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Museum exhibit presents the human side of migration

January 18, 2017

Join the Pick Museum of Anthropology from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, for the opening reception of its newest exhibition, “Push Factors: Perspectives on Guatemalan Migration.” The exhibition highlights how resource exploitation, genocide, poverty, drought, femicide, gangs, corruption and racism in Guatemala led to mass migration following the country’s 36-year civil war.

Curated by Heidi McKinnon, executive director of Curators Without Borders, the exhibition includes works by three photographers: James Rodríguez, an award-winning documentary photographer whose work focuses on documenting post-war Guatemala; Rodrigo Abd, an Associated Press staff photographer whose work focuses on Latin America and the Middle East and who has won both a World Press Photo award and a Pulitzer Prize for his work in Syria; and William Plowman, a member of the White House Press Corps and a staff photographer for Meet the Press whose work focuses on issues of political, economic, social and humanitarian import around the world, such as the birth of South Sudan.

McKinnon and the three photographers will present a panel discussion at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, in Cole Hall room 100 about documentary photography and representing human rights work in art and exhibits.

Drawing from its permanent collection, the Pick Museum incorporates contemporary Guatemalan textiles with this photographic exhibition to bring contemporary Guatemala to life. Maya spirituality and ritual preparation for migration are presented in rich scenes. Documentary video and woven decorative textiles introduce contemporary K’iche Maya weavers contending with global markets. Materials recovered from archaeological work in the Sonoran Desert personalize the migration experience. “Push Factors” is designed to be a starting point for community dialogue on migration issues prevalent in popular discourse today. Through imagery and discussions on the causes of migration, “Push Factors” asks visitors to rethink migration and encourages tolerance of both documented and undocumented migrants.

“Push Factors” is part of a series of exhibitions exploring the history and identity of Maya people in Guatemala. “(Re)presenting Guatemala” includes exhibitions at the Pick Museum and the NIU Art Museum. The Center for Latino and Latin American Studies and the student organization DREAM Action NIU are partnering with the Pick Museum to host weekly tours and draw attention to undocumented students at NIU.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, in Cole Hall room 100, NIU alumnus Joel Palka will present a talk titled “Maya Pilgrimage and Migration in the Lacandon Rainforest of Mexico.” Palka, a professor of anthropology and Latin American studies at University of Illinois at Chicago, will explore how religious beliefs impact migration for the Maya. Cultural and archaeological evidence indicates that pilgrimage ritual established ties to gods and ancestors residing in ritual landscapes, which attracted Maya populations seeking their guidance and protection in a new land.