Foreign/Familiar: Immigrants in the Bronx

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FOREIGN/FAMILIAR: IMMIGRANTS IN THE BRONX Presented by the Bronx Council on the Arts January 9 - February 27, 2019 Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos 450 Grand Concourse at 149th Street Room C-190, Bronx, NY 10451 Dennis Redmoon Darkeem | Nicky Enright Kitchen Table Digital Diaspora Collective Tijay Mohammed | Luis Stephenberg Alers | Musah Swallah Foreign/Familiar investigates displacement and belonging through the work of seven Bronx visual and media artists. Their works are influenced, inspired by, respond to, or revolve around issues of voluntary and involuntary exile, immigration, diaspora, and statelessness. The title of the exhibition reflects on the usage of foreign/foreigner as an ever expanding tool to exclude vast sections of the country from the national imaginary. At a time when immigrant and refugee communities are directly centered and vilified in the public discourse, and a traumatizing news cycle reiterates and perpetuates these ideas, these artists articulate individual notions of movement through personal and nuanced strategies. The works in this exhibition span across and weave through overlapping historical eras and locations, including exploring the legacies and intersections of the transatlantic slave trade with current migrations of African descendent peoples in the Bronx, touching upon memories of landscape and domestic spaces, and questioning inclusion and nationalism through prose and performance. Through these pieces, the artists pose questions in order to take a look at how the way we are experiencing our now is fed from past rhetoric and anxieties of the nation states we reside within. Curated collectively by the Bronx Council on the Arts, the exhibition was generated from an open call for Bronx based artists.

BRONX COUNCIL ON THE ARTS Founded by visionary community leaders in 1962, the Bronx Council on the Arts (BCA) is dedicated to advancing cultural equity in the Bronx. From creative placemaking and arts advocacy to the provision of services for artists and programming for youth and seniors, BCA was the first organization in the Bronx to focus equally on supporting local artists, serving the community, and catalyzing relationships between the two. BCA serves a constituency of some 1.4 million residents, 1,500+ artists and 250 arts and community-based organizations with cultural services and arts programs, including grants, workshops, arts advocacy, and cutting-edge exhibitions. Over the years, BCA has adapted its programs to serve the ever-changing needs of the borough’s cultural ecosystem, evolving into an acclaimed cultural hub for the entire Bronx. For more information please visit: THE HOSTOS CENTER FOR THE ARTS & CULTURE The Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture of Hostos Community College / CUNY was created in 1982 to serve the cultural needs of residents of the South Bronx who do not have the means or the inclination to attend arts events in Manhattan. In so doing, the Hostos Center strives to create forums in which the cultural heritages of its audiences are affirmed and nurtured. Its patrons, however, come from all over the metropolitan area, making the Center an institution of regional importance. In its state-of-the-art facilities (a museum-grade art gallery, operated jointly by the Center and the Bronx Council on the Arts, and two theaters of 900 and 360 seats each), the Hostos Center presents renowned visual and performing artists as well as local professional artists. HOSTOS COMMUNITY COLLEGE Celebrating its 50th year in 2018, Eugenio María de Hostos Community College has been an educational agent for change that has been transforming and improving the quality of life in the South Bronx and neighboring communities. Since 1968, Hostos has been a gateway to intellectual growth and socioeconomic mobility, as well as a point of departure for lifelong learning, success in professional careers, and transfer to advanced higher education programs. Hostos offers 27 associate degree programs and two certificate programs that facilitate easy transfer to The City University of New York’s (CUNY) four-year colleges or baccalaureate studies at other institutions. The College has an award-winning Division of Continuing Education & Workforce Development that offers professional development courses and certificate-bearing workforce training programs. Hostos is part of CUNY, the nation’s leading urban public university, which serves more than 500,000 students at 24 colleges.

PUBLIC PROGRAMS All events are free and open to the public

Opening Reception Wednesday, January 9 6:00 - 9:00 pm Family Reunions Project: A Virtual Reality Reunion Wednesday, February 6, 6:00-9:00 pm Home with América is an interactive room-scale VR documentary created by Family Reunions Project founder, Alvaro M Morales. Gladys is an undocumented immigrant living in Los Angeles. She hasn’t returned to her native Lima, Peru in 22 years. Like countless immigrants from her generation— the parents of “DREAMers”— she cannot travel abroad to embrace a dying loved one. Gladys’s mother, América, recently lost her ability to walk and talk due to illness. Gladys and América have effectively lost the only way they can communicate across borders. Exploring themes of nostalgia, family separation, and home, Home with América follows Gladys’s act of poetic resistance to physical borders. Gladys finds a way, however imperfect and ephemeral, to connect with her mother. Closing Reception Wednesday, February 27 6:00 - 9:00 pm Youth Programs Last spring, the Bronx Council on the Arts launched its much awaited Youth Arts Engagement Program at Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos. This initiative seeks to increase Bronx youth’s awareness of local arts, while encouraging youth to embark on a life of ongoing culture engagement they can relate to. Youth benefit from free, age appropriate art activities that foster critical thinking, interviewing and public speaking skills. Conversations and Q&A with artists—who often reside in the same neighborhoods as the youth, and who share similar racial and cultural identities, as well as nations of origin—address relevant cultural identity themes and social issues familiar to local youth. We encourage organizations, schools and others working with youth aged 14-25 to participate in one of these exciting free group sessions, offering youth an experience they will never forget. Please contact Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos at 718-518-6728.

ARTISTS Dennis RedMoon Darkeem is a visual and performance artist focused on highlighting the importance of the South Bronx community in my art. I am currently working on a series of two and three-dimensional works that include recycling items found in the community and re-purposing them to create fine art. I am inspired to create art work based on the familiar objects that I view through my daily travels. I discover elements in existing architecture and among everyday items found within the home. I ultimately set out to express a meaningful story about events in my life and those found with the communities I work. I utilize different media in the creation of my work. This allows for great versatility and a rich viewer experience as the eye uncovers the multiple layers that often characterize mixed media art. Since my work as a professional artist has commenced in the early 2000s, it has evolved into critiquing social and political issues affecting US and indigenous Native American culture. Much of my art has focused on issues like institutionalized racism and classism, jarring stereotypes, and displacement of people of color. As a multi-media artist, I express these motifs through fine art, drawings, paintings, collages, photography, sculpture, and installations. Incorporating a craftwork aesthetic has connected tradition with the contemporary. This is prevalent in many of my pieces. I seek to create a discussion through color, texture, symbolism, and geometric designs. My work evokes a historical memory and questions the status quo.

Kitchen Table Digital Diaspora Collective Through collective practice and social intervention Kitchen Table Digital Diaspora Collective explores aesthetic/political relationships between media//time+space. We carve out the interdependencies of BlackFuture imaginations and ‘deposits of knowledge’ to make dynamic feminist art/research projects for the 21st century. Collective members are Peggy Piesche, a literary and Cultural Studies scholar based in Berlin whose work is centered in Black European Studies – her book length research project “Concepts of Future in MediaSpaces” is exploring how Diaspora is negotiated through notions of race and digitized collective identities; and kara lynch, a time-based artist living in exilio in the Bronx, NY – her art practice centers lives – Black, Indigenous, Immigrant, queer, and feminist -- lived outside the frame of official history. Major projects include: ‘Invisible’ a speculative installation and performance project and ‘Black Russians,’ a feature length documentary.

Nicky Enright is an artist, educator, and DJ whose multimedia work has been exhibited at venues in NYC including Exit Art, Smack Mellon, the Bronx Museum, Rush Arts, and both Armory and Scope shows, the Kennedy Center, the Museum of the Americas in Washington D.C., and the Emerson Gallery Berlin, in Germany. He holds a BFA from The Cooper Union and a Hunter College MFA. He has executed numerous public commissions, including for the MTA Arts & Design (NYC), the Smithsonian Institution, and NASA (D.C.). He has received various residencies including a fellowship in socially engaged art from A Blade of Grass Foundation, and he is an apexart Global Fellow. Born in Ecuador, he lives and works in the Bronx, NY. I am an artist, writer, DJ, and educator whose multimedia works explore the theory and practice of borders. I address international mythologies, notions of citizenship, perception, and belonging. I strive to question, understand, and illuminate concepts of origins and boundaries, and systems of global languages, capital, and culture.

