Over the next three decades, some 2,000
men and women would also leave their cities, towns and villages
of birth in Bilad al-Sham (geographical Syria) and immigrate
to Montreal where they would form the city's first Arabic-speaking
community. The exhibit "Min Zamaan - Since long ago"
tells the story of this immigrant community, composed largely
of Syrian-Lebanese, and, in smaller numbers, of Mardini (people
from the city of Mardin) and Palestinian immigrants, as it anchored
itself in Montreal's early-twentieth-century economy and society.
Recapturing a memory of community and
a communal memory
There are few members of the early-twentieth-century
immigrant generation still with us. Their Canadian-born children
are advancing in age and those of the younger generations often
have only scant knowledge of their grand-parents' and great grand-parents'
time and experiences. Brian Aboud, sociologist, and a descendant
of immigrants, initiated this exhibit with the aim of remembering
the early Syrian-Lebanese immigrant experience, preserving its
material traces and bringing it to the attention of the wider
Montreal and Quebec populations.
"Min Zamaan" tells the story
of the early Syrian-Lebanese presence in Montreal and in other
parts of Quebec, covering a range of themes: the context and
causes of departure from Bilad al-Sham, the journey to North
America, the challenges and strategies of earning a living during
the initial years after immigration, the subsequent process of
adapting and contributing to Montreal and Quebec's economy and
culture, the achievements and trajectories of some of the community's
more 'legendary' personalities.
Complementing the historical exhibit is
a photographic exposé on the present-day Arab community
of Montreal entitled Wousoul (l'arrivée-arrival). It is
prepared by Rawi Hage a local artist of Lebanese origin.
Remembrances and rare finds
A search of public and private archives
as well as interviews with dozens of community members, have
allowed us to find rare photographs, documents and family objects
and to gather and record life stories, anecdotes and personal
remembrances of the eldest community members. The quality and
range of materials and the richness of the stories will contribute
to make the "Min Zamaan" exhibit an unprecedented and
memorable event for Montrealers of all origins.
The exhibit has received funding from the
Ministère des Relations avec les Citoyens et de l'Immigration
du Québec and from the Ministry of Canadian Heritage,
through the Museums' Assistance Programme. The project has received
the support of an associational partner, the Lebanese-Syrian
Canadian Association of Quebec. It also benefits from the counsel
and assistance of an advisory committee composed of artists,
professionals and business people from a cross-section of the