Portrait of a Refugee

Mirak Jamal's <i>Arrival</i>
Mirak Jamal's Arrival

It has been almost five years since the six members of the Jamal family – Mo, Shahla, and their four sons – were forced to pack up their lives and leave Austin, and the U.S., pursuant to an Immigration and Naturalization Service decision to deny the family political asylum. The Jamals fled Iran in 1979, landed in Germany briefly, then fled (amid heightening racial discord there) to Austin, where they lived for eight years before receiving notice of deportation in December 2002. By the end of January 2003, they were gone. (See "Holiday Greetings From the INS: Hit the Road," Jan. 10, 2003.) It was a blow not only for the family but for the city's community of artists, of which the Jamals had become a part – in addition, Mo taught violin and the couple hosted KOOP radio's Sunday program The Persian Hour.

The Jamals moved to Canada, where they have finally found a home and will soon be granted Canadian citizenship. And now their son Mirak has joined the family tradition: This month Gallery 1906, 1906 Chicon, will show Mirak's first solo art show, "Portrait of a Refugee," which opens Nov. 9 and runs through Dec. 9. Mirak would love to attend the opening ceremony, he told us, but the feds have issued a 10-year ban on any Jamal family member entering the U.S. "These experiences have both matured me and driven me to create art that speaks about what it is to be a Middle-Eastern immigrant," Mirak said. For more info on Jamal's show, call 1906 at 773-6676.

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