Migration weaves its stories with an effect that differs from one person to another. While a sense of alienation dominates some, others get involved in the new place and search for its prominent features, which has made alienation a source of inspiration for poets, writers, and plastic artists around the world, over the years.
And while literary writings or visual artworks did not monitor much about the emigration of Egyptian women, especially in the West; The “Intergenerational Storytelling” exhibition, organized by the Malaka Foundation, is featured within the MoMa PS1 museum. in New York; How did the Egyptian women who immigrated to the United States strike a balance between the roots of the past and the modernity of Western society, through unconventional collections and stories that restore their visual memories imbued with the most human experiences.
After months of fatigue and “nostalgic” workshops, the Malaka Foundation was able, for the first time in New York, to obtain approval to allocate an entire exhibition room inside the ancient museum to tell the stories of women representing a group of the oldest immigrants in the Arab region and North Africa, according to the Foundation’s director, Rana Abdel Hamid. She confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat: “It is a journey of live documentation of the struggle of 12 Egyptian women from 3 different generations, as well as an Algerian woman.”
She continues: “The exhibition reflects moments of suffering and difficult stations, and many of their memories in the form of photographs, private collections, works of art and folklore, as well as videos that express the values of Islam and Arab culture that reside in their hearts in exile.”
In the past hours, the exhibition witnessed an informal opening by inviting the participants to come to the museum and celebrate the exhibits and take memorial photos, in honor of their success in mobilizing holdings and visual texts about the worlds of migration and integration, in preparation for its official opening on June 3, in an Arab cultural and artistic atmosphere that includes A concert and “Difflée” traditional clothes and dishes from the Egyptian cuisine, in the presence of artists, politicians, media professionals, and members of the Arab community in New York.
“We represent the history of Astoria (US state of Oregon)”; The young immigrant expresses her sense of the place, and adds: “Many families came here decades ago, and the area did not bear the same features when we arrived. And because of the huge number of Egyptians who live in it, and the restaurants and shops they set up, Astoria became known as (Little Egypt), especially Steinway Street.
She continues: “So when I noticed that (MoMa PS1), which is the oldest art museum in the city, holds exhibitions for foreign communities annually to introduce their culture and tell their stories, I asked its management to hold this exhibition.”
Mona Al-Baghdadi has lived in America for 32 years and has 4 children; She tells Asharq Al-Awsat: “The exhibition embodies ways of safety towards each other, and reduces mutual assistance and collective resistance, especially after the events of September 11 and the persecution and displacement that followed.”--
From its point of view, “despite the multiplicity of Egyptian exhibitions in the West, between antiquities and art; This exhibition is of particular importance because it introduces Egyptian culture closely, and confirms that we, as Arab immigrants, have strong roots.”
The exhibits shed light on how alienation contributed to shaping the intellectual and artistic personality of immigrant women and their families, highlighting the close relationship between their influence on their roots and residence in America. Through this event, they raise assumptions that need to be considered, in an attempt to approach problems such as identity, nostalgia, and homeland.
In addition, the exhibition, which will continue until next October, gives them a great deal of freedom to present ideas and feelings related to stories of success, failures, and human pain. To try to search for cultural belonging and collective memory.
In this context, the women recorded video clips in cooperation with the Museum to tell their stories, as short documentaries; Among the most influential of them is Enas Abdel-Qader’s solid resistance against cancer. She tells Asharq Al-Awsat: “My family and I received moral support from Egyptian women who helped me defeat the disease, and my children learned from experience to be content with fate and destiny.”
Qurans, rosaries for remembrance, Quranic verses in Arabic calligraphy, handcrafted pieces of art such as engraving on copper or embroidering textiles… side by side with bags of cloth for famous Arabic spices such as mastic and black cumin, as well as pieces of traditional clothing, jewelry, tent fabrics, figures for mesaharati and vendors Kunafa, ful and tanoura dancers… are all parts of long human stories starring the women of the Diaspora.
“The exhibition reflects moments of suffering and difficult stations in the form of photographs, private collections, and works of art and folklore.”
Rana Abdel Hamid, Director of the Malaka Foundation.