News

Kyrgyz Artists Highlight Migrants' Big-Apple Illusions

A video installation in the Winkleman Gallery
A video installation in the Winkleman Gallery "Brooklyn Bridge" exhibition by Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev in New York City
Courtney Brooks

Two Kyrgyz artists keen on exposing the follies of human illusion have set their sights on shattering misconceptions that foreign laborers might have when leaving home to pursue the good life in the Big Apple.

Through a new visual art installation dubbed "Brooklyn Bridge," Bishkek-based artists Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev have specifically drawn attention to the plight of Central Asian immigrants in New York.

The exhibit, on display at the Winkleman Gallery in New York's artsy Chelsea neighborhood, features four monitors in which three Kyrgyz and one Uzbek immigrant talk about their experiences in pursuing the American dream.

On the opposite walls, a video installation shows the view out of a subway train as it moves across the Brooklyn Bridge in slow motion. Those images are complemented by four large photographs of daily life in Brighton Beach, the center of New York's Russian-speaking diaspora.

The idea, Djumaliev said, is to highlight the rosy ideas immigrants may have about New York, the United States, and their own homeland.

"While they are going to the United States they have certain illusions about the United States, for example. And when they are there, after some time, they have another illusion about their home. So they constantly produce this kind of illusion," Djumaliev said.

"And in this sense I think it is very good, this work, because it's about human illusion, about desire, about the wishes, about the disappointments, about everything - about the illusions of people," Djumaliev added.

Initial Hardships

The four interviewees, who are left anonymous, at times inject comedy into the subject. One woman speaks animatedly about her favorite clients when working as a maid in Florida - businessmen, she said, because they barely used the rooms and still left $50 tips.

An exhibit photo of a doughnut shop in Brighton Beach, a Russian-speaking neighborhood in New York
An exhibit photo of a doughnut shop in Brighton Beach, a Russian-speaking neighborhood in New York

But the seriousness of their message is clear: living in America is not what he or she expected. A middle-aged Kyrgyz man said that for many immigrants, the first year is very difficult.

"Mentally, probably one tries to forget all that [is happening at home]," he said. "After about a year and a half, especially if something goes wrong with work, everyone

they are leaving."

The women and men expressed very different opinions on the difficulties faced by the opposite sex and how relationships suffer, whether or not a spouse is left behind.

One man said the transition is easier for women because they are more adaptable, while one of the women said the transition is easier for men because they can move on and forget the family they left behind.

Leaving Home Behind


Djumaliev and Kasmalieva said the 2008 recession has resulted in fewer Central Asian immigrants coming to New York, with many opting to head to Russia instead.

But of those who come to the Big Apple, according to Djumaliev, many do so illegally. And this, he says, offers little opportunity, with many doing manual labor, cleaning, or working as a nanny, irrespective of their education.

Djumaliev said immigrants most often move to New York so they can send money back to their families, often even leaving young children and spouses behind for years on end.

"Why we call this installation and we call our artwork 'Brooklyn Bridge' is because all these people they're, every time [they] sort of doubt [whether] they should be in the United States or come back home," Djumaliev said.

"Because on the one hand they have certain work, certain jobs, and they can send money back home to their families. And at the same time they separate from their families for a long time, for several years, even for 12 years sometimes," he added. "So it destroys their family, and destroys their relationship with all their friends and relatives, and the country."

The point isn't to say that a migrant's life in America is all negative. "America is a unique country in the way that there is a place for everyone," said one of the Kyrgyz women interviewed. "Whoever you are, you will survive and find a place."

Find more coverage at RFE/RL
This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs