A Sense of Belonging

Building a Sense of Home is a visual testimony of an 18-month learning journey in which ten immigrant leaders participated as fellows of the Tamejavi Cultural Organizing Fellowship Program (TCOFP). The images are glimpses of the many activities in which the fellows participated, with the sole intention of sharing their knowledge, increasing their creative capabilities, and building informal networks to join in the quest to make the Valley a place where a diversity of civic, artistic, and cultural expressions flourishes.

Through the TCOFP journey Tamejavi fellows shared stories and experiences of migration, displacement, and isolation. Most importantly they learned from each other’s organizing experiences. Close to the end of the program, the fellows feel united in anticipation that their work is helping them, and members of their communities, to build a sense of home in their new country. At each step of the journey fellows were becoming closer and bonding as they found similarities in their migration experiences, cultural practices, and more. They discovered that they had a common vision for the future of the Valley and their communities. The fellows are exiting the program with the shared commitment to continue to promote culture and art engagement as an entry point for broader civic participation. The unique experience, knowledge, and passion that the fellows brought, and gained, made the first round of the TCOFP an extraordinary experience.

The photographic lens captured the actions and creativity of day-to-day Central Valley immigrants as they claimed public spaces for keeping alive their cultural heritage and continuing to evolve their artistic expressions. These images display moments of meetings, gatherings, and artistic presentations for the Tamejavi Culture and Art Series. The images of the Building a Sense of Home photo exhibit are only glimpses of the beauty, color, and vibrancy — of the Punjabi community from Livingston; of the indigenous Mexicans living in Madera, Fresno, Lindsay and other cities in the Valley; of the Hmong, Khmer, and Iranians living in Fresno — of these communities as they embark on their resettlement journey.

Behind the images exhibit, there are stories of artistic and cultural recreation, perhaps once common of indigenous communities, that have suffered cultural and artistic loss. A vivid example is the Zapoteco youth who have to rely on the cultural memories of their elders for recreating in a theater play the practices and protocols of engagement and marriage — a tradition they so much wanted to share. These are cultural memories and not intricate choreographies guided the Fandango Zapoteco theater play.

Like in the Fandango, all the fellows engage in the journey of cultural restoration. All the Tamejavi Culture and Art Series installments are original productions coordinated by the Tamejavi fellows who engage their communities across generations in a unique experience of art-making and cultural recreation.

The Tamejavi Cultural Organizing Fellowship Program is coordinated by the American Friends Service Committee Pan Valley Institute, with the generous support of the James Irvine Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Photography by: Eduardo Stanley

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