Ahmed Tijay Mohammed’s multimedia works works have been exhibited globally including the Longwood Art Gallery, Lincoln Medical Center NY, The National Museum of Ghana, and Ravel D’Art, Cote d’ Ivore. He has collaborated in organizing workshops for numerous communities and organizations like the Studio Museum Harlem, Wallach Gallery Columbia University NY, University of Ghana, and Pinto community Trinidad and Tobago. He is a recipient of Arts Fund and Artist for Community Grants from the Bronx Council on the Arts through the New York State Council on the Arts, and was a Create Change Artist with The Laundromat Project NY. He was a participant in Engaging Artist Fellowship and Community Workers Training NY among others. Tijay is devoted to creating and volunteering in societal integration programs. Born in Ghana he currently lives and works in Bronx NY. In my multimedia site-specific installations and community engagement projects such as free to public workshops and story circles, I assemble day-to-day objects into symbolic engaging discoveries as group portraits and communicate the hopefulness in discarded remains (fabric scraps, Metrocards etc.) of our lives that are often overlooked, forgotten or no longer valuable but recall the history of its previous breath and proprietors. This process is inspired by “Sankofa,” an Adinkra symbol of West Africa which means “learning from the past for a prosperous future.” I hope that I insinuate greater relationship to our diaries, aspirations, letdowns, and contemporary lives in addressing issues of migration, racial, violent extremism and gender equality. Intimate and profound affairs lead the discourse between my work and the audience. I like thinking about ideas that will solve the problem of humanity. The overall inspiration for my practice is a quote from Nelson Mandela; “It is in your hands, to make a better world for all who live in it.”

Musah Swallah is a visual artist born and raised in Accra, Ghana. Musah studied visual arts at La Presec High School, followed by an apprenticeship with artists Mozzay and Akirash. Through their mentorship, Musah was able to forge a career as an artist. Musah sought to share these same opportunities with the next generation of artists in Nima. As a founding member and Artistic Director of Nima Muhinmanchi Art, Musah taught drawing and painting to youth from his community and led art initiatives that promoted urban transformation. Recently, Musah participated in the New York Foundation for the Arts, Immigrant Mentoring Program. He has also exhibited at Calabar Gallery (NYC) and the Stimson Center (DC). Musah participated in residencies in Italy, Kenya, and Cote d’Ivoire. He has taken part in exhibitions and projects with the Foundation for Contemporary Art - Ghana, Alliance Française d’Accra, Accra[dot]Alt, Nubuke Foundation, Invisible Borders Trans-African Photographers, and W.E.B. Du Bois Centre. He has participated in the Chale Wote Street Art Festival yearly as a muralist since 2011. Musah’s work has been featured internationally on CNN and in the Afro-Caribbean Design Festival London. For Musah, art is a tool for expressing oneself, creating awareness, and transforming society.

Born and raised in Accra, Ghana, I am a visual artist. My paintings, sculptures, and mixed media works often represent particular stories that reflect Ghana’s cultural values and the everyday life of my homeland. Art becomes a tool for self-expression, creating awareness, provoking dialogue, and transforming society. My artwork speaks to the aspirations of the youth of Ghana, urban environments, and the ongoing process of globalization. Many of the scenes depicted are those of crowded cityscapes much like my own community in Ghana. You can see and feel the unity of community in these painting in the homes: which are closely placed together, and in the people interacting with each other as they go about their daily lives. At the moment, I am focused on making a series of paintings on repurposed wooden panels and on the creation of mixed media pieces consisting of recycled materials. For me, wood is my canvas. I collect wood from various sources and often use scraps, and narrow wooden planks of various shapes, which I fit together to create a painting surface. In the creation of my works, I sketch and carve the surfaces, employ vivid colors and layered imagery, which is meant to evoke striking emotions and convey the deep spiritual drive present in the stories I portray.

Luis Stephenberg Alers was raised in Puerto Rico. He graduated from the Puerto Rican Culture Institute School of Fine Arts, and earned a Master’s degree in painting from the Instituto Allende, Universidad de Guanajuato, Mexico. Since the beginning of his career in the arts, he showed an interest in an experimental and mixed media practice, which he has maintained throughout his professional development. Later in his career he integrated electronic images as visual objects. In the 1970s, with a focused interest in conceptual art, he became cofounder of the Movimiento Sintesista Actualizado in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and the Manifestación Internacional Sintesista for the Arts, at the Human Solidarity School on Suffolk Street, in New York City. He is also one of the organizers of The Bronx Hispanic Festival and The Latin American Art Biennial in Bronx, New York. Stephenberg’s works represent the visual expression of particular historical moments. He uses painting, photography and installation as a form of communication between people and cultures, as well as a method for documenting and memorializing past events. His works investigate the development of art as “idea” and engages the viewer in an examination of his or her life in relation to the events portrayed. Luis lives in New York, where he’s participated in several national and international shows. He also is a curator/alternative exhibit space developer focused on community oriented projects. Stephenberg recognizes the collective development of art as idea and at the same time establishes the principles of synthesis . This way of doing work, seeks in tautology, the parameters to follow in cultural creation. His self described approach to art is represented by the expression of a particular historical moment, the use of art as a form of communication of living social beings and the concept of art as a document which reveals actions. The recent works become ARTCHETYPAL REPOSITORIES from a particular experience. As a member of Las Americas Community, I carry inside the vital information, that identifies Puerto Ricans in the global participation, as a cultural message. The living experience and events that occurs on 1957 through agrarian /industrial revolution in Puerto Rico, determinate the discourse to fallow in the self definition theme, that explore the impression left on the memory, into literary and iconic forms. The figurative analogy of the landscape can be understood as a result of a process in which a set of natural referral components which form the physical

