5:15 p.m. - Lecture by photographer Jim Lommasson in Room 115, Telfer Hall
6 p.m. - Opening Reception in Ritter Library

Featuring photos of personal items significant to refugees' travels to America. Each photo includes annotations by the owners with details of their experience. Exhibition runs September 14-December 15.

"What We Carried: Fragments and Memories from Iraq and Syria"

September 14, 2017

Exhibition runs September 14-December 15"What We Carried"
Ritter Library

Opening Reception and Lecture by Jim Lommasson:
Thursday, September 14, 5:15 p.m.
Room 115, Telfer Hall

Free and open to the public.

Since 2003, more than four million Iraqis have left their homes and relocated in hopes of creating a better future for themselves and their families in a setting free of war and uncertainty. Many Iraqis sought refuge in Syria only to find another dangerous situation. Approximately 140,000 of these refugees have immigrated to the U.S., the majority with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and a small memento to remind them of home.

To document their life-changing journey and shed light on the trials and tribulations refugees experience, renowned freelance photographer and author Jim Lommasson created the "What We Carried" project documenting what it means to leave everything behind. The project represents the experiences of Iraqi and Syrian refugees while featuring items accompanying these individuals during their journey to America.

"Those Were The Days"

Lommasson invited Iraqi and Syrian refugees to share a personal item significant to their travels to America, such as a family snapshot, heirloom dish or childhood toy. Lommasson photographed each artifact and then returned a 13" x 19" archival print to the participant so the item could be contextualized by the owner. Exhibition visitors will receive firsthand insight into the consideration of what objects, images and memories might be chosen if one was forced to leave his home forever.

The carried objects and the intense personal stories behind them combine to illustrate the common threads that bind all of humanity: the love shared for family, friends and the places people call home. All of the pieces in the exhibition are presented in both English and Arabic.

"The object photos and stories can help to break down stereotypes and share our common humanity and help to build bridges," says Lommasson. "Through my project I realized that the objects and stories helped create an intimate empathy for those of us who saw them. The more powerful understanding is the realization of what was left behind. What was left behind was everything else; homes, friends, family, school, careers, culture and history."

The exhibition touches upon the resiliency of refugees from the Arab World and what it means to be displaced and to build a new life in a new country. By learning the personal stories of those originally from Iraq and Syria and the adversity experienced through displacement, a greater understanding and appreciation is gained for the perspective of all immigrants and the plight of all refugees.

"What We Carried: Fragments and Memories from Iraq and Syria" is funded in part by The Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC), the Oregon Arts Commission and the Arab American National Museum.

Special thanks to the BW Middle Eastern Culture Club (MECC) and the BW Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.

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