February Session: Putting the Last Piece in the Puzzle


After lunch was cleared from the room, participants were still chatting with each other as they slowly trickled back into the room. The 11 participants were conversing in Khmer, further forging connections amongst themselves. Once everybody settled on a spot in the circle around the room, the workshop commenced. With her hands in a prayer position in front of her, artist Shimana Sadeghi greeted everybody in Khmer, with a slight bow of her head towards everybody.






Shimana then revealed that today was her last day of conducting the workshop. She launched into an explanation as to why. She has been in the United States for three years and ten months. All of her family members live in either Australia or Iran, which means that she has been separated from loved ones. Due to the Travel Ban, her husband, being from Iran, cannot get a Visa to live in the United States, as Iranians are banned from being able to immigrate here. After graduating this spring, she is going to leave to live in a third country with her husband. “It's hard for me to say goodbye”, Shimana said as she was relaying the solemn news to the participants who have grown quite fond of her. She has found her place amongst them: “I feel like I belong to this community”.





To help her remember her time with her group members, the final project that she set for them, called “Pieces for Me”, in which the men were to decorate some blank puzzle pieces with paint. Each time she looks back on the puzzle pieces, she will be reminded of all of them and the time they shared together. Shimana expressed her gratitude towards how the men have accepted her: “Thank you so much for accepting me”.

The men started fervently exchanging some words amongst themselves, because they were wondering if she would be able to come for one more Friday so that they could have a potluck, or some time in which they could send her off with a proper goodbye. She said she would try her best to find the time.




Before they started decorating the puzzle pieces, she had everybody stand up to do the physical activity. Each participant was to pair a movement with a sound, which everybody had to mimic. After a few people went, one man decided to go in to hug Shimana, which meant that every man had to go give her a hug. Laughter ensued as everybody took their turns to give her a hug.

Then, it was time to start the project. Shimana gave the men the option to paint on small seven-by-five canvas boards. With some live music being played in the background, the participants got to work on their pieces of art. As the participants developed their works, common colors used were greens, yellows, green-yellows, and yellow-greens. As people were completing their works, the puzzle pieces and the canvases started lining bottom edge of the wall.



Shimana then gathered everyone to participate in a bonus activity, which was to choose one word to describe Shimana. A few words that were used to describe her were “light”, “passion”, and “grace”. Her word to describe the group was “acceptance”. Then she formed three parallel lines out of the participants and led them in a Persian dance. She began by stepping side-to-side while clapping on each side. The men then opted to sing a Cambodian song as they danced along with her. The lines then dissolved, as everybody started circling Shimana as she was making her rounds to dance with each individual participant.