Interactive Art Exhibit Brings Gainesville’s Immigrant Community Together
On Saturday, participants carefully navigated a maze of tightly arranged clay pieces. Afropop music plays as artist Eugene Agyei explained his interactive art.
The clay figurines are a visual representation of the obstacles immigrants face upon arriving in a new place, he said.
Agyei curated “Complex Journey”, an interactive art exhibit about his immigrant experience at Bo Diddley Plaza. It took place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event was organized in partnership with the Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion Initiative (GINI) and the City of Gainesville.
Participants had to carefully walk through hundreds of clay figures, representing the experience of walking an indefinite and difficult path.
Each piece of clay symbolized a challenge immigrants face, such as learning a new language, adapting to a new culture, and finding community.
Native Americans and immigrants from Korea, Peru, India, Serbia, Senegal and others participated.
Agyei emigrated from Ghana to pursue a master’s degree in ceramics from the University of Florida. The clay pieces in his exhibit are wrapped in fabric imported from Ghana.
“Fabric has also crossed borders,” he said. “He goes through his own immigration process.”
An immigrant herself, Rae Yan joined Agyei’s exhibition. She said one of the obstacles she faced was leaving her family behind in China.
“When you move, you really feel alone, especially if you don’t have family around,” Yan said. “As I walked, I was reminded of how difficult it is to navigate these new paths.”
GINI distributed leaflets for the exhibition in Arabic, Creole, French and Spanish. Local organizations supporting immigrants such as the Latino Women’s League and the Human Rights Coalition of Alachua County had tables at the event.
More than 100 attendees sampled “fatayas” (fried pastry), “roundabouts” (doughnuts) and “puff-puffs” (Afro donuts) from Flavorful, an Afrofusion catering service.
“We wanted to create this event to recognize and celebrate immigrants in our community and talk about their experience of coming to a new place,” said Ethan Maia de Needell, Immigrant Program Manager for the Rural Women’s Health Project and community liaison officer for GINI.
Agyei said he was happy to bring community members together.
“It’s amazing to see people using my work as a way to share their life experiences,” he said.
To follow Agyei’s journey, find him on Instagram @eugeneagyeiarts.