A lot of ink is spilled every day on border issues, causing the mention of immigration to prompt images of the usual suspects — ICE agents, coyotes, and crossings in the night from the south. But behind the headlines, there is a whole world of newcomers in our midst.
This Thursday is the opening reception for Wurzbach Manor, an exhibit at the Central Library that contains the self-told chronicles of the Niyonkuru, Day, and Paw Moo families, immigrants from Tanzania, New Orleans, and Burma. They have fled war and catastrophe at home and now live in the Wurzbach Manor apartments in north SA.
The exhibit, which features photography, drawing, video, and poetry, is a collaboration between the three families and artist Joey Fauerso, writer Jenny Browne, educator Ryan Sprott, and photographer Jason Reed. This ongoing two-year-long project is the latest effort of the Borderland Collective, a group that was founded in 2007 by Reed, assistant professor of photography at Texas State University in San Marcos and Sprott, a teacher at Mead Elementary in SA. Though assisted by arts professionals, the families whose stories are on display lead each project.
Refugees from Somalia, Burundi, and Rwanda also live in the Wurzbach Manor apartments, but the Day family, who fled New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home, prefers to avoid the term. What they have in common with families from distant lands is an experience that drove them away from their place, and a coming to grips with an unexpected life here in SA, a city they never intended to live in.
The Niyonkuru family fled civil war in Rwanda, landing in refugee camps in Tanzania before finding sanctuary in this country. The Paw Moo are members of the Karen ethnic group who have resisted the military leaders of Burma for decades.
Over the last two years the artists and Wurzbach families have worked together and have created their own international community on the Northside. What we will see at the library is not art that was made to be sold to the public, but something of different value — notes to neighbors, stories told within the circle of family and friends. The pictures and words put on public view are shared with trust and generosity, a sort of living altar that commemorates lives past and future, filled with tumult and the sometimes unnoticed risk of being alive.
Free, 5:30-7:30pm Thu, June 23, 600 Soledad, (210) 207-2500, borderlandcollective.org. Exhibit on view to July 31.