Syrian-American artist Essma Imady is hopping from one major Minnesota art museum to another this year, closing up an incredible exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) in June and curating a one-day exhibition and event at the Walker Art Center this month.
Born in the US, Imady grew up in Syria and moved to Minnesota in 2011, where she currently lives with her husband and their child. In Thicker than Water at Mia, Imady drew on her own experiences as a parent and interviewed children from refugee communities for a searing body of work that grapples with survival, parenting, trauma, and spirituality.
In an upcoming event presented by Mn Artists, a local art program of the Walker Art Center, Imady investigates the notion of translation, while asking the question: Whom can art speak for? For the project, she has paired US-based artists with Syrian artists who are all affected by President Trump’s travel ban.
For example, Minneapolis-based artist Preston Drum collaborates with Manar Zind, a Syrian artist and designer currently based in Brazil. Zind shared diary excerpts with Drum from when he tried to cross the Mediterranean border and was arrested, which Drum uses as source material. Niky Motekallem, meanwhile, who is a second-generation Iranian-American painter and illustrator, collaborates with Aliaa Sakkar, a Syrian poet and songwriter based in Istanbul. For their collaboration, Imady had Motekallem illustrate Sakkar’s song without the words translated. The third collaboration is between dancer and choreographer Leila Awadallah, of Palestinian heritage, and Asma Ghanem, a Syrian sound artist and photographer based in Paris. Finally, American sound artist John C.S. Keston and Paris-based Syrian artist Khaled Alwarea worked together, with Keston translating Alwarea’s description of having panic attacks from being imprisoned in Syria for protesting.
Read the interview by Sheila Reagan on Hyperallergic.