The Vhils mural pays homage to the Portuguese women’s trade union movement in Canada

Wall titled by “Scratching the Surface” (“Scratching the Surface”, in literal translation) illustrates the faces of figures from the Action Cleaner movement, associated with the Casa de São Cristóvão, highlights Idalina Azevedo, one of the strike leaders known as “Wildcats”, at Torres TD, in Toronto, in 1974, made several rights available to cleaners.

“It was a story that really touched me. We decided to do a mural, not only for the surviving women, but for the entire movement that emerged to create better working conditions for the first wave of Portuguese immigration to Canada”, said Alexandre Farto, who better known as Vhils.

The artist explains that the mural is “very special” because “it is a way that is found to honor not only the community, but also the society in which it operates”.

To the Vice President of the City of Toronto, Ana Bailão, this work acknowledges “a nearly forgotten part of the labor movement”.

“These women, mostly Portuguese, were an inspiration when they decided to fight against anti-immigrant prejudice and for better working conditions, to be precise in office buildings in downtown Toronto and in the Ontario parliament”, he emphasized.

Former union leader Idalina Azevedo points out very emotional in his speech, in this tribute, because, as he put it, “they almost did a mural without [ela] have knowledge”.

“I’ve been in Canada for 59 years, I still don’t speak English very well. Canada is very good, but we have to get used to it. I have the names Portugal and Canada on my chest”, he said.

Idalina Azevedo, despite her age, still remembers, with a few smiles in between, that when “six cops” wanted to arrest him, during a protest, “they ended up taking the boss away”.

As the person in charge of the realization of this project together with Vhils, the cultural attaché of the Portuguese embassy in Canada, Rita Sousa Tavares, highlighting the importance of urban art “conveying these messages to everyone who passes through the murals”.

“This is not a situation that has not been one hundred percent resolved. Maybe it’s the Portuguese community, but in other communities who have arrived and occupied this cleaning service, there are still some obstacles,” he complained.

Little Portugal Commercial Association in Dundas hopes that this mural will become “the reason for many conversations” to “recognize the work” of these women.

“They [empregadas de limpeza, portuguesas] unrecognized, without them we would not have left [a comunidade portuguesa] there is no place. They are very important and continue to be. They are a milestone and are pictured here”, said Anabela Taborda.

Consul General of Portugal in Toronto, José Manuel Carneiro, highlighted that this mural “is testament to the dynamism of the Portuguese community in Canada”.

“This is a community that asserts itself and says that we are here, we are integrated, but, at the same time, we are contributing with something that is ours, so that this country also asserts itself in the world,” he praised.

This project appears initiative of the Deputy Mayor of Toronto, Ana Bailão, of the Little Portugal Commercial Association in Dundas and the Portuguese Embassy in Canada.

Alexandre Farto (Vhils) was born in Lisbon in 1987, he’s done it Art in 2008, in London, began his activity as an urban artist in 1998, painting walls and trains, on the south bank of the River Tagus.

The mural, the latest work by the Portuguese artist, is located at 1628 Dundas Street West, in Toronto.

Clara Burton

"Geek zombie. Subtly charming social media scholar. Beer enthusiast. Lifelong bacon pioneer."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *