Some Congolese share their personal history with Institut du Patrimoine

Institut pour le patrimoine de la francophonie de l'ouest canadien increased its collection with items from the Congolese community. This collection was made possible thanks to a two year pilot project of $ 20000 grant obtained by professors Paulin Mulatris and Srilata Ravi.

Étienne Alary - 18 February 2016

"With this project, we are hoping to create a space to display archives from the francophone immigrant populations that have enriched our community. The objective of this project was to collect objects these immigrants brought with them when they left their countries of origin and to know the significance of the objects. Furthermore, we wanted to have footage of these people who wanted to share their stories with us." says Paulin Mulatris who was available for an interview.

Even though, initially, they wanted to collect archives from different communities, the researchers had to quickly make a choice. "Considering the limited resources, we had to target one community and we chose the Congolese community. And even within the community itself, we had to limit the number of participants to 20 people.'' Paulin Mulatris indicates. "This may sound discouraging, but it is the complete opposite. This pilot project is tangible evidence of the need for such a project, thereby making it easier to apply for another grant.'' he continues.

"Currently, we have but a few samples, and it will be important to target other communities. Some communities have contacted me to be part of the project but we need financing.'' Paulin Mulatris says.

Paulin Mulatris handed the recorded interviews and the digital pictures of the objects as well as an explanation of their significance, fruit of his hard work, to Claude Couture, Director of Institut pour le patrimoine de la francophonie de l'Ouest canadien on January 29th. "We were looking for a place where these archives could be easily accessible to those who wish to consult them. Institut du patrimoine, located at Pavillon Lacerte Campus Saint-Jean, best met all of the criteria. This institut is located in the heart of the French Quarter and interested persons may come to view these Congolese archives on a computer at their disposal," notes Prof. Mulatris.

Among those who agreed to participate in the project, we recognize some names known to the Franco-Albertan community: Tshité Yashima who was president of AJFAS (Youth-Family Alliance of Alberta Society) for many years; Yambayamba Jean-Marie, a journalist at Radio-Canada and his wife, Rita Tshibula. "These people have had a disparate life. Some came directly to Canada, others were driven from their countries or had to go through refugee camps and some had lived in different countries before settling here in Edmonton," Paulin Mulatris says.

These people brought a variety of objects. "There is a Congolese drum and a Bible in that collection. Someone brought the pair of shoes he wore on his arrival in Canada, proof that he had crossed the continent. One individual presented his diploma, which is for him, a symbol of frustration. For this person, a medical doctor in his home country who never had the chance to practice his profession here," Mr. Mulatris explains.

What is the professor's take in these interviews? "Every person had a fascinating journey for different reasons. For some, settling in Edmonton was the best thing that happened to them. For others, we feel the frustration they have because of unfulfilled careers. However, all of them agree that these personal sacrifices were necessary to provide a better future for their children," Paulin Mulatris concludes.