Interactive art exhibit brings Gainesville immigrant community together

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Participants on Saturday cautiously walked through a maze of tightly arranged clay pieces. Afropop music plays as artist Eugene Agyei explained his interactive art.  

The clay figures are a visual representation of the obstacles immigrants face coming to a new place, he said. 

Agyei hosted “Complex Journey,” an interactive art exhibit about his experience as an immigrant at Bo Diddley Plaza. It ran from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event was hosted in partnership with the Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion Initiative (GINI) and the City of Gainesville.

Attendees had to tread carefully through hundreds of clay figures, representing the experience of walking an undefined and difficult path.

Each clay piece symbolized a challenge immigrants face such as learning a new language, adjusting to a new culture and finding community.

U.S. natives and immigrants from Korea, Peru, India, Serbia, Senegal and more attended. 

Agyei emigrated from Ghana to pursue an MFA in ceramics from the University of Florida. The clay pieces in his exhibit are wrapped in fabric imported from Ghana.

“The fabric also crossed borders,” he said. “It goes through its own immigration process.” 

An immigrant herself, Rae Yan connected with Agyei’s exhibit. She said one of the obstacles she faced was leaving her family behind in China.

“When you move it feels really lonely, especially if you don’t have family around,” said Yan. “Walking through, I was reminded of how difficult it is navigating these new paths.”

GINI distributed flyers for the exhibit in Arabic, Creole, French and Spanish. Local organizations supporting immigrants such as the Latino Women’s League and the Human Rights Coalition of Alachua County had tables at the event.

Over 100 attendees enjoyed samples of “fatayas” (deep-fried pastry), “aller-detour” (beignets) and “puff-puffs” (afro donuts) from Flavorful, an Afrofusion catering service. 

“We wanted to create this event to acknowledge and celebrate immigrants in our community and talk about their experience of coming to a new location,” said Ethan Maia de Needell, immigrant program manager for Rural Women’s Health Project and community liaison for GINI.

Agyei said he was happy to bring community members together.

“It is amazing to see people using my work as the medium to share their life experiences,” he said. 

To follow Agyei’s journey, find him on Instagram @eugeneagyeiarts.

About Janelle Puckering

Janelle is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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