By Eh Khu Hser, born 2000 in Thailand
This beautiful and tender piece is a recreation of Eh Khu’s house that her parents built in a refugee camp in Thailand. Born here, Eh Khu lived in a refugee camp all her life until arriving to Utica a few years ago. This shift in reality is striking and I think of the impulse to want to place the past into the present and unite the two realities in this way. This was a very touching piece.
Claire Moo, born 1999, Burma
This idea started as a public garden where you can grow your own crops, and gradually turned into what appears as a utopian island. A lot of tenderness and steady momentum went into this work. Some of the participants had not had the opportunity to create artwork previously and so it was quite moving to see the potential and flare that came out during the workshops!
Are Da Kar, born 1999, Burma
This is a creation of Are Da Kar’s ideal home! I like the glamour and boldness of this work. Are Da Kar is really looking into the future and creating a desired and invented object in the context of the present.
Haneen AlSaad, born 1999 and Palestinian & Islam Mohammed from Sudan worked collaboratively to create a model proposal for a Mosque that they would like to see existing in Utica. Utica has two mosques built by the Bosnian community but they differ in design to the mosques seen in Arab countries. It would be incredible to see this beautiful white Mosque exist in life scale one day in Utica.
Salsabeel Qarqouz, who is from Syria, was the youngest participant and most recent arrival to Utica. Although shy and apprehensive initially, Salsabeel flourished in the workshops with energy, spirit and imagination . She utilised all the materials offered in a beautiful and poetic way. Salsabeel spoke the least, partly because language was a slight barrier, but her internal world spoke volumes through this work.
Kawthar Qarqouz is the older sister of Salsabeel. She created a conceptual monument, describing each step as a set of challenges faced by a refugee arriving to a new country. If one is able to overcome all the challenges such as language, education and the emotional difficulties then hope opens up to a future and career that is desired by that person. I was struck by the intelligence and alertness of Kawthar, there was an inquisitive maturity about her and I am intrigued to see what the future holds for her as I feel she will accomplish a lot.
Dzejla Bungar, born 1996, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dzejla’s very encompassing vision was for a museum and sports ground to be built in Utica. The museum would showcase the dynamic mix of cultural backgrounds and influences in Utica and thereby focus on a fair representation of everyone who has played a part in shaping what Utica is today. I’d love to think that one day such a museum will exist.
Selma Jasencic, born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, works at the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees as an Immigrant Community Navigator.
Selma chose to create a piece depicting Stari Most (Old Bridge) that was famously bombed during the Yugoslav Civil War in the 90s. The bridge was built during the Ottoman empire in the 16th century and remains one of the most beautiful landmarks in the country. I remember as a child in London seeing the news that the bridge had collapsed. My parents gasped in disbelief, it was a moment when everyone stopped and thought, the war has really gone too far now. Every moment of the war felt this way of course but this moment was deeply symbolic of a collective wound. There was a feeling of no return, the destruction of a historic heritage, a monument that contained such a rich and complex history with the slow passage of time across centuries contained in its aged stone. It is a painful history of empires and invasions but as time has weaved itself around daily living the monuments that exist today are seen as a source of pride in what was overcome and they came to represent peaceful living. Some hope returned in Stari Most’s reconstruction, completed in 2004, where the original stone and rubble that fell into Neretva was salvaged and used to rebuild the bridge. Selma’s piece depicts both the wound and the beauty and depth that result from reparative processes.
A week later we had a pop up exhibition of these works and an article in the local newspaper! It was so great seeing it all installed together. And a great turnout!!