Cindy Blažević (CA) "The Kid Who Sits Next to You in Class" - Helphoto 2023




The Kid Who Sits Next to You in Class
The Kid Who Sits Next to You in Class is an ongoing series of portraits of young people brought to Canada as children and who live in Canada undocumented – that is, without immigration and/or legal status. Their experience is a secret, silo-ed one, kept even from the best friend who sits next to them in class. Each portrait contributes to a collective activism, as no one even knew the other existed, and of bravery, as sitting for a portrait risks exposure for themselves and their families. Flowers, plants and cherished possessions hide their face from the camera, which allows them to stay invisible – and safe – while emphasizing their collective identity. And, as the Canadian government begins to debate regularizing undocumented folk, their participation in this series allows them to build, visually, a community and to generate awareness about the precarious situation faced in particular by those who arrived as children.

Unlike DREAMers, their American counterparts, in Canada undocumented youth do not have specific legislative pathways and protections. The issue doesn’t even register politically or in the mainstream; they are an invisible population. Yet, youth living without immigration status in Canada are extremely isolated, and face barriers to work, to higher education and to safe housing. Elementary and high schools are some of the only institutions undocumented kids can access without questions. They live in fear of deportation and detention. They are unable to build chosen futures and make engaged contributions to Canada’s social, economic, and civic systems, despite having had the benefit of a Canadian education.

This project is taking place in partnership with Childhood Arrivals Support and Advocacy (CASA), a program of Justice for Children and Youth (JFCY) in Canada. This project is also supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Cindy Blažević is a visual artist of Croatian descent based in Toronto, Canada. Her multidisciplinary practice incorporates photography, writing, social engagement, performance and installation to investigate the complex intersections of identity, belonging, power and exclusion. She studied International Relations at the University of Toronto, photography at Toronto Metropolitan University and cultural studies at the University of Zagreb. Cindy has spent years exploring the micro-narratives within the social constructs of statehood, borders, penal systems, immigration policies, and how power is intertwined in the prosaic mechanisms of daily life. Important to her practice is bringing voices, situations and complexity forward, engaging with people and place, and documenting the conditions of this time while generating dialogue and curiosity.  

Cindy Blažević (CA) "The Kid Who Sits Next to You in Class" - Helphoto 2023
Cindy Blažević (CA) "The Kid Who Sits Next to You in Class" - Helphoto 2023