Artist Produces Little Residences In the Recollections Of Refugees

Enlarge this imageThe white Peugeot 405, the car or truck of option for your Syrian magic formula police, is parked outside a house in Damascus. While in the diorama’s higher left corner hangs a digicam, suggesting surveillance.Rodney Nelsonhide captiontoggle captionRodney NelsonThe white Peugeot 405, the automobile of preference with the Syrian mystery police, is parked exterior a home in Damascus. In the diorama’s upper still left corner hangs a camera, suggesting surveillance.Rodney NelsonEditor’s Notice: This tale was up-to-date on Dec. 29 to replicate the new cut-off date for that exhibition. To start with glance, it appears just like a charming exhibition: Ten old-fashioned suitcases, having a miniature diorama in each individual. The styles, with their meticulously thorough furnishings, remind you of dollhouses. Then you location snaking tangles of exposed wires, rubble-strewn streets and blasted chandeliers. A kid’s tricycle is gritty, covered in dust. Art & Design In U.N. Art Exhibition, Syrian Artist Unpacks Refugees’ BaggageIn U.N. Art Exhibition, Syrian Artist Unpacks Refugees’ Baggage Listen 3:353:35 Toggle more optionsDownloadEmbedEmbed”>Transcript Artist and architect Mohamad Hafez and writer, speaker and student Ahmed Badr created the project to humanize the lives and stories of refugees, they say. The stories and homes could belong to “your neighbors, friends, kids your kids go to school with,” says Badr, 19, a sophomore at Wesleyan University, who is from Iraq and is himself a refugee. The suitcases further stand for “the memories and the emotional baggage that we all have and carry with us,” says Hafez, who was born in Damascus and originally came to the U.S. to study at Iowa State University. The artwork installation, “Unpacked: Refugee Baggage,” is on display at the UNICEF Center in New York through January 19. Its creators are trying to arrange future venues for their exhibit. Badr and Hafez began working together on the project inside the summer of 2017, every bringing a different skill set to the mix. Badr is responsible for “the tale part and the audio,” which includes interviews with the refugees and additional commentary from Badr. Hafez provides the visual aspects. Together they interviewed ten families that had resettled in New Haven, where Hafez now lives. Hafez created the dioramas based on those stories. Because there were no photographs, only reminiscences, he asked interviewees to “describe the furniture, what did the room look like, tell me about your favorite room, what is your favorite object within the house, what did you take with you when you remaining.” And then Hafez went back to his studio and started modeling.Here is a mini-guided tour of a few of the dioramas: Enlarge this imageA mi sile struck the Badr family residence in Iraq in 2006.Rodney Nelsonhide captiontoggle captionRodney NelsonA mi sile struck the Badr family household in Iraq in 2006.Rodney NelsonBadr Family: Bombed in Baghdad The diorama displays three rooms. Within the ma sive holes in every single wall, says Badr, you can see the trajectory of the mi sile that on July 25, 2006 flew through the Baghdad house in which Badr and his family lived. The bomb entered via the bathroom wall, pa sed through the living room and into the kitchen. There it also punched holes in three metal canisters, which the family had just a few days before emptied of the natural gas they contained. That was fortunate; had the canisters been full, the whole neighborhood might have gone up in flames. The bathroom and kitchen are lined with dirt and dust; an array of metallic debris looms overhead. Yet the living room is mostly intact, a verse in the Koran in elaborate calligraphy seemingly untouched in a golden frame, and a pot of brightly-colored flowers blooming inside the foreground suggestions, perhaps, of hope. Within a week of the bombing, the family remaining for Syria, then made their way to the United States. When Badr to start with saw the diorama, he Louis Williams Jersey says, “I felt as if I entered my house with the very first time in 11 years. I never thought I would see it again.” The dwelling in Damascus that Mohamad Hafez’s mother had to abandon.Rodney Nelsonhide captiontoggle captionRodney NelsonMohamad and Mom: Elegance In Damascus “I grew up in a house [in Damascus] where guests and family members were always present,” says Hafez. The formal living room was the central meeting place. The tasteful Baroque sofa that comprises the only furniture while in the diorama reflects “the elegance and mood of the property that my mom built,” says Hafez. His parents and other members of his family now live in other countries. That disruption is symbolized by the series of bullet holes punched through a backdrop made up of bleached and broken bricks and an elegant golden French wall hanging. “As an artist and an architect, I am very interested from the way that architecture tells the tale of people’s lives,” he says. In fact, no human figures appear in any of the dioramas; the rooms themselves tell the tales. The car belonging to the Shaham family was damaged in a 2003 fire at their dwelling in Mosul.Rodney Nelsonhide captiontoggle captionRodney NelsonUm Shaham: Engulfed By Flames In Mosul A singed car sits at the center of a desolate scene of stray tires, a barren tree, and scattered debris. The diorama depicts the aftermath of a 2003 fire that engulfed the house of Um Shaham and her family. The ground beneath their car is coated with sand, which neighbors threw on the car to quench the fire but is tinged with red to mirror the burns she and her son suffered. The scene speaks of a “demolished life,” says Hafez. “You can’t make sense of everything she went through,” and it’s “intentional that you can’t figure out and make sense of every single object there.” You can nonethele s see during the background an arched doorway reflective of traditional Iraqi architecture. Shaham’s husbad was subsequently killed by a stray bullet while driving his taxi. She and her children went to Turkey, and from there to the United States.Aymen and Ghena evacuated their house in Homs, Syria, when the civil war hit their neighborhood.Rodney Nelsonhide captiontoggle captionRodney NelsonAyman and Ghena: Fleeing From Homs, Syria”When the army is marching through your village, you have to run,” says Hafez. “Everybody is at risk, and people do not get a chance to pick up their belongings.” Teenage siblings Ayman and Ghena learned that le son when, in 2011, the civil war arrived in their neighborhood in Homs, Syria, forcing them to evacuate immediately. Left sitting on their living room table were the coffee cups and coffee pot depicted in this diorama. The wavy art-deco style aquamarine sofa is empty, the sewing machine inside the corner is still, the doors of the elaborately decorated cabinets closed shut. But gushing out from your fractured ceiling overhead are large, weird-shaped chunks of rubble, peculiar metallic objects that could be damaged pipes or dented nails, and haphazardly hanging collections of snarled wires. “It’s the guts of the building hanging out but it’s also the life that was inside the building gutted out of it,” says Hafez. In her residence in Iran, Fereshteh ran a basement school for undocumented Afghani children.Rodney Nelsonhide captiontoggle captionRodney NelsonFereshteh: Tehran, Iran This basement scene of cozy cushions, prayer rugs and open books, surrounded by bare beams and rusty pipes, depicts “life within the face of destruction,” says Badr. It was in this small room in Tehran that Fereshteh, born in Afghanistan but raised in Iran, presided over a top secret school for undocumented Afghani children not allowed to attend state-run schools because of their immigrant status. Fereshteh is currently a profe sor of Farsi at New Haven College and studying for a nursing degree. The avocado green suitcase that properties Fereshteh’s diorama belonged to her mother. Other suitcases in the exhibit were donated by families of refugees during the Nazi era. “It is the belongings of yesterday’s [refugees] telling the story of today’s,” Hafez comments. Diane Cole writes for many publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Jewish Week, and is book columnist for that Psychotherapy Networker. She is the author of the memoir After Great Pain: A New Life Emerges. Her website is Continue reading