framework of a geographical space, become territory, through a secular history of conquest appropriation as well the immigration of groups their cultural symbolizations. In contrary of the past is the actuality or contemporaneous perception, the urban setting, the exodus and the culture of the distant. In the self identity need the collective subconscious look into the constant balance of changes re-interpreting the origins, this is the art and this is the history of that art.

Deposits of the Future :: how will we be free Kitchen Table Digital Diaspora Collective

“Your country, how came it Yours? . . . Actively we have woven ourselves with the warp and woof of this nation. . . What must be done: to intervene in the present on behalf of the future.” Anton Wilhelm Amo n.d.

In proposing an iteration of ‘Deposits of the Future’ for Open Points of Entry, the Digital Kitchen Table Collective will meditate upon migration, diaspora, and liberation in the ‘New World.’ Central to this will be the crossroads by way of the Caribbean. In this piece we center and speculate the philosophical ideas of Anton Wilhelm Amo, a celebrated and later reviled African scholar. After being kidnapped in the early 1700s from what is now Ghana and sold into the court of the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbûttel, Amo was educated in what is now Germany. To our minds, in his lost dissertation, ‘The Rights of Moors in Europe,’ Amo imagined our future for us - African Descendent peoples carrying our cosmologies and impacting all of what it means to be human in every part of the globe. We honor Amo’s imagination and place it in conversation with that of Black feminist visionaries m. Jacqui Alexander and Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley, we strive to create a critical meditation on legacies of colonialism: slavery and extraction; a mapping of migration between Africa Europe and the Americas; and an exploration of as African Diaspora and Indigenous people - how will we be free. “. . . there is no crossing that is ever undertaken once and for all.” M. Jacqui Alexander 2005 The centerpiece of the installation is an oval mound of demerara sugar shaped to hold a human body. This mound serves as a ritual site and reflecting pool for a floor projection. Visual themes include: the Door of No Return from the Isle du Goree, the Kongo Cosmogram, and the horizon line between sky and sea. Excerpts from Amo’s missing dissertation, M. Alexander’s Pedagogies of Crossing, and Tinsley’s ‘Black Atlantic/Queer Atlantic’ fill an adjacent wall. An audio mashup of the Aria ‘O Paradise’ first hand accounts from the Moria Refugee camp in Greece and news reports from the 2018 Caravan at the border wall between what is now Mexico & the USA loops in background.

This project has been shown as part of Future Africa Visions in Time Exhibition in Germany, Nairobi, Kenya and Harare, Zimbabwe. Keeping the central visual themes and structure of the installation, we expand and revise ‘Deposits of the Future’ to reflect upon legacies of the transatlantic slave trade and current migrations of African Descendent peoples in the Bronx.

