Photographer Jim Lommasson Presents “Exploring the Treasures of Refugees” on Dec. 16 at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum

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The December 16 Sunday Lecture Series at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum will feature photographer Jim Lommasson speaking about the power of art for social change and the evolution of the exhibit What We Carried: Fragments and Memories from Iraq and Syria.

The images are as beautiful as they are heartbreaking, providing viewers with only a small glimpse of what each person has lost while serving as a poignant reminder that, as Jim asserts, "We must take responsibility for the aftermath of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as at home."

Photographer Jim Lommasson Presents “Exploring the Treasures of Refugees” on Dec. 16 at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum

The December 16 Sunday Lecture Series at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum will feature photographer Jim Lommasson speaking about the power of art for social change and the evolution of the exhibit What We Carried: Fragments and Memories from Iraq and Syria.

His 50-minute talk starts at 1:30 p.m. in the Museum’s Stryker Theater. The traveling exhibit has been impactful to numerous communities that have hosted it across the country, in part because he has extended his process to supplement the main exhibit with additional pieces added from local refugees.

The exhibit explores the stories of refugees fleeing the Iraq War through the objects they brought with them to the United States. Lommasson will discuss his personal experiences meeting with refugees and asking them to reveal the stories behind their precious items. His images of these pieces coupled with narratives written by the owners explaining the object’s significance are what makes this project so unique. The resulting images are as beautiful as they are heartbreaking, providing viewers with only a small glimpse of what each person has lost while serving as a poignant reminder that, as Jim asserts, "We must take responsibility for the aftermath of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as at home."

Over four million Iraqis have fled their homes since the American invasion in 2003, and over 140,000 have been admitted to the US. The refugees did not leave to get a better job or because of a natural disaster; they left because of a brutal dictator and industrial warfare that has virtually destroyed their country. Many Iraqis sought refuge in Syria, only to find another dangerous situation. The long journey to the US can take months, sometimes years, and includes refugee camps, piles of documents, and sometimes a few bribes.

What We Carried is a collaborative photographic storytelling project aimed at presenting the experiences of these refugees and creating a platform for discussion. As a collection of photographs and writing, it speaks to displacement, resilience, liminality, xenophobia, rendition, human interdependence, freedom, and memory. Lommasson worked with Iraqi and Syrian refugee communities in Boston, Portland, Dearborn, and Chicago before coming to Kalamazoo.

Jim Lommasson is a freelance photographer and author living in Portland, Oregon. What We Carried: Fragments from Iraq and Syria, was funded by the Arab American National Museum, the Oregon Regional Arts Council, the Oregon Arts Commission, and Ruth Ann Brown.

The Kalamazoo Valley Museum is operated by Kalamazoo Valley Community College and is governed by its Board of Trustees.

Media Contact
Bill McElhone
Kalamazoo Valley Museum Director
269-373-7990, wgouldmcelh(at)kvcc(dot)edu

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