In 2016 Harriet Bart and Yu-Wen Wu presented Crossings, a meditation on the forced global displacement of more than 65 million people. This was exhibited at the Perlman Teaching Museum at Carleton College, Northfield, MN.
In their research and preparation for Crossings, they became increasingly aware of the special circumstances of women and children. According to the UNHCR, approximately 51% of refugees are women and children. Abduction, rape, sexual abuse, harassment and exploitation are some of the problems faced by these refugees.
With this knowledge, Wu and Bart began Leavings/Belongings. This project focuses on the unique hardships endured by women and children as they flee war, famine and face issues of resettlement. Much has been written, thousands of photographs have been taken and documentation abounds about the trauma of the refugee experience.
Leavings/Belongings, looks to the future as do the refugees and immigrants who find their way here. We know they carry few possessions. We also know from listening to and recording scores of stories, they carry hopes and dreams for a better future for their children and for themselves. They are resourceful. They are resilient.
The hundreds of bundles that comprise Leavings/Belongings are made by the storytellers, and by those who hear their stories. Cloth, old and new, from countries around the world and from our own shores have been donated to this project. Bright and colorful, some torn and worn are part of the stories. The bundles are testimony.
Leavings/Belongings, consists of anomalously shaped cloth wrapped bundles representing all that is left behind—home, family, possessions and what may be carried in migration—survival, hope, dreams.
Each working session begins with uncertainty. As the women begin to work they begin to tell their stories of fear, danger, loss and hardship in their attempts to leave their countries of origin. As the bundles are finished, we ask the women to write a story or message on their bundle. Many write of their desire for peace, hope and kindness.
This project is an opportunity to bring various refugee/immigrant communities together to make “bundles” and tell their stories of leaving their native countries and the difficulties of resettlement in the United States. If they choose, participants and their bundles are photographed and stories recorded.
Bart and Wu started this project by reaching out to non-profit organizations working with communities in their respective cities Boston and Minneapolis/St Paul. Since then, bundle making sessions have been held in Portland, ME, Worcester MA, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
This project is motivated by our desire to call attention to global displacement.
Leavings/Belongings is durational.