Over many months, I shared space with women ESL learners at a community center in Brooklyn. They were refugees and immigrants from Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Morocco. I would introduce a concept related to themes of gender and exile through a line of poetry. We would interpret it together in Arabic and women could freely respond to it, drawing from their personal experiences. They offered writings for the monument as we worked. Then, female U.S. veterans who had fought in Iraq were asked to respond to some of the im’migrant women’s writings.
I traced excerpts of all these writings onto canvas to create a severed tent. All the writings were translated into both Arabic and English. I collaborated with the ESL center to hold a women-only open mic as the opening of the piece. Over 100 women attended this event and read heartfelt stories of war, exile, and resilience, with the monument as a backdrop.