#06, September 2020
For Thaïla Kham Po, a Québec-based illustrator with Cambodian roots, migration is an endless journey that eventually turns inwards, beyond roads and mountains: a perpetual movement toward the world and toward the self, and sometimes between the two. Raccords invited the artist, who immigrated to Canada as a child, to present a symbolic and surrealist interpretation of his own experience.
We never really arrive when we arrive. My first steps on Québec soil were cold and snowy. I have a vague memory of it, but the smell of winter stayed with me. Still today, smelling that fresh air, the same I knew as a child, reminds me of all the firsts I experienced in such a strange and different world. The first time I tried saying a word in French, the first time I tasted spaghetti, the first time I put on a jacket, the first time my family was the only Asian family in the village. In Napierville, we were welcomed with open arms. We’d come a long way from my parents’ village.
Cambodia was mired in darkness as the horror of genocide was just beginning. Under the circumstances, my parents were forced to flee to survive and save their kids.
I only later found out about the story of my family and my country. I grew up with a Québec accent, but I was eating Cambodian food at home. I accepted this duality without really understanding it, but, like a coin, I knew it had two sides: the one that allowed me to be accepted as a Québécois, and the other, which represented my Asian heritage. Still today, I keep flipping this coin in my pocket. It helps me continue forging my identity through my family, my journey, my ambitions.
Deep down, we never finish becoming who we are.