UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage

Embedded exhibition instructions: use arrows, scroll bar, or swipe to navigate left and right; click the expand icon to view the exhibition fully in your browser; click the menu options for the accessible view.


UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage seeks to humanize the word “refugee.” This multimedia exhibit features the sculptures of Mohamad Hafez, a Syrian-born, Connecticut-based artist and architect who re-creates war-torn domestic interiors within suitcases. Pieces from the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection were placed in dialogue with UNPACKED, providing a unique opportunity to reinterpret the School of Human Ecology holdings. In this accompanying display, textiles represent three distinct categories: items that are thematically related to Hafez and Badr’s work, making traditions endangered by war, and objects made by refugees. A significant portion of this material was exhibited for the first time, including metallic Syrian “aghabbani” silks, a monumental woven and embroidered Southern Iraqi rug with vibrant colors and motifs, and exceptional Cambodian ikat raw silk wrapped garments. Of particular note are Hmong Story Cloths, which depict individuals escaping war and that create important connections to Wisconsin’s diverse Hmong communities.


Related Events

Related Links

Related Press

Related Images

Installation image of UNPACKED in LMTG - one suitcase sculpture and woven socks on white wall

Installation view of “UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage” in the Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery featuring HLATC object: Socks, Kurdish, Iraq, 1900-1957, Wool, Gift of W. W. Foster, K.H.AS.0002a-b. Photograph by Dakota Mace for the CDMC. 2020.

Image of LMTG Installation of Unpacked

Installation view of “UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage” in the Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery. Photo by Dakota Mace for the CDMC. 2020.

Open notebook with pencil.

Installation view of “UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage” in the Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery: “If you only had 30 seconds to leave your home…what would you take?!” Photo by Dakota Mace for the CDMC. 2020.

corner of gallery with suitcases and large textiles hung on the wall.

Installation view of “UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage” in the Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery featuring suitcase props and HLATC objects. Photo by Dakota Mace for the CDMC. 2020.

Installation image of UNPACKED with 1 suitcase sculpture and multiple textiles

Installation view of “UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage” in the Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery featuring HLATC objects. Photo by Dakota Mace for the CDMC. 2020.

Installation image of a living room set up with chairs, coffee table, and a rug.

Installation view of “UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage” in the Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery showing the seating area for reading. Photo by Dakota Mace for the CDMC. 2020.

installation image with open display case of unrolled textiles

Installation view of “UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage” in the Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery featuring HLATC objects. Photo by Dakota Mace for the CDMC. 2020.


“UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage” was originally installed and on view in the Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery from February 5 – April 3, 2020. Due to COVID-19 closures, selections from the exhibition were moved online. Online iteration launched in Summer, 2020. Exhibition and programming developed with the generous support of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Middle East Studies Program and The Chipstone Foundation. Online exhibition supported by the Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery and the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection.