DEARBORN – In November, many nations will mark the end of what was originally called “The Great War,” now known as World War I. Prior to the end of that war, immigrants from Arab countries came to the United States mainly for economic reasons.
But after the war, many Arab countries experienced a long period of colonial occupation and upheaval. This resulted in migrations across shifting borders and the development of new identities and affiliations.
The new exhibition “The Far Shore: Navigating Homelands” — opening Nov. 10 at the Arab American National Museum and running through April 7 – features five visual artists and five poets who are either immigrants from Arab countries or descendants of immigrants. Collectively, their families’ journeys embody the varied and long history of Arab immigration to the U.S.
The exhibition was conceived and guest curated by Melissa Chimera, a visual artist from Hawaii whose maternal great-grandparents fled Syria during World War I. Chimera and her mother, the poet Adele Ne Jame, comprise one of five artist-poet pairings in the exhibition. Other poet-artist pairings are Haas Mroue and Rania Matar, Naomi Shihab Nye and Helen Zughaib, Hayan Charara and Reem Bassous, and Sharif Elmusa and John Halaka.
“The global reach and scope of this generational shockwave is hard to overstate” Chimera said. “Today, the strife born of the Great War combined with recent internal and external U.S.-led military campaigns in the Middle East continue to force millions of people to make their lives elsewhere.”
The artworks included are inspired by and selected for a particular poem Chimera gave to each artist. The literary and visual works are as diverse as the hands that made them, and yet special relationships unfold in the collaborations that resulted.
The pieces work alongside each other, exploring the themes of migration, displacement and survival—past and present. These interactions invite visitors to reflect on the experience of Arab migrants today, a century after World War I.
The public is invited Nov. 9 to celebrate the opening of “The Far Shore: Navigating Homelands” and the 12th Arab American Book Awards in one evening of literature and art.
The event begins at 7 p.m. with a gallery stroll, which includes the opportunity to explore the exhibition and a reception with refreshments. At 8 p.m., guests can enjoy a program including readings by poets featured in “The Far Shore” as well as the presentation of the 2018 Arab American Book Awards.
During the program, Chimera will discuss the new paintings, textiles and photography created in response to the contemporary poetry on the Arab immigrant experience. In addition, all poets featured in the exhibition will give readings.
Arab American Book Award-winning authors Hala Alyan (Fiction Award: “Salt Houses”), Pamela E. Pennock (Evelyn Shakir Non-Fiction Award: “The Rise of the Arab-American Left”) and Safia Elhillo (George Ellenbogen Poetry Award: “The January Children”) will be in attendance to accept their awards and sign books afterward.
Tickets for the evening program – $10 Museum Members, $12 students and $15 general public – are available at www.arabamericanmuseum.org/BookAwardsFarShore.
The AANM is at 13624 Michigan Ave.