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I created this poster on the occasion of the 1st of August which is Switzerland’s equivalent of Canada Day or July 4th in the United States. It is always a good time to reflect on what it means to be Swiss and on identity overall. Although I was born in Switzerland of a Swiss father and a Persian mother and raised in Germany and Canada, I’ve always struggled with “identity” to a degree. What does it mean to be Swiss, Canadian, American, or Chinese anyway? What is a hyphenated Swiss or Canadian or Iranian — Swiss-Canadian — Swiss-Iranian — really. Why is it that terms such as British-Canadian or Irish-Canadian are rarely used in everyday parlance but Indo-Canadian and Chinese-Canadian are? Canadians of Caribbean origin have been an integral part of Canada’s fabric since 1796 when 556 Jamaicans made their way here to escape an unsuccessful British attempt to enslave them. Canadians glibly smirk at American racism, but are we that much better? With the recrudescence of hate crimes in the Great White North, that ugly underbelly of Canadian society is being exposed for what it is. We have to look no further than the continued marginalization and abuse of Canada’s aboriginal population.
Identity is complex. I am certain of only one thing — we are ultimately all human and, as such, shouldn’t our highest allegiance be to our planet and not to the imaginary demarcations of nationality, ethnicity and race that continue to prevent humanity from achieving its true potential? As we celebrate, justifiably I might add, national identity on a day like the 1st of August, that higher allegiance may be something to reflect upon as we move through the choppy waters of our collective existence on this tiny and very fragile dot in what is an unimaginably vast universe.
The iconic Swiss flag was modified, integrating the floral pattern of a tile in a Turkish mosque, to reflect the diversity of the population of Switzerland today.
The poster achieved its objective in that it stimulated dialogue centred on questions of identity and helped viewers question their own assumptions of the subject.