Coming to Winnipeg for the first time on March 11 and 12
For the past 11 years The Shoe Project has been sharing powerful stories of immigrant and refugee women in different cities across Canada. The program is helping participants write about the often painful and harrowing experience of leaving home to come to Canada, using shoes they, or their loved ones, walked in as a starting point.
Recently, Foundation staff met with two of The Shoe Project’s 10 Winnipeg storytellers, Azenith Magno-Desiderio and Shakila Issa, along with the program’s performance coach and director, Rachel Smith, about the upcoming event at the Manitoba Museum. Participants spent months working on their stories with a writing mentor and are preparing to perform them on March 11 and 12.
Issa tells her story using her son’s shoes, explaining he “was 5 months old when I left him in Uganda and came to Canada. The shoes I’m using are the shoes I bought here for him and sent back to Uganda. When he came here, he came with those shoes. That’s why I chose the shoes as part of my story, the story is about my son, why I had to leave him, and the whole process of him coming to Canada.”
For many of the storytellers, these workshops are the first time they’ve shared about their journeys to Canada aloud, or at all. It is a challenging exercise, especially when considering English is a second (or third, or fourth) language for some of the women, and the experiences they are communicating are deeply emotional.
After participants have spent several months honing their stories, a performance coach helps them prepare to get in front of an audience. Rachel Smith, the performance coach and director of Winnipeg’s Shoe Project event, says “Every time we have a rehearsal, I feel so inspired. And when I talk to people about what this project is, I talk about how amazing these women are, how inspiring their stories are. I’m constantly telling them how brave they are for getting up on stage and telling such a personal story.”
For Magno-Desiderio, The Shoe Project has allowed her to rediscover her love of theatre while also taking some time to heal. She says most of the participants are busy moms, and “after our [Shoe Project] training classes, we return to our regular duties as a mother, as a cook, whatever it is. This is my moment; this is my time for myself to discover again what is in me that I want to share to the world.”
Performances are on Saturday, March 11 at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, March 12 at 2:00 p.m. in the Manitoba Museum Auditorium. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased here.