I Am Canadian: Yar Taraki

(courtesy Yar Taraki, Passages to Canada, Historica-Dominion Institute)

My name is Yar Taraki. My full name is Yar Mohammad Taraki. I'm originally from Afghanistan. I was born the 25th of February 1964, in one of the southern provinces of Afghanistan. When I was one year old, my father migrated to Kabul because he was an intellectual writer, and he pursued his career in the cultural scene of Afghanistan.

After the civil war, I came to Canada in 1998 as an independent landed immigrant. I've been living in Canada since then. I was in Afghanistan, and then I went to Russia for studies. I've graduated from two universities. I've received an engineering and architecture education, and then I received a fine arts education. Then I thought to use that level of education to pursue my career, and by the time I came to Canada I was already a well-known art professional in Afghanistan and abroad. I've exhibited in more than a dozen countries and was recognized by peers in Afghanistan and other eastern countries as a relatively successful artist.

I always loved Afghanistan, despite a very ugly war that was going on in that country, and despite being persecuted. Finally in 1992 when there was a danger of being killed, and my family members — including female members of the family — were basically very close to death from the bombings and the shooting, I thought at that time that I had to leave.

So when I came here I started using my skills to solve my personal and my emotional problems. The first thing I did... I found the art market very difficult and very unknown. Because of my architectural background, I found a job in an architectural firm, and because of my artistic education and experience started doing drawings — lots of drawings, paintings. I did hundreds of sketches in 1998 and 1999 where I was basically experiencing a cultural shock after leaving my homeland and coming to a country where everything was so new and unfamiliar to me, and that's why I was experiencing that shock. So when I found a job at that firm, I started participating in the community. Volunteering, which was a completely new experience for me. I've traveled a lot in different countries, but the culture of volunteerism is fabulous in Canada and I quickly adopted that culture. This is a great model for all other countries in the world.

You cannot change culture. You cannot quit or abandon heritage. You will always have it as some sort of material entity. You have to have it all the time, and the beauty of the system we are living in is that it is promoting that part of culture and promoting our heritage and values, and that is why we are honestly serving this country. We're serving this nation.

Yar Taraki is a speaker for the Historica-Dominion Institute’s Passages to Canada.

Learn more: Passages to Canada