THE IMMIGRANT ISSUE


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Grace Ali. Headshot. 2014editor’s note

.“. . . All immigrants are artists because they create a life, a future, from nothing but a dream.
The immigrant’s life is art in its purest form.”
—Patricia Engel, It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris

I’m an immigrant. I know the blessing and the agony of leaving one’s homeland to carve out a life in a foreign land. In an interview for The Atlantic, another immigrant, Haitian-born writer Edwidge Danticat, steeps the activism of the immigrant in the poetics of an art practice:

“That experience of touching down in a totally foreign place is like having a blank canvas: You begin with nothing, but stroke by stroke you build a life. This process requires everything great art requires—risk-tasking, hope, a great deal of imagination, all the qualities that are the building blocks of art. You must be able to dream something nearly impossible and toil to bring it into existence.”

Yes—thank you Danticat. This notion, as Patricia Engel points out above, that “the immigrant life is art in its purest form,” prompted the journey of this issue. I am deeply unsettled about how our global society regards the immigrant. The term itself has become the new dirty word. Where some see autonomy, others see dependency. Where some see courage, others see weakness. Where some see a desire to take charge of one’s destiny, others see a threat. Where some see dignity, others see failure. 

Curated here in The Immigrant Issue are ten Artists OF NOTE whose work reinforces the notion of the immigrant as artist. Some trouble and redefine the very idea of ‘the immigrant.’  Some directly engage with present global immigration debates while avoiding the vitriol those debates are steeped in. Others challenge preconceived notions about the ‘other,’ the ‘foreign,’ and the ‘outlier.’ And some poignantly and apolitically shine a light on the universal themes of departure, arrival, loss, uprootedness, persistence and faith. 

Perhaps, at some point in our lives we are all a kind of immigrant—embarking on the work, the hard labor and toil, privately and publicly, to dismantle one life to make a new one. Grace Aneiza Ali 

 

Artists OF NOTE:

| Gaiutra Bahadur | CatherineMarie Davalos | Andil Gosine | Nathalie Jaspar | Katherine Sarkissian (Jonsar Studios) |
| Swati Khurana | Berette Macaulay | Encarni Pindado | Robert Johnson (Jonsar Studios) | Carla Torres |

Digital Curator: Grace Aneiza Ali

Writers: Grace Aneiza Ali, Clarence A. Haynes, Ben Levison, Berette Macaulay, Misha McGlown, Nalini Mohabir, Asmara Pelupessy, Rajul Punjabi.

 


 

TRINIDAD/CANADA

Andil Gosine. Kala Pani

Our Holy Waters and Mine: The Art of Andil Gosine

BY NALINI MOHABIR 

From George Village in the south of Trinidad, Andil Gosine migrated to Canada with his parents as a child, and now resides between the pull of Toronto and New York. Like his life, his work is in motion, between spaces of desire, given meaning through the histories in which he walks his way in the world—as an Indo-Caribbean diasporic man.

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INDIA

Swati Khurana. Letters.Swati Khurana on Rituals, Resistance, and Assimilation

BY MISHA McGLOWN

Red was the color of Swati Khurana’s wedding sari; she describes it as the color of innocence and of love. She recalls bold, colorful swatches, ornate costumes and gold trimmings from her mother’s closet. It is this traditional Indian aesthetic with which she identifies and pulls into her practice.

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MEXICO

R1-02112-003AA View from Both Sides:
Stories of Migration by Photographer Encarni Pindado

BY ASMARA PELUPESSY 

Journeying alongside migrants in Mexico, photographer Encarni Pindado has gained the trust and access to tell integrated, truthful stories about migration. She believes, “Stories of migration have been reported in the media from many different angles, but rarely told by the migrants themselves.”

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US/MEXICO

Catherine Marie Davalos. Immigrant Issue

CatherineMarie Davalos: Dancing Across Borders

BY CLARENCE A. HAYNES 

The act of crossing borders, both literally and figuratively, is something that artist CatherineMarie Davalos deeply understands. As an acclaimed dancer, choreographer and director of Davalos Dance Company, she has crafted works that honor her Mexican/multicultural heritage and the experiences of her community while traversing other barriers around identity.

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US

The Immigrant Issue. Cover. Jonsar Studios

Jonsar Studios: Framing the Immigrant

BY BEN LEVISON 

Like many successful social movements, stories often ignite the empathy needed to dissolve political boundaries of us vs. them. That empathy is the singular, driving force behind Jonsar’s art; they understand the power of the image and remain optimistic that even if they affect just one person at a time it might help change way America discusses, perceives and treats immigrants.

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WORLD

FinalIllustration

Larry and Friends—A Celebration of Immigration and Diversity

BY RAJUL PUNJABI 

Carla Torres, who hails from Ecuador, and Nathalie Jaspar, who is of Belgian and Venezuelan heritage, rely on their current city, New York, for inspiration. While much of art, literature, and media often focus on larger struggles of immigrant life, “Larry and Friends” brings awareness to the mini triumphs that resonate in our day-to-day.

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GUYANA| INDIA

bahadur_705x404-698x400Gaiutra Bahadur Charts the ‘Coolie’ Woman’s Odyssey

BY GRACE ANEIZA ALI 

Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture is pregnant with questions, profound and equally haunting. And fittingly so. The saga of what a quarter of a million ‘coolie’ women endured as they left India for the Caribbean under the British system of 20th century indentureship requires interrogation and accountability. To excavate the stories of these women, Bahadur bravely turns inward to her own family.

 

 

SIERRA LEONE| JAMAICA 

Bernadine©SeBiArt01A Mythology of Memory —Photo Essay

BY BERETTE MACAULAY 

Though I will be a stranger in my land of origin, the importance of this journey is to bridge the gaps in my identity and my parents’ painful sabotage of identity. I want to know them in the historical and current political context of Sierra Leone; I want to know our story stripped of myth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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