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‘Migration Narratives’ Exhibition Explores the Experiences of Migrants Around the Globe

September 26, 2016
UNC Global

Migration Narratives, a new exhibition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s FedEx Global Education Center, highlights the local impacts of global migration through projects undertaken by recent alumni, graduate and undergraduate students at the University.

Migration Narratives considers both the common threads that connect migrants around the globe and the uniqueness of each person’s narrative through multimedia interviews, oral histories, photographs and textiles. The exhibition explores the personal circumstances and historical, economic, social and political changes that inform individuals’ decisions to migrate, as well as the influence of the traditions and experiences they carry with them and the cultures and history of their new home.

The exhibition features four projects highlighting the Mediterranean refugee crisis, the experience of Latin American immigrants in North Carolina, the experience of Laotian immigrants in North Carolina and the lives of two Syrian refugees who are now students at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Divided by the Sea is a collection of photographs and audio about the Mediterranean refugee crisis and its impact on the small city of Reggio Calabria in Southern Italy. It was compiled by Andrea Patiño Contreras ’16 M.A. and Gabriela Arp ’16 M.A., with the assistance of a team of collaborators across campus, who traveled to Reggio Calabria in 2015 to build relationships with people experiencing the crisis and to learn about the effects of an unprecedented influx of people searching for safety and security on a new community.

“In making Divided by the Sea, our team was given the opportunity to think through humane and creative ways to tell the stories of those living through the migration crisis,” explained Arp. “We wanted to move beyond the stories we saw in the media, which we felt were focused on distant statistics and sensationalized images, and tell stories from the personal, lived experience.”

New Roots/Nuevas Raíces: Voices from Carolina del Norte is a bilingual digital archive of oral histories as told by Latin American migrants who have put new roots in North Carolina, as well as from North Carolinians who have worked to ease their integration in the state. As an ongoing and permanent research initiative, New Roots has generated over 160 audio-recorded interviews with complementary materials, including transcriptions, field notes, tape logs and photographs.

Home in a New Place follows the Phapphayboun family as they adapt and reshape Lao traditions in the small town of Morganton, North Carolina. The display is part of a research project and master’s thesis by Katy Clune ’15 M.A. The Phapphaybouns began to leave their homeland following the takeover of Laos by the communist Pathet Lao party in 1975. By choosing to make Morganton their home, immigrants like the Phapphaybouns are actively shaping an evolving American South. Photography and textiles are on display.

Home in a New Place helps us to understand the Laotian culture and history, and to celebrate the diverse communities in North Carolina. I hope people can take a moment to see the exhibition and learn more about how migration has shaped our communities,” said Thupten Norbu, interim director of the Carolina Asia Center.

Lastly, Carolina Connections, a research project by Clune in collaboration with Global Relations, offers a uniquely local perspective with interviews and photographs from three UNC system students, all Syrian refugees who have resettled in North Carolina. Their narratives touch on each individual’s journey to Carolina and the impact the state has had on them.

The exhibition will be on display from Sept. 5 to Dec. 9, 2016. A panel discussion with project researchers and subjects will take place on at 6:15 p.m. on Nov. 3 in the Florence and James Peacock Atrium at the FedEx Global Education Center, preceded by a reception starting at 5:30 p.m. The FedEx Global Education Center, located at 301 Pittsboro Street in Chapel Hill, is open weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and on select Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

This exhibition is sponsored by UNC Global with support from the African Studies Center, Carolina Asia Center, Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations, Center for European Studies, Center for the Study of the American South, Center for Global Initiatives, Curriculum in Global Studies, Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, Global Relations and Institute for the Study of the Americas.


Event contact:  Ingrid Smith, manager of events and exhibitions,

Media contact: Katie Bowler Young, director of global relations,, 919.962.4504

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