Joy is a first generation Greek-American. This portrait of the village of Chora from the island of Naxos, in the Aegean, was painted by her uncle. This is her mother’s village, and this is the view that people have when arriving from Athens. Joy has taken in this view on visits to Naxos, and has placed this painting above the desk in her office, so it is the first thing she sees at work each morning, and the last thing she sees when she leaves for home each evening.
Jeffrey Jorge Cohen was born in Havana, Cuba, and along with his family, came to the United States in 1960. This porcelain ostrich was first owned by his grandmother. It passed over his mother, who abhored it, and came to Jeff, who adored it as a child. It has a prominent place just inside the front door of his home, where it greets visitors, and holds umbrellas and other objects.
When she moved to the United States from Germany in the early 1980’s, Marikka Green was invited to take one item from her uncle’s incredible selection. She chose a Black Mary and Icon, which she had admired for years, going back to her childhood visits to this favorite uncle’s home.
Manila born Cris Sales received a pair of diamond earrings from her mother just after her 18th birthday. The earrings were purchased for her mother by an aunt, herself a dedicated shopper, and then reset. There’s plenty to this story.
London born Claudia Milne has brought her family’s lease from the house in which she was raised with her to America. The lease is original to the house, and is from the 1870’s. For her, it represents home.
Khurram Malik was born in Pakistan, has lived in Dubai, and now resides in the United States. Since his teen years, he has worn prayer beads presented to him by his grandmother. The beads are intended to protect and assist Khurram, and out of both deference to faith and respect for his grandmother, he wears them daily.
Dieu Le came to the United States in 1975 as a young girl. Along with her family, she was a refugee from Vietnam. After some time at Camp Pendleton, she relocated to the east coast. Fashion and style have always been central elements for Dieu, and she chose to wear a traditional Vietnamese dress, the Ao Dai, to note the sustained relationship she maintains with Vietnam. Dieu has several Ao Dai, collects them, and hopes to continue her family tradition by sharing her interest in the Ao Dai with her daughter.
Musadiq Bidar came to America from Pakistan as a 10 year old boy. With his family, he had already fled his native country, Afghanistan, following a deadly Taliban attack on his home that killed his grandfather and injured his father. This photo shows 4 year old Bidar and his 3 year old brother Sajjad on a visit with their parents to the largest mosque in Asia, the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad. It was a special day for the boys, though Bidar, in the overalls, wanted to be sure that the family photo captured both boys, even as Sajjad seemed more interested in running off than standing still. Musadiq and his family came to the United States in 2003 as refugees. Today Musadiq is a college senior and is on track to graduate from the George Washington University in 2014.
Steve Tsang and his sister came to the United States from Taiwan as teenagers. They were given a pair of small Buddha statues as good luck charms, which they share with one another on important days and for special occasions.
Cristiana Fabiani came to the United States from Italy, bringing with her a sense of pride in Italian fashion and style.
In the years after World War II, Erik Lindstrom found himself working a series of jobs in his native Finland, and in Sweden. After connecting with an American Army Officer, Erik was able to emigrate to the United States. Though already a veteran of the Finnish Army, he was drafted into the U.S. Army soon after his arrival in Washington, DC. Over time, Erik became a builder of Finnish saunas across the United States for fellow Finns and discerning Americans. Sauna is a central part of Erik’s life, and it sustains him to this day as a reminder of his native Finland.
Lennie Cujé was born in Giessen, Germany the first day of 1933. By the end of WWII, he had been in a sanitarium, spent years in a specialty school for music prodigies, been trained to operate a machine gun as a member of the Hitler Youth, and was a refugee who walked 500 miles to return to his family. Lennie carried two suitcases with him on this journey across post-war Germany, suitcases he brought with him on his journey to the United States as a 17 year old in January 1950, and suitcases he maintains to this day, as they contain mementos from his life as an accomplished vibraphone player.
Maria Cecilia Bonilla came to the United States from Venezuela in 2000. Since then, she has lived in Washington, DC. She continues to keep Venezuela and her family and friends very close, visiting as often as she can. In addition to a very personal work by a Venezuelan artist that she keeps on a wall in her home, Maria Cecilia has a baseball cap in the colors of the Venezuelan flag that promotes the current opposition party. She is very proud of this hat, only takes it out to wear and display on special occasions, and feel the hat keeps her both close and connected to the interests of the Venezuelan people.
Marie Nelson came to the United States from Liberia at age 8 with her parents and her seven siblings. Her mother worked to instill a proud sense of country and home in Marie and the entire Nelson family, and provided each child with a carved Liberian ‘Chief’s Chair’ for them to have and maintain. Marie’s chair has survived several moves, remains a central element in her home, and a starting point for engaging conversations on purpose and place.
Ajay Chitnis came to the United States from India in 1985 as a graduate student. Along with his great humor, Ajay brought with him several cooking implements. In this video, he discusses a ladle for adding heated oil seasoning to recipes, called a pali in Marathi.
Ajay Chitnis came to the United States from India in 1985 for continued research and study. He brought with him his remarkable humor, and an abiding faith in food and cooking. In this video, Ajay explains how he has taken a wooden item, called a rawi in Marathi, which is intended for use in separating butter from buttermilk, and now uses this manual mixer to make Mexican hot chocolate for his family. As the saying goes, ‘only in America.’
Ajay Chitnis came to the United States from India in 1985 to continue his graduate medical studies. Along with a strong sense of humor, Ajay brought along a number of food and cooking implements. In this video, Ajay shows for us two serving items that are rather standard fare for tables across India. In his house, he and his family use the large plate, called a tat in Marathi (or thali in Hindi, if you prefer) and the wati, or small stainless steel bowl for liquid “curries” each and every day.
Sissel Bakken could not leave Norway without her companion, her Norwegian designed cheese slicer. And after 15 years, she not only still has the slicer, but uses it just about every day. Don’t tell the other slicers in her drawer.
Karin Rosnizeck has had this handmade Kasper doll for her entire life. An aunt, deaf, and living in a home for the deaf outside of Munich, Germany, sewed this for Karin when she was an infant. It has always been by her side, and came with her when she moved to the United States five years ago.
Tori spent a dozen years of her life living in Nigeria. She moved to the United States to attend college. Since then, she has had the opportunity to go back to Nigeria to visit family on a handful of occasions. Several years ago, on one trip, she commissioned a local artist to make this painting. She specifically requested that it include representations of calabashes, or gourds, which the artist included, and embellished to represent the seven largest rivers in Africa. Tori is very proud of this work, and has several decorative calabashes, as well as other items from Nigeria, displayed in her home.
Kaveh Sardari comes from Tehran, Iran. As a high school student in the late 1970’s, he came to the United States to spend a summer with an older sibling. At summer’s end, his parents indicated that conditions at home prevented him from returning. So Kaveh went from being a tourist to a student, finished high school and college in Indiana, and soon after became a professional photographer. It was his father who gave him the camera he first learned on back in Tehran, the one he used for all their family photos. Kaveh has kept it since and will pass it on to his daughter, so that she too can learn traditional photography.