In the summer of 2017, I traveled to East Africa to research Refugee Settlement Programs in Uganda and interviewed several refugees from two Settlement Programs, Bidi -Bidi and Nakivale. My research in Africa was part of the larger project I intended to do which focuses on the current global humanitarian crisis, mainly the crisis in the Mediterranean Sea and its coastlands. As African refugees are part of the Mediterranean crisis, I decided to begin my research from the continent. In general, the causes of migration are numerous. They include war, civil unrest, bad governance, climate change, and genocide. These conditions create displacement and death, not to mention the psychological and physical consequences they have on the survivors. Besides, the crisis affects the political and economic policies of nations that are hosting the survivors. It has impacts on values and human relations. In my project, in addition to the policies that continue to taint the politics, the human being that has been cyclically victimized by them remains to be the focus of my work. The stories are told from refugee camps where waiting time is indefinite, life is stagnant, the future is unknown, and despair is the present. My study includes stories of the refugees (six-minute video), the influence of the research in Uganda on my studio work, my works from the current Mexico/US border crisis, and the separation of children from their parents, currently on exhibit in New York: “Crossing Boundaries: Material as Message” along with the general narrative.
Kebedech Tekleab is an Assistant Professor of art at the City University of New York, Queensborough Community College. Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Kebedech came to the USA in 1998 and studied art. After earning her MFA from Howard University she worked as a studio artist in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area and taught at several institutions, including Howard University and Montgomery College prior to moving to Savannah to join the faculty at Savannah College of Arts and Design (SCAD). Currently, she lives in New York City as an educator and a studio artist. She’s a published poet, painter, and sculptor. Her selected shows include exhibits at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC; the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, Illinois; the Sidney Mishkin Gallery, Baruch College, New York City; and the Addison Reply Gallery in Washington, DC. Her commissioned and collected works are on permanent display at several institutions, among them the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie; the Navy Memorial Archives in Washington DC; the American Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, DC. Most of her works shed light on the sublime as well as the dire side of the social memory she shares with others.