisher¡¯s Picks
You Can Order Here.