Probably the most common theme that participants focused on was food. For the women food could symbolise difference and exclusion – the difficulty of finding foods which were important to their original culture, but also food as something to be shared, either with their own community or as a way of trying to connect with the wider community. Clothes, especially in terms of the lack of availability of traditional clothes, important to cultural identity, was also a theme.
Another theme was how migrant women navigated double or fractured identites – a sense of belonging in some ways and a sense of exclusion in others, a sense of wanting to be close to the cultural identity that they came from but also to embrace aspects of the new culture.
Their own identity changed in some cases over many years as they became more accustomed to their strange new world. Identity then, was not a fixed thing. For those who had children or who were second generation Canadians or Northern Irish, there was also a sense of being in possession of or being possessed by two identities.
For some this was a cause of anxiety at times, for others a cause for celebration in not being confined to just one identity or being very glad to be able to be seen as a ‘native’. And, for those who were able to return to the original country, this sometimes became a difficult and ironic experience where they were considered as strangers or to have changed too much and seemed foreign in their own land.
'It’s like scarf or sari... this is a traditional cloth. When I wear it and I’m in the Somali community, I feel belonging, I’m proud of it. But when I’m outside the house in Canada, I feel exclusion because I feel different or I wear different [clothes] when I see other people wearing like pants.
'I feel this flag belonging to me... English is really hard and difficult... It was [my] third language... To reach my goal, to reach this Flag, to get citizen. It’s not easy... I feel proud. Because I tried to catch this flag. It was long way, long journey'.
'I work in the Starbucks... In this place I feel so belonging... they can serve you in French, Punjabi, English and all the languages which are on the board... It doesn’t matter'.
Belonging themes emerged from dialogue about the photos: having purpose, informal learning spaces, settlement services and community support, food, the importance of nature, family bonds, safety, being listened to, writing and sharing stories, and welcoming and supporting other newcomers.
I belong to Canada. At the same time, I think Canada also needs to show that strong Welcome to me. Sure. That’s what makes the complete picture of belonging, right? Yeah. And so, how can Canada do that?
'One of the benefits that Canada has given me, is to have an employment that back home is assigned to males. This experience has helped me to break stigma and stereotypes for people that work in certain industries such as construction'.
'I started this job, I’m working hard work like welding, sometimes I’m working forklift. I’m happy to work there... [People at work] make me feel happy and like one of them. They never racially profile me because I’m wearing hijab. And there were only few women in that company and I felt like the workers was a team... If I don’t understand nothing, they were happy to explain to her'.
'I love my [home] country. I need my relatives and nature where I grew up. But, I don’t agree with that politics, with that corruption. I would love the place for my kids have a good future. Safe future. In Canada is the future for my kids. So it the place where I love to be because I feel respected'.
Bureau de Change. A participant said that this is how she sends money home to East Timor. It is a link with home.
A participant explained that she attends FSWC a number of times per week. She tells of how the driver, Franco, comes out to pick her up and brings her to the Centre and also takes her and other women and children home.
Prof Tess Maginess, Project Director in Northern Ireland, enquired if she felt she belonged at FSWC. She replied with a resounding 'YES!'
‘Here you can see ferns and wildflowers. I wanted to capture how nature thrives; even in stone walls, always there is something. This was something that stood out for me here. One of my big impressions over time – what I appreciate is the accessibility of nature, that is very new to me'.
‘Next is a canopy of trees, close to the place I used to live near the city centre. Indian people are crazy about Bollywood movies - Romantic movies with trees and dried leaves. The funny part is that many people are doing TikTok, here, acting out a Bollywood movie song. The landscape changes over the months and I love nature so much and it tells me how nature changes. It also tells me that the bad times are not going to stay and they will change. I took a picture every month, it is a great way of seeing the changes in the seasons. I love nature so much; the cycle of nature. It sends a message, after a bad time, will come a good time’.
'I feel like I can do my daily activities as a Canadian. I’m not scared. I thought I would be stuck and cannot live in cold or ice... When I see that there is snow outside, I say how I can go outside. [But now] I feel free when I go outside and I can go anywhere'.
'This was the time I was a part of a volunteer I felt so happy and was so happy with... the weather and everything... One of the things that made me more
inclusive and belong to Canada was the seasons you know, never saw snow before. So it’s a big thing for me... just like enjoying snow'.
'I just enjoy how lucky we are to enjoy every single season here. And you know...it’s very hard to hear people complain about little things are just so precious to me... so yeah, I feel very belonged here'.
'In the beginning, if nothing was happening... walking into nature was so important. ...I think being with nature, and just connecting with people not like work you know, just like they want your opinion'.