Occupy America Originally published in the Riverdale Press October 27, 2011

Nicky Enright

Current immigration debates seem framed by amnesia and willful ignorance. Many citizens conveniently forget the immigrant roots evident in their very names and adopt an anti-immigration, “nativist” stance. Missing in the discussion are the experienced and knowledgeable voices of the vilified people referred to by the dehumanizing and xenophobic term “illegal aliens.” If those voices figured into the dialogue, people would be aware that legal migration to the U.S. has become so slow, scary, fraught and expensive that for many “illegals” it would be literally impossible. American embassies and consulates all over the world display an offensive paranoia that tends to treat non-Americans as criminals. Sometimes they even treat their own citizens as criminals, like when I went to the American embassy in Switzerland and couldn’t enter with my shoulder bag. And the Swiss woman I was with was bluntly denied entry, bag or no bag. It is revealing that this took place in the wealthy, European country of Switzerland. It isn’t hard to imagine how embassies and consulates treat people in Bamako, Guayaquil, or Bangkok. Many Americans forget the shifting nature of legality, as if it’s something set in stone. Have we forgotten that, for instance, it was once illegal for women and African-Americans to vote, or illegal for anyone to buy and sell alcohol? Some of yesterday’s illegalities, by the stroke of a pen, are today’s legalities, often increasing freedom for the betterment of American culture and society. Likewise, yesterday’s “illegals” are tomorrow’s citizens. And if the response is “my ancestors came legally through Ellis Island,” I say: they did so because they could, because it was legal then, and how wonderful. Remember Ellis Island was later shuttered, lying in ruins for most of my childhood before tellingly becoming a museum. It’s now a nostalgic testament to a time when immigrants could actually be legal — a strange institution for a culture now more invested in deportation centers. In other words, the only reason “illegals” are illegal is because we as a nation have decided to make them so.

We have decided to create a semi-invisible underclass of people working for less than “minimum” wage, who are an easy target for scapegoating. It’s unoriginal, since immigrant bashing is a recurring American tradition, but it still provides great cover for the inherent racism underlying much of the immigration rhetoric. There are scores of “illegals” from Eastern and Western Europe but they don’t seem to cause concern, nor are they subjected to the harassment of the cruel new laws in Arizona and Alabama. It is Latinos who are targeted, both legal and not. Native Americans sadly and shamefully make up less than 1 percent of the current U.S. population. This tiny minority, often marginalized on reservations, is the only group that ever had the right to a nativist attitude. The majority of Latinos also have indigenous Native American ancestry; it was European immigration and colonialism that presented the Western Hemisphere with its first “aliens.” Undocumented workers (a much better term than “illegal aliens”) give much more to the U.S. than they receive. They do all the work Americans won’t. They are consumers as much as the next clotheswearing, hungry human and their labor pays for our cheap food, among other things. Many even pay taxes and social security (though they’re ineligible to receive benefits). Contrary to stereotypes, they subsidize the U.S. economy by practically donating their time and energy. And the thanks they get is ever-increasing scorn and harassment. Meanwhile, vigorous brainscrubbing continues to convince people that the reason they’re broke has nothing to do with financial deregulation, union busting, globalized outsourcing, bank bailouts or tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy; nothing to do with the costs of waging a permanent war against “terror.” No, it’s really those overworked and underpaid “illegal aliens” crammed into tiny apartments with no heat in the Bronx and Queens, and weary farm workers in Arizona and Alabama. Yeah, that makes sense. This is the one country in the world that is almost entirely made up of immigrants. Yet willful ignorance and amnesia prevent knowing and remembering important points in the most audacious way. For example, maybe during these debates that center on our neighbor to the south, it would be worth knowing (or remembering) about all the states that were actually part of Mexico, until 1848 when the U.S. seized them by means of war: California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, most of Colorado and Arizona itself, and parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming. Even war, apparently, can be made legal.

FOREIGN/FAMILIAR: IMMIGRANTS IN THE BRONX All works courtesy the artist, unless otherwise noted

Dennis Redmoon Darkeem History Collage on paper 2017-2018 6 feet x 3 inches

Nicky Enright I’M MIGRATION Video 2018 3 minute video projection

Nicky Enright Rights of Passage Video 2010 3.5 min video projection

Kitchen Table Digital Diaspora Collective Deposits of the Future Video, Audio, Demara Sugar 2015 - Present Installation dimensions variable, 12 minute loop Tijay Mohammed I miss you home Mixed Media Installation 2018 Prints 8 x 10 inches, Dimensions variable

Luis Stephenberg Alers Personal History Wood,rope, burlap, mulch 2013 Dimensions variable

Luis Stephenberg Alers Prima Materia (after the ship sink) Rope, wood, burlap, paint 2015 6 x 7 feet

Musah Swallah By Road Mixed Media 2010 35 x 25 inches

Musah Swallah Overload Mixed Media 2010 35 x 24 inches

Musah Swallah The Routes Acrylic on Canvas 2010 39 1/2 x 35 inches

Bronx Council on the Arts is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; Arts Midwest and the National Endowment for the Arts; and City Council members Andrew Cohen and Mark Gjonaj. Also supported in part by the Booth Ferris Foundation, Ovation, New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund, Hispanic Federation, the City of New York, and the Department of Youth and Community Development. Special thanks to Hostos Community College and the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture for their support.

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