Making pottery is not an occupation that many people would consider pursuing, but for Lamyaa AlQadhi, the art-form is a way of life. AlQadhi, an Iraq native, has worked as a professional potter since 1995, earning herself an excellent reputation in her country’s artistic community. Even before beginning to work independently, she was very involved in pottery.
“I started in 1986,” she explained,” and worked under the supervision of a famous Iraqi, Ablaa Alzawi, for five years. After that she said to me ‘you can start on your own.’”
Given permission to work alone, AlQadhi quickly became involved in her chosen field, opening her own workshop and presenting exhibitions. As involved as she was in her own career, though, she still found time to enrich her community.
“I was an instructor in a summer school, and a children’s counsellor in a hospital. Mostly [I worked] with children who [were] ill and [had] to stay in the hospital… [I] started doing just simple pottery and art [with them] to keep them busy and active.”
“AlQadhi quickly became involved in her chosen field, opening her own workshop and presenting exhibitions.”
AlQadhi enjoyed several years of prosperity and success in Iraq, but with the escalation of the war, and the increased danger it presented, her situation rapidly deteriorated.
Forced to leave Iraq in what she described as “a hurry,” AlQadhi was unable to take any of her work with her to Egypt, where she initially fled. Now, living in Canada, AlQadhi is still attempting to rebuild her life.
“Back home,” she explained, “I didn’t have any barriers, but you know, since I came here, the [biggest] barrier for me is the financial things. I don’t know the labour market very well.”
While she intends to continue her career as an artist, AlQadhi concedes that it is difficult to survive in such a field without financial support, and considers it necessary to have a separate occupation which can provide additional revenue.
“My first profession was an administrative assistant,” she stated, adding that she has a diploma in office management.
Despite the difficulty of her situation, AlQadhi has persevered. Upon arriving in Canada, she participated in several programs at the Immigrant Women’s Centre, including Job Search Workshops, and Leading and Learning. Now, she volunteers as a peer support worker at the Centre, and has even managed to find employment with the Immigrant Culture Art Association of Hamilton. She currently works there as an advanced pottery instructor, and hopes to eventually attain the same popularity and success she experienced in Iraq.
“My long-term goal,” she explained, “is to open my ceramic studio again, here in Canada.”
AlQadhi, thankful for her position, expressed gratitude to the ICAA for providing her with the opportunity. She feels that the importance of art in a community is unparalleled, and was quick to recommend that any recent immigrants with an interest in art become involved with the organization.
- Article and photo by Evelyna Kay, Westdale Secondary School