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To Your Raised Head- Stories of Immigration by CarryOn Homes

Opening Reception: Saturday, December 3rd, 6-9 PM

Exhibition Runs: December 3 - December 30, 2022

To Your Raised Head-Stories of Immigration by CarryOn Homes (COH) is a collection of stories and portraits of refugees and immigrants from the SWANA region who now call Minnesota their home. To Your Raised Head-Stories of Immigration is a collaboration between COH, the Iraqi American Reconciliation Project (IARP), and Winona Afghan Support Network (WASN). The exhibition's title came from the poem My Homeland by Rabea AlShimmery. COH commissioned My Homeland through IARP's network; AlShimmery is an immigrant poet from Iraq.

My Homeland


When will the world’s conscience awaken

And find all our joys complete and unshaken?

Reconciled, let us the world rebuild

With beauty and love, with God’s aid our shield.

This night of our worries let us endure

And let the dawn be welcomed by the Poor.

O Land I love, my dearest Home,

Noblest Father, Beloved Mother;

My dearest Home, we shall never leave,

To your raised head we shall gather and cleave,

Our proud Homeland forever.


Poem by Rabea AlShimmery

Translated by Tom Belt and Shaymaa Khalil



يمته ضمير العالم يصحى

وتعم كل الناس الفرحة

خل نتصالح نبني الكون

بأجمل حب ومن الله العون

خل ليل الهم ينطر

ليل الفقرة ينطر صبحه

كاعي وطني أرضي الطيبة

أشرف أب وام احبيبه

منعوفك يا وطني الغالي

نرجع ويظل راسك عالي

وتبقى الوطن الشامخ صرخه


قصيدة للشاعر ربيع الشمري


In this series, CarryOn Homes focus on the experiences of refugees and immigrants who relocated to Minnesota searching for stability and a peaceful life, leaving their homes amid war. This project highlights the migration of refugees from SWANA to the US and the specific political and humanitarian implications that add layers of complexity to the already dense immigrant experience. Some of the interviewees fled after experiencing traumatic events such as prison, bombing, and the militarization of their homeland. Despite the difficulties of starting a new life in a country complicit in the wars that forced them to leave and subjected to discrimination, these brave immigrants inspire us with their stories of hope, reliance, and compassion. To Your Raised Head builds bridges beyond our cultural differences. The interviewees brought an object they carried from their home countries to the US to be photographed with, then told the story of this precious object, and ultimately shared their unique yet universally relatable experience with relocating and building a sense of belonging in a new place.


“When you listen to music from a different culture, you are tasting the soul of that culture. Having lost Afghanistan, one of my main connections is the sound of the music, the soul of those people, the soul of the land.” -Emel Sherzad talks about his Rubab, a lute-like musical instrument that his family brought from Afghanistan. 


This exhibition is part of an ongoing project started in 2017 by photographer Shun Jie Yong and social practice artist Peng Wu under the name of CarryOn Homes. After participating as an interviewee, in December 2017, artist Zoe Cinel joined the CarryOn Homes team. Following endeavors in the public art and curatorial field, including a Creative City Challenge Award in 2018 for the public platform CarryOn Homes at the Commons, and a curated traveling exhibition, Home of Memories: Portraits of Iraqi Americans by Iraqi American Photographers, the CarryOn Homes team revisited the original project with new portraits and interviews of recent refugees and immigrants.


About the Artists and Partners

The Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project (IARP) is a nonprofit founded in 2007 in Minneapolis, Minnesota that builds bridges of communication, understanding, and support between Iraqis and Americans after decades of sanctions, war, and occupation.  We are Iraqis and Americans, veterans and refugees, peace activists and artists, students and professionals, and many more united by a common goal:  promoting reconciliation between our communities and building a more peaceful and just world.


The Winona Afghan Support Network (WASN) is a community coalition that started meeting during the late summer and early fall of 2021 to support Afghan refugees in their transition to creating a home in the United States.


CarryOn Homes is an artist collective dedicated to telling the stories of immigrants and refugees in the USA through art. Using various media and platforms, COH engages the public in cross-cultural dialogues and creates spaces for immigrants to feel belonging and empowered. Recent Projects include the recent touring exhibition, Home of Memories: Portraits of Iraqi Americans by Iraqi American Photographers, and the public platform CarryOn Homes at the Commons, funded through a Creative City Challenge Award in 2018. Current members: Shun Jie Yong, Peng Wu, Zoe Cinel. Former members: Aki Shibata and Preston Drum (2017-2020).

Zoe Cinel is an interdisciplinary artist and curator from Italy whose work builds community around human experiences that are isolating and complex to navigate, such as immigration and chronic pain. Starting from her journey as a patient and a migrant and collaborating with artists or with specialists in fields such as medicine and urban design, Zoe’s work’s ultimate goal is to connect and produce social change. Cinel received an MFA in Visual Studies from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Her artistic and curatorial work has been shown in institutions such as the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Gordon Parks Gallery at Metropolitan State University, St Paul, and the Rochester Art Center. Cinel is a 2022-23 resident artist at Second Shift Studio Space in St. Paul.

Born and raised in China, Peng Wu is a graphic designer and social practice artist dedicated to creating socially engaged projects in public space. His work combines the power of design thinking with contemporary art strategies to address various urgent social issues, including immigration, health disparity, and queer rights. He holds two master’s degrees in product design and sculpture and a bachelor's degree in physics. Through collaborating across disciplines and cultures, he has created participatory art installations exhibited in art institutions such as the Weisman Art Museum, Walker Art Center, and Minneapolis Institute of Art, as well as numerous public streets and community centers both in the U.S. and China. He is also an independent curator working with international cultural organizations on various exhibitions. Recent projects include Breathing Room in collaboration with Yuko Taniguchi and Youyang Yu at Rochester Art Center, Pandemic School at SooVAC, and the Shanghai International Paper Art Biennale at Fengxian Museum. Wu is an Assistant Professor at St Cloud State University and an Adjunct Professor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design MFA program. 

Shun Jie Yong is a fine art photographer and multidisciplinary artist. His work finds inspiration from his experiences as a second-generation immigrant in Malaysia and a first-generation immigrant in the United States; fear of loss, generational trauma, and curiosity motivated him to make photographs. Yong holds an MFA in Visual Studies from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and a BS in Physics from St. Cloud State University. His work has been exhibited at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Art at 801 Gallery, Soo Visuals Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Walker Art Center. Yong is the recipient of a 2019 MCBA/Jerome Foundation Book Arts Fellowship Series XV, and the 2021/22 MCAD–Jerome Foundation Fellowships for Early Career Artists, Forecast Public Art 2022 Early-Career Research + Development Grants, a 2022 Metropolitan Regional Arts Council Arts Impact for Individuals Grant, and a 2022 Minnesota State Arts Board Creative Support for Individuals Grant.

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