Immigrants Find Home at Cantor Art Center

It’s May 1, a perfect Saturday morning, a day to be stimulated by the art of immigrants. I leave home in Redwood City and drive to the recently re-opened Cantor Art Center at Stanford to see the exhibit, When Home Won’t Let You Stay.

“OY/YO” at Cantor Art Center Entrance
“OY/YO” at Cantor Art Center Entrance

A bright yellow “YO” greets us at the entrance. For language teachers, here’s the significance:

“I” in Spanish

A greeting

“Oy vey,” a Yiddish term of fatigue

And in Japanese, emphasis.

Artistically, it’s reflective, multidimensional, and such a happy invitation to the museum.

When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art

Rodin’s bronzes and African Art are regular exhibits on the first floor. But today I’m interested in the exhibit, When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art, particularly the woven map by Reena Saini Kallat’s, an artist based in Bombay.

Woven Chronicles - Immigrants Find Home at Cantor Art Center Tillism
Reena Saini Kallat’s “Woven Chronicle.” Focus on South Asia

Upstairs, Reena Saini Kallat’s “Woven Chronicle”is the highlight of the show. A Bombay native, Kallat traces “migratory paths, lines of movement” of humans worldwide with finely woven wires across a map of the world. Strategically placed speakers bring the observer into the complexity of human movement.

Reena Siani Kallat – Woven Chronicle

As someone who has spent a lifetime teaching English to immigrants, I connected with the work of Aliza Nisenbaum. She has done the same at the Immigrant Movement International, a community space in Queens started by the Cuban-born artist and activist Tania Bruguerahe. Nisenbaum mentions how she prefers listening her students’ stories. And from there, she is inspired to create.

Other artists presenting the concept of home

Hayv Kahraman, based in Los Angeles and born in Baghdad shows gendered home spaces in a fluid combination of a Baghdadi miniature and a renaissance nude.  And Yto Barrada, born in France, declares herself a Tangier native. As a citizen of Morocco and France, she appreciates her ability to cross the border freely and presents the lack of freedom that others face.

Ending with the poetry of Warsan Shire

What touched me the most from this visit was this poem by Warsan Shire, a British Somali poet:

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well…

Create Cultural Memories through Literature and Art

Read more poems by Warsan Shire in this collection, Teaching my Mother How to Give Birth

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