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Refugee Youth Tell Stories through Photography


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The San Diego Museum of Art, in partnership with the AjA Project, is highlighting the photographic art of refugee youth of San Diego. The exhibit, entitled Re+COLLECT , features 24 large-scale photographs by San Diego teens affected by war, displacement and migration. Reporter Heather Hill talks with the project's director and one of the student participants.

The human costs of war seem to be at the forefront of American consciousness, as many parts of the world are torn apart by violence. In San Diego, refugee families that have settled here offer a first-hand perspective of the persecution and displacement that come with war. Now, an exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art is showcasing stories of refugee teens through their artwork.

Cuc Doan is a sophomore at Crawford High School. She came to San Diego with her family a year ago from Vietnam. Doan participates in Journey, a photography and leadership program sponsored by the AjA Project - a non-profit organization that helps refugee youth transition to life in the U.S. Through photography, the AjA students examine themes of self-image, cultural heritage and community. Doan says her photograph sends a message about who she is.

Cuc Doan: My picture is about happiness. Like, even when you have a bad situation, you still smile and you still ... and solve your problems. I want to let them know the Vietnamese people are strong and they always smile, friendly and you be nice with everybody.

Twenty-four large-scale photographs surround the outside of the Museum on a temporary construction barrier for a façade restoration project. Teens from eight different countries have work featured here. The museum and AjA say the project promotes understanding and dialogue.

Derrick Cartwright, San Diego Museum of Art:
Anybody can come to Balboa Park and actually spend time looking at the work of young artists and reading what are, in times, very poignant statements about home and what it means to be home in a culture that isn't your place of birth.

Sandra Ainslie, AjA Project:
We really want to take these stories from these refugee and immigrant youth and bring it into a space where they can reveal themselves and talk about themselves and communicate who they are and where they come from to the larger community. We all live here in San Diego together and we represent one community, and to bring a little bit more understanding and awareness about who we all are is, I think, something we can all agree would be good for all of us.

Since 2002, over 200 students in the local refugee community have taken part in the Journey Project. The San Diego Museum of Art will host an opening reception for the Re+COLLECT exhibit tomorrow evening. 

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