Stitching the threads of cultural connection: Immigrant women tell their stories through textiles at UNE

Women United Around the World Exhibit
Women United Around the World Exhibit

September 15, 2016

When Adele Ngoy moved to Maine from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa 17 years ago, life was hard. She had three children, faced a language barrier and struggled with feelings of isolation. After settling in and making a life for herself and her family, she decided to use her skills as a seamstress to help other women new to Maine. She founded Women United Around the World, an organization where women from all over the world who have relocated to the United States can learn to sew and receive support from their peers.

The University of New England School Social Work is proud to work with Women United Around the World to present an art exhibit featuring stories and sewing pieces from the members of the organization from Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, El Salvador, the United Kingdom and Russia.

Students Lisa DiGiovanni and Lauren Dembski, who are studying Applied Arts and Social Justice, interviewed each of the women at length about their home country, their experiences here in Maine and the challenges they face. Those profiles will accompany each sewing piece, telling the women’s stories in their own words. “It is beyond exciting to see this project come to life,” said Dembski. “These women from around the world have empowered and inspired me, highlighting the need for interconnected cultural projects. To be able to intertwine creative arts with social justice makes my heart glow.”

The UNE Applied Arts and Social Justice certificate program allows students to integrate their passion for expressive arts with their passion for transformation, change and healing. Arts have long been a tool for social workers, reflecting the passion and voice of those they serve as well as being an instrument for change. Expressive arts in their numerous forms call attention to causes, conditions, and change.

The exhibit is on display on the fourth floor of Hersey Hall at UNE’s Portland Campus through October 2016.


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