Crossing the Bridge....
A multidimensional public art exhibition in the small rural town of Ashburton has detailed experiences of 22 [one anonymous] migrants of “integrating into a new community and creating a sense of belonging while negotiating their own identities in different communities”
Titled, Crossing the bridge, and bringing together photography, film and individual narratives, the exhibition is the brain-child of Anthropologist Sophie-Claire Violette, who is originally from Mauritius. With help from photographer Petra Mingneau, videographer Vanesa Paredes and producer Lucy Holland, Sophie took almost eight months to develop the project.
One of the migrant featured in the exhibition is Mercedes Quevedo de Walkham who is originally from Guatemala. She moved to Ashburton in 2014 because of love. Her husband Thomas, is from Ashburton. Everything about New Zealand and everything about Ashburton was incredibly foreign to her. And even after two years, she "still feels like she doesn’t completely fit here. She still feels disconnected. She is often judged for being a foreigner, for having an accent and for looking different, but she doesn’t understand why".
Another woman featured is Amninder Kaur, who came to Auckland from Punjab in 2013. Her experiences as detailed in the exhibition was the familiar story of difficulty finding any job in Auckland and when she did, it was often very poorly paid labour that relied on migrants’ willingness to compromise. Later she moved to Ashburton and got married to Amrit Singh, a young Sikh man. Now settled, Amninder thinks “that it is important for ‘everyone’ to learn about the cultures and values of people around them because it is our cultural and religious differences that will help us grow as a community”.
When asked, what is the common thread in the migrant stories she documented, Sophie said, "Loneliness! That's why I hope the sharing of these migrant experiences will encourage people to step out of their comfort zones and start talking to each other so that strangers can become familiar and eventually friends.”