By Elizabeth Murphy
Tragically, it is not an unfamiliar story – refugees forced to flee a dire situation in their homeland for safety in Canada. Beginning in 1972, the president and military general of Uganda, Idi Amin, ordered the expulsion of all Ugandans of South Asian descent. Canada responded to the international humanitarian crisis and resettled nearly 8,000 refugees.
The Carleton MacOdrum Library’s Ugandan Asian Archive contains numerous personal stories from Ugandan Asian Canadians who recount their experiences of the expulsion and resettlement in Canada. The accompanying portrait series Building the Ugandan Asian Archive tells the story of the first major resettlement of non-European refugees to Canada and shares the experiences of those looking to preserve this important part of Canadian history.
In recognition of this stirring mix of photography and powerful storytelling, Carleton University will be receiving a Council of Advancement and Support in Education (CASE) Division II award for the portrait series. The project claimed the top spot in the Creativity on a Shoestring category competing with dozens of universities from across Ontario and the United States, including four Ivy League institutions.
Ugandan Asian Archive Documents First-Person Accounts
Building the Ugandan Asian Archive features first-person accounts from Senator Mobina Jaffer, Nizar Fakirani – who launched the archive’s fundraising campaign – as well Mike Molloy, an immigration official and former ambassador to Jordan who worked in the Kampala office at the time. The portraits were taken in Vancouver and Ottawa by photographers Ben Nelms and Jessica Deeks.
The project is especially close to the heart of Carleton’s Fateema Sayani, the portrait series project leader.
“My parents came to Canada via Uganda and I saw this project as an important piece of our nation’s past to document – not only for future researchers to access, but also for my children to know their story,” said Sayani. “In today’s world, it’s critical to remember Canada’s history of welcoming refugees and celebrating our diversity.”
Welcoming Refugees and Celebrating Diversity
The portrait series arose from a partnership between Carleton’s Archives and Research Collections and its online crowdfunding platform, FutureFunder.carleton.ca.
The Ugandan Asian archive comprises newspaper clippings, oral histories, video recordings and a memoir of the Canadian immigration team in 1972 Kampala. Through ongoing acquisition activities, new material continues to be added to the archive. It can be viewed in person at MacOdrum Library or online.
“This archive is an important collection that continues to grow as people come forth with their stories,” said Sayani.
The award will be presented at the upcoming CASE Division II conference taking place in Baltimore from Feb. 26 to Feb. 28, 2017.
The Ugandan Asian Archive project is an important part of the Collaborate Campaign, the most ambitious fundraising effort in Carleton’s history. On the eve of the school’s 75th anniversary, the project’s donors have helped to realize Carleton’s mandate to contribute to the greater good of society through higher education.