UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage

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.

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” was originally installed in the 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.

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