Betty is from the Kisii tribe in Kenya. When she was ready to attend college in Kenya, the lone university in the country went on strike. Her sister, who lived in Texas, encouraged her to apply to the University of Texas at Austin. Betty won a scholarship and graduated with degrees in Computer Science and Finance. From Texas, she moved to Minneapolis with her Minnesota born husband in 1996. Sadly he passed away three years later. Betty still resides in Minnesota.
On comparing Kenya to The United States: “I was driving from Cary, North Carolina to Roanoke, Virginia in August and part of the scenery, the trees along the roadside, especially in North Carolina, somewhat reminded me of Kenya. The trees, the greenery, but what is so distinct about Kenya is the Rift Valley, which comes all the way from Egypt and all the way down to South Africa. And that really transforms the landscape. It changes even the climate and I don’t know if there’s any place in the U.S. that looks like it.”
Syrian born, Osama, moved to the United States in 1995. In his native country he was a tailor and later a photographer, a profession he continues to this day, but felt he needed to expand his “cultural borders, living in France, Spain and the U.S.” He is fluent in Arabic, English, French, Persian and Spanish.
Osama likens the Mississippi River to the Euphrates and Jordan River, having taken a road trip from the headwaters in Itasca State Park to the Gulf of Mexico. It is what draws him to Minnesota.
‘Since that decision of leaving Damascus, I keep thinking about it. It really makes me sad that I lost all these years away from my home country, but I found in the state of Minnesota, what I lost in Damascus. It still has that feel.”
Originally from Mexico City, Gustavo grew up in the state of Oaxaca, and his past is rich with Oaxacan culture through his mother’s heritage. He immigrated in 1995 when he met a St. Paul woman and settled to start a family in Minnesota. Gustavo creates public art through schools and cultural centers all over the Twin Cities.
Shigeyuki doesn’t remember how old he was when he started cooking, but he’s never forgotten the smile on his friend’s face when he would make snacks for him in Japan. As a child Shigeyuki helped his mother by prepping for family dinners. He graduated from culinary school and began working in restaurants in Tokyo as a kaiseki apprentice. Kaiseki is a multi-course dinner prepared with seasonal foods.
As a child, Shige’s father played Simon & Garfunkel records at home introducing him to the United States. His interest in the U.S. grew while working in restaurants in Japan and meeting international travelers.
He moved to Minnesota in 2009. He is co-owner of Kado no Mise, the lone kaiseki restaurant in Minnesota.
Vesna’s father and pregnant mother were on the way to the hospital in Dubrovnik, Croatia when road conditions forced them to make an unscheduled stop. Her birth took place in a home owned by a poet outside the city. She was raised in the city of Split, located on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea.
Following law school in Croatia, Vesna attended Newnham College in Cambridge, England where she studied English. There she met her future husband David. They were married in England and permanently moved to the United States in 1970.
“One thing that I was born into and continue to carry is the identity of an immigrant. My family was immigrant, I am an immigrant here and my grandchildren are also children of an immigrant. I love being here (in Minnesota) with my mind and my body but at the same time I feel that my soul remained where my childhood was and I sometimes question, do other immigrants feel like this, you know, this kind of fragmentation. But it’s primarily positive, but still it’s big. For me as an artist I think about it everyday.”
Joanna grew up on a vegetable farm in Zamosc, Poland where her mother and father also raised chickens and pigs. Following in the footsteps of her grandmother, aunts, and uncles, the family emigrated to the U.S. in 1995, settling in Northeast Minneapolis, which has a rich history of immigrants. Like many others, her family came to the U.S. for a better life. Starting her education in kindergarten, Joanna spoke only Polish, but quickly learned English and was soon translating for her parents at grocery stores, doctor visits and even parent/teacher conferences.
Marvin discovered the Twin Cities vibrant art scene upon moving to Minnesota in 2001 from Jacksonville, Florida. The lakes, changing of the weather, fall colors and diversity of the population give him inspiration to paint.
“I get love from strangers that I never met before. I can sit down and have a coffee with them, talk to them and feel like family. That’s the feeling you get in Minnesota. That why I make Minnesota my home.”