Points of Departure: Understanding Human Migration

Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series portrays conditions that precipitated the exodus of African Americans out of the south as well as the complexities encountered by the migrants upon their arrival and settlement in the northern states.

Alejandro Santiago, also, sought to portray a historic event; one which we can witness today. 2,501 Migrants: A Journey consists of life-sized sculptures exemplifying absence. Returning to Oaxaca after a decade abroad, the artist was alarmed by the number of Mexicans leaving their ancestral village to cross a deadly desert in search of a better life.  As with Jacob Lawrence, Santiago’s work mirrors the impetus to move from south to north, from rural to urban, and the consequences wrought of that decision and its impact on the family unit. 

In the face of this daunting challenge, someone takes with them a prospect of hope. We see or hear of them, daily, crossing in unseaworthy crafts, traversing a desert whose paths are littered with bones, making their way through mountain ranges giving testament to forbidden heights. Putting trust in strangers.

Who isn’t a descendant of someone who made a life-changing decision or had one forced upon them? The leaving, whether by internal or external migration, exodus or exile, is endless. There is no day, nor hour, without an arrival or departure from near or far. For some artists, history is the fount and foundation of their practice. Through their work they document crucial events that affect society. Their creations function as an act of remembrance and witness.

Before Jacob Lawrence and Alejandro Santiago completed works that captured the human cost of departure, they drew on sources of information. Artists rely on well-founded research to deepen the experience of their project. As mentioned in a previous post, the library figured, largely, in Jacob Lawrence’s artistic practice. Even if you aren’t an artist, you too can avail yourself of resources to deepen your understanding of the one of the most significant issues of our time — migration.

The resource list, Points of Departure: Understanding Human Migration is designed to be just that, a point of departure. You’ll find titles that introduce you to a world in motion. You may decide to start with Strangers in a New Land: What Archaeology Reveals about the First Americans, then explore Chinese Migrations: The Movement of Goods, People and Ideas over Four Millennia. Books move people beyond their comfort zones. Maybe it’s a good time to understand more about our neighbors to the south, Beyond Borders: A History of Mexican Migration to the United States will help you to do so. Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future moves the conversation from the past to the future. These books and more serve to prepare us for one of the most pressing matters of our day, Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History is Shaping Our World.

Which Way Home?

~posted by Chris


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