Breaking Borders is a night of storytelling by and for immigrant artists

On December 10, come and experience Breaking Borders, a night of storytelling from immigrants, refugees, visa holders and permanent residents within the Vancouver artist community.

Co-organizers Mariam Barry and Alexandra Lainfiesta, immigrant artists themselves, created the event in hopes of generating more support and visibility for the community in Vancouver.

“I think the idea certainly came from us having been through the experience of having to do all these immigration processes as theatre artists on our own, and feeling how that can become such a isolating process,” said Lainfiesta.

“The biggest misconception that we want to debunk for other immigrant theatre artists is the fact that you actually aren’t alone,” said Barry. “... I really thought I was. That’s really damaging and tragic in a lot of ways.”

The event will convey this message by bringing the community together and to celebrate its diversity through rap, music, storytelling and slam poetry. Barry thought it was important to showcase many art forms to honour the cultural differences of the audience and participants.

“Different cultures have different forms of storytelling or performance,” explained Barry. “We have mentors within the African community who are also immigrants and they do a lot of traditional drumming, traditional storytelling, traditional singing. [We have] elders that have been caring for different immigrants and different artists for a long time, [and] it was important to have them in our event as well.”

The event provides a space for immigrant artists to share their unique voices and narratives.

“[As artists] we kind of pull up a mirror to humanity and we reflect each other’s stories,” said Lainfiesta. “... Right now narratives are slowly changing, and it’s so beautiful to see the diverse narratives that are being presented and sought out now, especially in the Canadian theatre industry and how the diversity in the country is also hopefully starting to get reflected on the stages.”

Barry, originally from Norway and Gambia, said that she was inspired to stay in Canada because of how the different communities here tell their stories.

“I feel very privileged to have had a lot of fantastic, amazing Indigenous theatre mentors that have shown me different forms of storytelling,” said Barry. “It was my first real intimate introduction to storytelling from a POC perspective, and that felt really right in my bones.

“Since then I think I’ve been on a really big, intimate journey on how I can forward my own communities, my own black communities, my own African communities in Vancouver because … that is my voice. And I think being an artist is such a gift in the sense that, as you explore yourself you also give other people permission to receive you.”

Indigenous performers will also be given a spotlight at the event. “It’s so important to have an Indigenous presence in the event,” said Lainfiesta, “because we are taking refuge in their land.”

Apart from creating a space where immigrant artists can share their stories and find a support network, Lainfiesta and Barry also aspire to help the community financially.

“We’re going to have this joint account where the money that gets fundraised from the event is going to be put aside specifically for financial aid to any theatre artist who is going through the process of immigrating and needs to pay for their fees through immigration,” said Lainfiesta.

Breaking Borders takes place December 10 at 7pm at the Cottage Bistro, 4470 Main St, Vancouver. Admission is by donation.