Memories We Carry
The first time I arrived in Syracuse was in 2016. I was intrigued by the fact that so many things reminded me of my homeland, Syria. The signature hills that define the City are complemented by many small structural details and it is those visual nuances, which are similar to the architectural arrangements that permeate my birthplace and hometown of Damascus. How windows are framed and designed accompanied by other designs and construction elements that can be easily observed are everywhere. It is intriguing that these elements are similar to things that can be seen lands in different parts of the globe. And that is how immigrant art is formed. It is a complex experience of past memories combined with recent experiences.
Immigration has been a very long complex process throughout centuries. Humans always look for opportunities and new places to re-start their lives. Social life today has become so complicated as humans try to find refuge in the many details that encompass their lives. Many displaced people hope to find refuge in the new land where they were resettled to. Refugees and immigrants carry lots of ‘bags’ and cherished memories. Sometimes, art frames newfound experiences and from that milieu, people create artwork. New York State has always been the place for resettled refugees and immigrants. It started and was initially enabled at Ellis island and continues with thousands of refugees that are arriving to United States every year.
One day and while I was painting, I discovered that my artwork is the best tool that helps bring a sense of home to me and that’s how I created many art pieces, by inserting home in my art. Like my experience, many humans and resettled people use art every day to express the home sickness they go through by creating artwork to release all memories and create a home far away from home.
Visual arts and painting are not the only expressive ways to reflect homesickness. Music is another form of art to bring the tunes that immigrants and refugees grew up hearing and continued to hear in the various stages of adulthood. A case in point is Ahmad Khalaf, who came to Syracuse three years ago. He resettled in Syracuse after a long journey from his home in Homs, Syria to Jordan. His musical instrument that he performs on is a middle eastern instrument called Oud.
“When I perform, I remember the past where my home and tradition where there. My soul travel back home to where I was born” he adds “I remember all the sad memories, and my music become sad”
Maissaa Al Nas was born in Damascus, Syria. Being raised in Syria, Meilaweih or whirling Dervishes are a traditional images and habits that she saw, either in folklore or religious events. The imagery of whirling dervishes is always present to remind us of how to stay humble and simple. Inspired by Sufiism founded in Konya (Qonya), Anatolia by the Persian Sufi poet Rūmī (d. 1273), whose popular title mawlānā (Arabic: “our master”) gave the order its name.
Oded Halahmy arrived from the ancient lands of Iraq and Israel where he was born and raised. Palm trees and middle eastern food represent and enrich those memories that he grew up with. Halahmy has a rich personal history of exile, migration, and travels. Born in the old city of Baghdad in 1938, this artist came from a family with deep roots in ancient Babylonian culture. He refers to his home as the “land of palm trees, pomegranates, olives and dates.” Although New York has been his home for over 45 years, his memories of Iraq left a long-standing imprint on his life and work. While he creates playful figurative sculptures in wood and bronze, he fills his work with images that brings imagery of the landscape, architecture and rich colors of the Middle East