Class photo wall provides a unique visual tribute

By Heather Johnson

Participant_wall gallery

Enrique Payeras from Colombia checks out some of Cigi’s class photos during the recent Latin America-Canada Grain Industry Program in September.

It’s not uncommon during Cigi programs to find participants searching the seemingly endless collection of class photos that line the walls extending along three hallways where Cigi’s classrooms and staff offices are located. Each participant from every program held at Cigi since 1973 has received a photo, a way to remember their Cigi experience and the people they shared it with. In its own way, the ‘photo wall’ has become a visual tribute to the thousands of international grain customers (who – alphabetically speaking – stretch from Algeria to Zimbabwe), plus the Canadian farmers and industry representatives that have come to Cigi, not to mention documenting how styles in dress and hair have changed over the past 44 years. Currently the photo wall features 500 images from 2001 to 2016.  Each year the oldest set of photos is removed to make room for the latest additions. The entire class photo archive now stands at 889 photos and counting.

Every photo tells a story

Those who peruse the images on the walls are sometimes searching for a colleague or a younger version of themselves if they attended a Cigi program in years past. Sometimes the search hits closer to home when participants seek out family members. That was the case for Abdelhakim Djelti, who recently attended the Algeria OAIC Executive Program at the end of August. Abdelhakim was in search of a class photo from 1995 when his father, Ahmed Djelti, attended the Algeria-Canada Durum Wheat Program. No longer on the wall, a copy of the photo was printed for him from the archives. Abdelhakim proudly points to his father, standing in the second row, amongst the other participants. Now retired, Ahmed worked for the Office Algérien Interprofessionnel des Céréales (OAIC) for 34 years and was in charge of receiving wheat imports at the terminal elevator at the Ghazaouet Port in Algeria when he attended the Cigi program.

Abdelhakim with a copy of his father’s class photo from September 1995.

Abdelhakim, who was 15 years old when Ahmed came to Cigi, still recalls his father talking about his experience in Canada. “I told my Dad then that one day I’m going to go to Canada too,” said Abdelhakim through an interpreter. “It’s like a dream to be here.”

That Abdelhakim would follow in his father’s footsteps and work for OAIC was not necessarily in his plans as a 15-year-old in 1995. Abdelhakim’s brother, who also worked for OAIC, died in an accident in 2004.  A year later the then 25-year-old Abdelhakim asked his father if he could work at OAIC and take the place of his brother, to honour his memory. Today, after a promotion nine months ago, Abdelhakim is a director with the Algerian grain agency.

On a break following a technical session on noodle and pasta processing with Cigi staff, Abdelhakim said the program was a good learning opportunity for him and he was looking forward to returning to Algeria to compare notes with his Dad on their respective Cigi experiences. “My Dad has fond memories of his program. He talked a lot about Arnold (Arnold Tremere, former Cigi Executive Director, who passed away in 2008). He was very happy to know that I was coming here.”

wall01Abdelhakim has a young daughter of his own and while it’s too soon to know what her career path will be, if it leads her to Cigi, there will be a spot on the photo wall reserved for her too.