Weaving a New Identity: An artistic journey of exploring identities

By Maggie Macintosh is a Journalism student at Ryerson University

The inspiration behind Hana Pinthus Rotchild’s art is an attempt to connect herself to her two homes— Israel and Canada.

Hana, 48, together with her husband, and children left Israel in 2003. They didn’t plan to stay long, but 13 years later she lives in Ancaster making art, teaching art therapy, and working as a clinical social worker.

“[My art] is a process of slowly understanding my new identity and connection to Canada and Israel,” she states.

Weaving identities
Hana began formal art studies at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. She graduated from the Department of Industrial Design in 1992, and began working in multimedia design, carpentry and teaching homeless youth.

In 2003, Hana began to create artwork for an exhibit she would later name “Migration.”
The “Migration” project is an ongoing collection of Hana’s work that focuses on connecting her identities, both as an Israeli, and a Canadian. The pieces contain mixed multimedia ranging from wood to printed transparencies, pizza boxes and thread.

Hana often uses thread as a symbol of connection and the process of creating a hybrid identity for herself.

“I think moving [to Canada] pushed me into art because [art] was always a place of processing my feelings and thoughts,” she reflects.

It was a cultural shock for Hana, and her family when they first arrived in Canada, bringing with them only two suitcases each.

“The nuances of the cultures are very different,” she says. “Israel is very warm, and spontaneous, and the interactions are much closer.”

Being away from her family and adapting to a new environment with English language barriers challenged her. “I remember being afraid.”

Taking walks around her new neighbourhood and making friends through work helped her come to terms with
developing her Canadian identity.

Hana has worked with many immigrants and refugees throughout the years in various positions at Settlement and Integration Services Organization (SISO), Thrive Child and Youth Trauma Services and Wesley Urban Ministries.

She currently works at the Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre where she supports men and women who have experienced sexual abuse.

Having moved to Canada from Israel, Hana can relate to the fear experienced by all Canadian newcomers.

“The main difficulty for women is that their close support circle is not here,” she says. “They feel alone.”

She notes that women have different rights in Canada that require both changes, in how they view themselves, and
adjustments from their partners.

Women are reoccurring subjects in Hana’s art. “I feel that my journey represents other women’s journeys.”

The shapes and drawings of women in her work are the result of her work in art therapy; representing the individuals she has worked with who have experienced trauma, and herself.

“The women in my art are in a process of transformation and growth, letting go of the binding and restricting past,” Hana explains.

Thread is a common medium used to create the female figures, but she picks no favourites when it comes to using materials.

As for her colours, Hana uses an ample amount of red and black in her work. “Wherever there is red, there is pain and hurt and sadness.”

Her artwork has been on display in several spaces, including O-Ma-Noot Gallery, Centre3 and You Me Gallery.
Visit her website here: www.artisthanarotchild.com.