A “hopeful” show in difficult times

A photograph from Soraya Benson's “Thinned” Series (2013-14), on view in Ojalá: a Cultural Exchange from Latin American and Middle Eastern Diasporas
Soraya Benson

Did you know that the Spanish word Ojála (hopefully) has roots in the Arabic word Inshallah (God willing)? Such linguistic and cultural links, which date back to the Al-Andalus era in the Iberian Peninsula, are a driving force of the show Ojalá: a Cultural Exchange from Latin American and Middle Eastern Diasporas (until 20 July), on view at the New York project space of Culturunners. The exhibition's curator, Danielo Garcia of Open Projects, which has co-organised Ojála with Culturunners, was inspired by his own experiences. “As a person of colour with certain features, at times I have been questioned as to whether Im [of Arab or Persian heritage],” Garcia says. “These interactions, coupled with my Latin American identity in the US, have made me sensitive to the challenges of these communities at large, as examined in the exhibition.” Florencia Escudero, Rhonda Khalifeh, Anima Correa and Soraya Maj, from the Middle East or Latin America, or the diasporas of these regions, are represented in the show. “At times, these communities have been targeted, banned, blocked and/or deported, yet have not engaged in deep dialogue with each other,” the show's press release says. With the Supreme Court ruling upholding president Trumps “Muslim ban” this week, and the separation of parents and children from Central America seeking asylum on the US-Mexico border, the show is—unfortunately—extremely relevant.

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