The Here and Elsewhere Bee compiles nearly 1,200 immigration stories and assembles them into a 10’ x 10’ quilt. Andrea Tsang Jackson was the 2017 Artist-in-Residence at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and worked for several months collecting small quilt blocks made by visitors on site.
The project is a collaborative quilt, inspired by the children’s storybook Selina and the Bear Paw Quilt by American-born writer Barbara Smucker. Each of the almost 1200 blocks was completed by a visitor, representing a bit of each visitor’s immigration narrative. The blocks are grouped by thematic “trees” in a forest — family, love, freedom and diversity, cultural references, new hopes and dreams, appreciation of nature, agriculture and work, and oceanic journeys. The quilt’s overall organization illustrates how, although each of our stories are unique, there are strong threads that tie them together.
The project was a hands-on way to understand how personal objects can hold special meaning, especially when made by hand. The materials were presented to visitors in vintage suitcases, referring to the moment of arrival in a new place and encourages visitors to think about their own immigration stories, whether the stories are 30 years old or 300 years old.