Immigrant Stories through the Art of Aman Mojadidi’s Once Upon a Place

Posted on September 14, 2017

by Claire F

For me the most important outcome of Once Upon a Place is that no matter how different the experiences of migration might be among the storytellers, visitors will hear the common humanity in their voices – Aman Mojadidi

What would it take for you to pack up your life, and move to another country? Some may choose to relocate for work or love. Others may say they never want to leave their country of origin, but often times a crisis leaves them no choice. In 2016, 5 million people immigrated to countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It is important to note that the OECD only consists of 35 of the 197 countries in the world, so in actuality the number of immigrants is likely much greater and also impossible to track. Regardless of the impetus, every one of these individuals has a unique experience and story to tell.

From September 15th until October 18th in 2017, you may notice something rather out of place in Main Library’s Wintergarden – a phone booth. If the phone begins to ring, please do not hesitate to answer. This decommissioned phone booth has made the journey from New York City’s Time Square, and work as the link between library guests and the oral stories of more than 70 immigrants. Feel free to listen to one or more, and use the phone book in the booth to find more information and transcriptions, as well as to write down your own personal histories. From this installation, we hope to show the bravery, ingenuity, and dedication it takes to uproot ones’ self and make the often anxiety inducing move to another country, and inspire feelings of true empathy, compassion, and love for our fellow humans. Each story lasts between two and fifteen minutes, and we encourage everyone visiting the library to take part in this one of a kind experience. Additional exhibit phone booth installations include Promenade Park (Downtown Toledo, Ohio) and The University of Toledo.

Special Thanks to Our Partners & Sponsors

  • Contemporary Art Toledo
  • The Arts Commission of Greater Toledo
  • County Collegium
  • Bowling Green State University School of Art
  • Mansour Wealth Management
  • Owens Community College
  • Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel
  • Royal Motors
  • Aly Sterling & Friends
  • Ahmad and Salmenna Sediqe
  • Hussein and Randa Shousher
  • Toledo Lucas County Public Library
  • University of Toledo: College of Arts and Letters together with the Roger Ray Institute for the Humanities; the School of the Visual and Performing Arts; University of Toledo Libraries; William S. Carlson Library; and the Department of Art
  • Welcome Toledo Lucas County

Learn more about Aman Mojadidi and Once Upon a Place

Meet the Artist

Once Upon a Place with Aman Mojadidi : Artist’s Talk with Q and A

When: Sunday, September 17, 2017 | 2-4 p.m.

Where: Main Library, McMaster Center

Listen to an interview

Watch a video

About the Artist Aman Mojadidi

Attempting to create safe spaces in which immigrants can share their stories, Mojadidi has employed an experimental ethnographic approach to his art, combining storytelling with physical installations. In doing so, he has been able to explore themes such as migration, belonging, and identity politics. In 2012, he was named a TED Global Fellow for the critical nature of his art, and has published articles including The Art of Conflict Chic: Imagined Geographies & the Search for a Post-Orientalist Identity and Humanitarians with Guns: Globalized Rights, Cultural Space, & Militarized Aid.

Books on the Immigrant Experience

Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

This collection of poetry by Vietnamese-American writer Ocean Vuong meditates on subjects such as war, displacement, and identity, and uses sharp imagery to discuss the feelings of standing on the edge of one’s identity in relation to self and country.

That thing we call a heart / Sheba Karim

That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

Karim’s second novel explores life in Jersey through the eyes of a spunky Muslim American girl. Explore first love, drug use, the bloody history of Partition, the politics of hijab, and high school through this story with turns typical YA tropes on their head.

This title is also available in eBook.

Don't let him know / Sandip Roy

Don’t Let Him Know by Sandip Roy

Roy’s debut novel is a generational story which jumps around in time and place to tell the stories of three generations, and their shared experiences with love, money, ambition, and fate. While each chapter is a standalone story, Roy blends them seamlessly to create a poignant yet nuanced narrative.

Featured Image Credit: Photo of Aman Mojadidi by Lorenzo Tugnoli

Did you like this blog post? Keep up to date with all of our posts by subscribing to the Library’s newsletters!

Keep your reading list updated with our book lists. Our staff love to read and they’ll give you the scoop on new tv-series inspired titles, hobbies, educational resources, pop culture, current events, and more!

Looking for more great titles? Get personalized recommendations from our librarians with this simple form.