Local Refugees Share Their Stories on World Refugee Day

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DES MOINES, Iowa – The Des Moines Art Center and Iowa International Center are teaming up for the first time to educate the community on World Refugee Day.

A refugee is someone who was forced to leave their native country due to war or persecution.

One-hundred people came to a free screening of “Human Flow” on Monday to learn about refugees on a global scale.

Iowa International Center Director of Development Catherine Tran said they wanted to localize it by listening to three refugees here in Iowa.

“We wanted people to see the stories locally of what the refugee experience is like and how people are integrating into the community,” Tran said.

The refugees on the “See Me, Hear Me: Stories of Refugees in Des Moines” Panel are Sue Moe, Wasan Waham and Sharon Ndikurugamba.

Tran said there are around 2,000 refugees currently living in Iowa.

“It’s part of our embrace and welcome for communities that need our support,” Tran said.

The panel discussion is free and open to the public Thursday at 7:00 p.m. at the Levitt Auditorium in the Des Moines Art Center.

The third tool the Des Moines Art Center is using to educate the public is a self-guided tour of refugee artists on display.

Des Moines Art Center Education Director Jill Featherstone said, “When you slow down and you look at artwork, whether it be art made by people who have lived as refugees or people who have had different privileges in life. Really slowing down and looking at what the clues and the cues are given to us by the artist themselves. Bringing to the artwork your own experiences, those are the things that make for these rich experiences.”

There are 10 different artists on display that people can view.

“The beauty of art is that you bring your whole life experiences to how you interpret these things, and what you bring to the artwork is just as relevant as what the artist was thinking when they made it. There is just not one way to be seeing all of these pieces,” Featherstone said.

The self-guided tours are open during regular business hours at the Des Moines Art Center.

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