When anyone moves to a new country there are challenges. This is especially true for women. My life is not the same in Canada as it was back home in India. I had to overcome many challenges, such as living in a very different environment and culture, being away from family and friends, and so on. In 2001, soon after I arrived in Toronto, I met another new Canadian who was struggling to raise her nine-year old daughter by herself. I empathized with her because I knew how difficult it was to raise children even when you have the support of a partner. I offered to take care of her daughter after school until she returned at night after working long hours at her job. I felt her pain as a single mother being far from her family and friends. I wanted to do what I could to help.
This relationship inspired me. I wanted to capture the experiences of newcomer women on canvas. I started by contacting women through the Immigrant Women Centre in Regina. I went to their homes and with my camera, recorded their joys and problems. Most of the feelings I heard were of loneliness, emptiness, and sadness.
The women I have painted are bright, and hardworking. They were going through rough times as they tried to settle into their new lives. Through my paintings, I want to show what it feels like to be alone, frustrated, sad, empty, confused, lost amidst strangers and new friends. The paintings help promote dialogue about being new to Canada. I want to offer a glimpse into the life of an immigrant woman during this challenging time. Some show despair; others are more hopeful; while some are more settled.
Storytelling is not only the core of my work, but is also universally important. Human beings need to be seen and heard. Art is a vehicle through which I am empowering these women.
– From the Artist Statement of Madhu Kumar