Stories & Songs: Immigrant & Refugee Artists

at Outpost Performance Space

All seats $5

516 ARTS and the Outpost Performance Space presented Stories & Songs: Immigrant & Refugee Artists, a performative talk with immigrant and refugee artists and cultural workers who have made their home in Albuquerque.  The public was invited to this discussion around the role of the arts in cultural retention through migration, which included short performances by some of the cultural treasures of the Albuquerque arts community.  Moderated by folklorist Wade Patterson, artists included: Rahim AlHaj, a virtuoso oud musician and composer from Iraq; Nada Kherbik, a journalist and teacher from Syria; Rujeko Dumbutshena, a dancer from Zimbabwe; and Chuy Martinez, a musician from Mexico.

Questions explored included: What is the role performance/cultural expression plays in the migration experience  Do they take on new meanings?  How do the traditions change when people move away from their homeland?  How does one balance integration into a new society with maintaining the cultural identity of the old and what role can/does art/performance play in this?

This event was in conjunction with At Home in the World, an exhibition at 516 ARTS and series of public programs which explore belonging and place, examining how we relate to each other, ourselves and our countries as globalization forces us to rethink issues of nationalities, citizenship and migration.


Rahim AlHaj, virtuoso oud musician and composer, was born in Baghdad, Iraq and began playing the oud (the grandfather of all stringed instruments) at age nine.  Early on, it was evident that he had a remarkable talent for playing the oud.  AlHaj studied under the renowned Munir Bashir, considered by many to be the greatest oud player ever, and Salim Abdul Kareem, at the Institute of Music in Baghdad.  AlHaj won various awards at the Conservatory and graduated in 1990 with a diploma in composition.  He holds a degree in Arabic Literature from Mustunsariya University in Baghdad.  In 1991, after the first Gulf War, AlHaj was forced to leave Iraq due to his activism against the Saddam Hussein regime and began his life in Jordan and Syria.  He moved to the US in 2000 as a political refugee and has resided in Albuquerque ever since.  He became a US citizen on August 15, 2008.  The San Francisco Chronicle called him "one of the greatest oud players in the world."

Nada Kherbik is a journalist and teacher from Syria, who came to Albuquerque in 2002.  She has written articles on art, environment, music, culture, women, law, medicine and disabilities.  She has interviewed an array of writers, artists, musicians and academics, has taught classes on Syrian society and culture, and currently teaches at Albuquerque Academy.  As an interpreter of Arabic, she has worked with refugees from various Arab countries and has provided social services to individuals in need from many different countries.

Rujeko Dumbutshena is an experienced university, college and high school dance instructor and is currently on faculty at The University of New Mexico teaching the fundamental aesthetics of neo-traditional African movement.  As a Zimbabwean artist living in America, Dumbutshena has strived to bridge diversely different cultures and has successfully been a part of innovative works, taught workshops and directed conferences to bring together students and audiences as witnesses and participants in the profundity of African art today.  Her Broadway experience as an original ensemble dancer in the hit musical FELA! perfectly represents the impact Africa has on the world today.  Her instruction provides a meeting place of cultures.  She has achieved the highest Western institutional accolades, while standing rooted in the antiquity of her people.

Chuy Martinez is a singer, songwriter, folklorist and community cultural worker from Guerrero, Mexico, where he grew up in migrant fields and in the farm workers' movement.  For more than 40 years, he has been performing and writing music, as well as working in theatre, and he has shared the stage with many national and international artists.  He has received many honors for his contributions to the community including the 1998 Human Rights Unsung Hero Award and the Bravo Artist of the Year Award in 1999.  Martinez hosted the popular television show Lo Maduro De La Cultura and worked many years for the City of Albuquerque Cultural Services Department.

Event moderator Wade Patterson is a Folklorist and Urban and Regional Planner.  He worked for ten years as an arts administrator in Albuquerque and has produced materials documenting the dance and music traditions of Uganda.  His professional planning experience includes community development, affordable housing and active transportation.  He currently works for the New Mexico Department of Transportation.