'I’m new here. So that’s the first time I see it [a rainbow] so clear. ...I don’t know if I belong to here or not yet... I’m still new and I don’t have a friend I don’t have anyone yet. So that thing [rainbow] remembers me like when I’m with my friends in Turkey'.
It reminded her of 'All of my friends in Turkey. They are my family there'.
‘This is called pipas. It is a sunflower seed snack and I love it. Also here there is a tin of artichokes and chickpeas. The funny thing is that when you are in Spain, you miss things here'.
'This is called morcilla. It is like chorizo and also like Black Pudding, made from blood. I made a mistake, I tried to make Spanish dishes with the original ingredients, but it is hard to get morcilla, only in Spanish week in Lidl. I decided to adjust to what is available here'.
'My mom is everything in my life... I’m so thankful for her and I wish I will be with her all the time and help her with everything in her life because she went
through a lot. She helped us like we’re seven children and she raised us so that we love everyone, help everyone. And everything - It’s her, she did everything for us'.
Viewing migration from the perspective of the people living in Northern Ireland, one participant, part of the Dungannon group, expressed her willingness to connect with and understand other cultures. Her son had a Filipino girlfriend.
The deeper and more complex history of places – reflecting how they have experienced many complex migration experiences was brought out through another photo – of an old police barracks in Dungannon. The building symbolises how places change. This building was a police station. It is believed that this barracks, designed in the reign of Victoria (nineteenth century) was meant to be put up in India, but the plans got mixed up. The police barracks is at the top of the town of Dungannon [40 miles south west of Belfast]. This town was famous earlier as a Gaelic stronghold and there was a castle there in the 1500s. Nowadays, the castle on the Hill of the O’Neills has been replaced by an arts centre called Ranfurly House. Ranfurly was the name of the main English landlord in the town'.
A participant, who grew up outside Dungannon, also commented on change – this was an old windmill when the area was industrialised in the nineteenth century. Now it is in themiddle of a lovely wood, a place where people come to enjoy nature.
Among other positive aspects of migrant experience there is the sense of independence.
'This is me walking in the garden. It symbolises knowing what independence is, versus always being surrounded by family'.
‘This is Rathcoole, which is a Loyalist housing estate [north of Belfrast in the outer suburbs]. Democracy is strong here. People can express their territory. Now, Hong Kong has been taken over by China and it is not possible to express your views. People keep telling me, ‘don’t go there, to Rathcoole’. But you are the same as everyone, I think you are welcome. If you just listen to the news you would be scared. I don’t feel like that. People are helpful’.
'This is one of the alleyways in Belfast. I took the picture because the small lights reminded me of Diwali - a major festival in India. I totally miss India at that time. I miss my family. But here the Christmas lights sort of create a similar festive mood. The lights remind me of India'.
‘These pictures show the Union Jack, a gate on the Peace Wall and, on the other side, a mural called ‘The Battle of the Falls’. This is very far away from me. My neighbour is my neighbour so it is weird that there are these divisions in Northern Ireland'.
‘Here we have a Thank You card. Everybody in Northern Ireland says ‘thank you’ a lot'.
‘This is near Keady, a village near the Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. How green it is. In Spain I worked with a company to do with environment, but the grass was all brown. And in Spain, there are no boundaries, here hedges everywhere. I like also that the landscape is constantly changing every few miles. Landscapes are related to my job. Here the management of the landscape is very well organised – all these boundaries. It is easy to follow where one farmer’s boundary is. Most of the people in this area are farmers. The Department of the Environment has put a lot of effort into environmental protection'.
‘These are UDA [Loyalist] murals. Mauritius is very multiethnic, very diverse, so the idea of just two communities seems very strange, Catholic and Protestant. My dad studied in England 30 or 40 years ago, and he remembered the days of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and he told me about it. When I first moved to Northern Ireland, my family always call Northern Ireland as Ireland but now with the world becoming a global village specially with the internet now they understand the notion of NI being part of the UK. I was living on the Donegall Road and I experienced racism, since that I am only a short distance away and it is very good'.
‘This is the 12th July arch celebrating the victory of William of Orange. I was invited to the Orange Hall because somebody was getting engaged. I was impressed by the history of the Orange prince. My husband told me not to say anything as someone might find it offensive. We have the same in Holland. North and the South of Holland, Catholic and Protestants. It is all changed in the past 50 years, the churches are all empty'.
‘These are the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard cranes. Mauritius was discovered by the Dutch, then the French came and then the British. [The Dutch took possession in 1598, establishing a succession of short-lived settlements over a period of about 120 years, before abandoning their efforts in 1710. France took control in 1715, renaming it Isle de France. In 1810, the island was seized by Great Britain, and four years later France ceded Mauritius and its dependencies to Britain. Source: Wikipedia]. The cranes remind me of the hard labour the people had to do, many of them migrants – Indian, Africans, working on Plantations'.