Khadija Baker

Photographic documentation from the Performing community garden project (2019–2021)

Photo : Mike Patten

Digital print
Various sizes

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349, rue Heriot, Drummondville

Description of the work

This photograph documents the performative work Performing community garden. Khadija Baker first fashioned a dress from paper she made herself. The dress was designed to carry various plants. The Syrian-Kurdish artist then attached a name to each plant, honouring a civilian who had died or been displaced due to violence in her community or a survivor who had recently arrived in Canada. Wearing the dress during the performance, she chose a public space where she offered the plants to passersby. With every plant she gave, she told the story behind the specific name. Through this work, Khadija Baker hopes to perpetuate the narratives and make the recipients consider the fact that, despite its unusual name, the plant will thrive thanks to the love and care they give. Her performance seeks to improve understanding and relationships with displaced people from the Middle East and facilitate the acceptance of different cultures in an effort to curb social divisions and racial conflicts.

Khadija Baker

About the artist

Born in Syria in 1973, Khadija Baker is a Kurdish artist. She studied fine arts at Damascus University. Unable to pursue an art career in her home country, she immigrated to Québec in 2001. She completed her Master of Fine Arts at Concordia University in 2012 and has been pursuing her research as part of a doctorate degree at Concordia University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies on Society and Culture. 

Being a witness to traumatic events has brought up mixed feelings about home that constitute the core topic of her artistic approach. Her creative process also led her to explore social and political themes such as displacement, memory and loss. Baker has lent her multidisciplinary installations to solo exhibitions across Canada, as well as to group exhibitions in cultural capitals around the world: in United-States, Europe (France, Germany, England, Sweden), Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Morocco, India and Australia. 

Khadija Baker is a leading member of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, affiliated with Concordia University. She received several research, creation and travel grants from funding agencies, including the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Canada Council for the Arts. In 2020, the Conseil des arts de Montréal awarded her the Prix de la diversité culturelle en arts visuels for her exemplary artistic approach and contribution to the development of her discipline.

Artistic approach

Khadija Baker’s work is largely based on oral histories and life experiences, which she conveys through visual art. For her first art project, she interviewed expatriate Kurds. Their stories enabled her to imagine a new geographic map that she integrated into an installation. She since continues to interview displaced persons and refugees for various art projects. Her work reflects her involvement in the community and provides a platform for voices that are rarely heard. 

The multidisciplinary artist combines various practices such as textile, sculpture, video and audio to design installations, including narratives and participatory performances. Her works explore loss and injustice, displacement, violence and war. Aware of the difficult themes in her work, she pays particular attention to aesthetics to retain the viewer’s interest.

In her creative process, Khadija Baker draws on her personal experience to initiate a universal conversation. Through her work, she hopes to provide space for dialogue and thus foster a better understanding of others. She also seeks to elicit deep empathy leading to awareness and citizen actions for a more just and united world. She considers art as political and a form of resistance. Art does entertain, but it must also be useful. 

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