Kites are soaring at a new exhibition in the Levine Museum of the New South thanks to artist Rosalia Torres-Weiner.
Her Papalote Magico/The Magic Kite exhibit highlights the stories of area children who have been impacted by deportation of a parent or close relative.
Torres-Weiner says, nationwide, an estimated 129,000 people were placed in detention proceedings during 2012. For each person detained in immigration actions, an estimated additional 3.5 people are directly affected including mothers, fathers, children and spouses, she says.
“When we moved here I saw families being separated and kids put in foster homes. As a Mexican immigrant I felt it was important to document this moment in American history, and, as an artist, I felt obligated to tell the story through the arts,” said Weiner, who lives in Mint Hill.
As a child in Mexico, Torres-Weiner loved to go to the kite festivals where beautifully colored papalotes (kites) danced effortlessly across the sky. When she got older, she started making her own.
“When I used to make the papalotes, my mind was concentrating so hard to try to make the best one possible. I wanted to fly it, and when it took off it was such a good feeling,” she said.
As an adult, she found she could express her feelings through art. She recently started the Papalote Project, aiming to give that same opportunity of emotional expression to local children whose relatives had been deported.
She gathered up colored paper, markers, string, sticks, glitter and glue, and invited about a dozen children whose parents had been deported to a papalote workshop at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church on Tuckaseegee Road in Charlotte.
The only thing they were asked to bring was a piece of their relatives’ clothing.
After making kites and attaching tails made of strips of their loved ones’ garments, each child drew a picture or wrote a story about the important person in their life who had been taken away. The stories were attached to the papalotes.
One kite told the story of a child left behind after her mother, who worked cleaning planes at the airport, was arrested as a terrorist and deported because she didn’t have documentation. Another showed a middle school girl crying because she will never get her license or attend college because she has no papers. Three kites were made by three sisters whose father was sent away.
“This project allowed the children to tell their stories and express their emotions through a creative outlet. I wanted them to use these papalotes as a way to release their fears,” Weiner said.
The first round of kites are flying on the walls at the Levine Museum of the New South and patrons are taking notice.
“I’ve heard from several visitors who stopped to see the exhibit and have been very moved by it. This is an important story in our community, and we are privileged to tell that story,” said Kate Baillon van Rensburg, Vice President of Exhibits at the museum.
Torres-Weiner wants to give other kids the opportunity to tell their stories, and she’s calling on the community to make kites, volunteer, and advocate.
“We need families to make papalotes for us. That way, the kids will already have a kite waiting on them and will have more time to work on their stories and pictures. And I want more places to display them. I’m looking for galleries with wall space or atriums – especially atriums – where I can exhibit oceans of kites,” said Torres-Weiner.
“My hope is that the Papalote Project will give children and families affected by deportation a way to express their stories. I also hope that it will raise awareness in our community about the tragic impact that our immigration policies are having on people, and hopefully move the public to political action to resolve this crisis.”