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Globalization, Art & Education

Family Migration Study

ARE 6933 Fall 2018                                                                             



My grandmother, Lylah, was born in the Abu area in India in 1920. Her father and grandfather's ancestors were from England but they were also born and raised in India. Her father worked for the British Railway system. Her mother’s ancestry is uncertain but our family believes she was Portuguese. My grandmother was the eldest of 8 siblings. She became a hairdresser and traveled around before meeting my grandfather in Bombay early in the 1940’s. My grandfather was born in Brooklyn, New York and was of Irish descent. He was stationed on a US Navy ship in Bombay when he met my grandmother there. They were married in the early 1940’s and they left India for the United States in 1943.


In the 70’s, my grandparents lived in Rota, Spain while my grandfather was stationed there. They had four children and one is my father. My father and mother met in Spain during high school. They were pregnant with my brother when they moved to Sanford, FL. A few years later my brother was born and then I was born in 1978. We lived with my grandmother and we spent the first few years of my life with my grandma and later we spent another few years with her. When I was in elementary school she relocated to Gainesville FL to be closer to her daughter. I was able to visit her growing up and even more when I became an adult.


My grandmother had artwork and wooden sculptures from places all over the world. These items decorated our home but have had a lasting impression on me and a curiosity of the places they were made. I have some of the paintings and a vase from childhood decorating my own home now and these items help connect me my experiences and connections to my family growing up.


My grandmother was a story teller and she had so many fascinating stories from her travels all over the world.  When she told her stories about her adventures, you felt like you were there. I can remember her telling me that when she came over she didn’t know anyone but her husband. It surprised me because at that time she had traveled all over the world and knew so many people. I remember thinking that I would have no idea how to handle entering a country to live that I have never been to. She had a map of the world on her wall and I always thought that all of the red pins from where she had been was like a dream. I wondered how someone could have visited so many places in the world and I have never been out of the United States.


My grandmother was one of the most strong-minded women I have known and was very comfortable in her own skin. I admire this more now since she passed in July of this year. I think that her experiences and travels helped shape her into a strong, independent woman. This is something that I feel I am still working on. Both of my parents also have traveled and have stories that I love to hear. All of them help me to better understand who my family are, where we come from which help me understand myself. I am blessed to have family with so many stories that have been passed down and I love discovering more.

Here is a story from my father that he shared with me:

"My Mom was born and raised in India, living there from 1920 to 1943. She was raised in Rajasthan. Rajasthan is a northern Indian state bordering Pakistan. Its palaces and forts are reminders of the many kingdoms that historically vied for the region. Her parents were British and her Dad was born in India and worked on the British Railroad for many years and also served in the British army during the Persia war 1914-1918. Her grandfather and Great Grandfather were also born in India as well. My Mom lived for many years near Abu Road. Abu Road is a city and municipality in Sirohi district of Rajasthan state in western India. She was the oldest of 8 children and spent many years in a boarding school. Around the age of 17 she left home and traveled around India working as a hairdresser. She eventually ended up in Bombay in the early 1940's where she met my father who was serving in the U.S. Navy and working at the U. S. Naval liaison office downtown Bombay. They got married soon afterward and had their first baby born in Bombay in 1943. Geanne, their first daughter, turned 75 this year! My Mom became a U.S. citizen and they all left for New Jersey in 1944 when my Dad was transferred back to the States".


Karey Mortimer

Grandma , mixed media collage on canvas, 16x20


Image description:

I created this work by collecting family photos of my grandmother throughout her life. I used acrylic paint for the tree with beads. I added a texture gel into the paint for the tree truck. I chose the tree because of family and strength. Within the tree, I added the shapes of India and the United States to represent my grandmother’s journey. I added word stickers to help guide the viewer through the images. I have added separate close up photos to them clearer. The bottom left begins with my grandmother and her siblings as well as her parents in India leading into photos of my grandparents wedding day. I added more photos of my grandparents at the bottom right as well as photos of my Dad. The top right are pictures of me, the newspaper from the day I was born leading into photos of me and my grandmother. Finally, on the left side is one of the last photos taken of my grandmother. I wanted to create something similar to a family tree with photos as a pathway on a journey.

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