This article was originally published in Queen’s University Perspectives on Gender, Equity and Politics Magazine, 2023. 

By Humirah Sultani

  Sentiments unearthed in Landed: Transformative Stories of Canadian Immigrant Women have completely moved me. An unimaginable connection, understanding and catharsis was born out of this collective project presented by the social enterprise, Campfire Kinship. 


Original watercolor painting on which Landed cover art is based, by Cynthia Cabrera

   Long before this opportunity, I stared into a seemingly empty future, wondering if and where I belonged. I can only imagine that my parents felt the same way, over thirty years ago as Hazara refugees fleeing Afghanistan and arriving in Canada – thus, the intergenerational cycle of survival, loss, chaos and healing began. Whether by choice or force, the landed generation – my parents and fellow co-authors – faced their greatest fears of being pruned, plucked and transplanted.

  As a sproutling seeded by this generation, I also searched for my lost self. Leafing through pages of books to explore every character, I finally saw myself in those from strong cultural backgrounds. My unknown identity resonated with those who struggled, were oppressed or completely lost. Representation had no meaning at that time in my childhood, not when I could barely recognize myself, my culture and my heritage in the foreign world around me, just a step outside of my family home. Now, being part of the Landed project, I realize how representation matters and it is different than I expected. Loved ones whom I would never meet, their accomplishments and reflections have been captured in these memoirs written by my peers. I realized that I was not searching for a face like mine – almond-shaped eyes, a round face and prominent cheekbones – but for a story, like all those that had been told to me by my family of our people.

  The hoes and trowels that once blunted us are now in our hands. Like sunflowers in a field, I stand amongst published and budding colleagues. Our shared struggles have churned the earth beneath our feet to make that space for us which had been taken away. Every memory of a world lost has been stripped down, word by word and buried into the ground, gently patted and nurtured by tears. My gratitude blooms at the realization that we were not stranded or otherwise left behind, silence and damned by a world we could not change. Instead, we have been brought together as a community, this garden of writers, and have been united through our similarities, which we discovered as we started to tell our stories.

  Every tree in a forest is holding hands under the surface, holding on tightly as one does with loved ones. Dil be dil ra dara – an Afghan proverb from the tongue of my foremothers. A most honest and earnest plea for human connection and a reminder of the inextricable relationship between those kindred strangers who have suffered similarly. When our hearts touch, be it through art, song, music, creativity, love – for a moment, we can see life from one another’s eyes. This is the basis of developing empathy, tolerance, understanding and peace. This was our solution – to quell the grief of never truly belonging, to treat the mental health disorders from which we continue to suffer, to nurture love and joy in spaces that were designed to isolate and oppress us – and ultimately, to create and take part in the world that we have always needed.

   As mushrooms renew the land, our experiences have fertilized the soil underfoot, providing us with a platform upon which to stand and grow – to raise our voices like petals vying for the sun. Sharing our stories of withering, decay and rejuvenation, we reach out our roots to bolster that of the next generation. The stories we need to tell are not necessarily the stories that publishers want to sell, we continue to navigate the world of business and share our successes – on paper and off of it, too. The fruits of this project are best tasted together, shared by not only this generation – promising to save something, anything, to save ourselves – but, with a wish for an abundance more for the generations to come.