Separated-Separados is an emotive catalogue of visual responses to the ongoing separation of migrant children in the US
Gathering a stellar list of contributors from Erik Carter to Bráulio Amado, Shira Inbar explains why she wanted to turn her privilege into responsibility with this important publication.
- Jyni Ong
- 7 April 2020
We all remember the harrowing tales of children being separated from their parents on the US border. In Spring 2019, the media was flooded with such stories, the cruel result of America’s policy to stop immigrants and refugees from entering the country. Family separation has devastating effects. Children are taken from their parents and put into camps while parents are either detained in other camps, or deported. Many have no way of reuniting with their children, or even knowing what happened to them, and to make matters worse, there was a total lack of care in the camps. No basic sanitation, no proper accommodation, no health or mental care provided.
While this was happening, in a very different American reality, the multi-disciplinary designer Shira Inbar was invited to speak at the Typographics conference. There, the designer-cum animator-cum VJ was able to meet a myriad of people she admired, make new friends, and to top it all off, learn a lot. But while she was buried in this privileged community, a feeling of discomfort persistently niggled away.
She tells It’s Nice That: “If the situation of the children at the border wasn’t difficult enough to take in, my pain doubled the thinking of the extreme imbalance of their reality versus mine. They are behind a fence while I’m roaming the streets of New York. They are voiceless while I make my voice heard through design. They are separated from their families and communities, while I’m making new friends.”
This prevalent imbalance spurred Shira to do something about the situation. Harnessing her place in the industry and her contacts, not to mention her creative thinking, Shira “wanted to turn [her] privilege into responsibility.” In turn, challenging “the talent, articulation and depth of character of the people around me towards the children and families at the border.” Now, the proof is in the pudding, in the newly released Separated-Separados published by Draw Down, a catalog of visual responses to the separation of migrant children. Additionally, all profits from the sale of the publication are donated to the support and benefit of detained migrant children in the US via Save The Children.
Printed in two opposite colours, blue and orange, Separated-Separados expresses Shira’s (and the wider creative community’s) sense of dichotomy in the so-called land of the free. Visually, the design also reflects themes of separation and detainment. Shira makes use of borders and harsh lines throughout the design, mirrored through the contrasting colours and the harsh, statement-like choice in type. “Our binary education teaches us to separate between colours, hierarchies, formats and other visual experiences,” adds the founding designer. “To me, there’s a strength and power in mirroring the visual binary and the actual binary. One could say that they are both results of each other.”
Featuring contributions from the likes of Bráulio Amado, Laura Berglund, Erik Carter, Laura Coombs, Elizabeth Goodspeed, Joyce Kim, Richard Turley, Zipeng Zhu, Mira Khandpur and Shira herself of course, the publication features responses from a wide array of nationalities and countries. From Mexico to The Phillippines, India to Israel, China and Lebanon, plus many many more.
“Though my priority was to work within my community, it was important to me to approach individuals who I know have a personal connection to migration and fight have something to say about it,” says Shira. Dragana Kaurin, for example, responded with an opening essay investigating how design and technology are used by refugee communities worldwide, and against them. A research and founder of Localisation Lab, Dragana was a child refugee herself from Bosnia, and wrote a breathtaking account of the migrant experience for the publication, while putting forward learnings of how artists such as Rothko and Chagall were too.
It completely changed the way she saw their work. With Chagall for instance, where she once saw longing, now she sees displacement. Whereas with Rothko, where she once understood his paintings to connote contrast, now, she interprets it as separation. Shira adds on the poignant essay, “Dragana points out how art is the only way through which we cant truly understand the absurdity and horror of war, loss and displacement, because they are things that elude reason entirely.”
Entirely self-funded, Shira’s plans for the publication’s distributions are as transparent and inclusive as possible. Each contributor was invited to respond in any way they saw fit, as long as it expressed something they felt strongly about. Exemplified in Erik Carter’s poster, the famed designer provided a chilling list of hundreds of companies who profit from the camps. Sourced from the Federal Procurement Data System, the list of companies includes a myriad of outlets, from drug testing corporations to dog trainers, to entire cities and districts across the US.
Elsewhere, Kelly Walter’s poster explores the graphic design of 20th century Black film posters, made up of their extractions. Shira adds on the emotive artwork: “Her poster, to me, is evidence both of the separation, segregation and discrimination on which the ‘white man’s world’ feeds, and at the same time, is evidence of how people rise up to form, celebrate and advance their culture and community in spite of the harshest conditions.” Especially now, as this global pandemic unfurls, Shira hopes to remind readers that the detention of children is still happening in the US. “Some of us are lucky enough to be quarantined at home,” she finally goes on to say. “I hope this publication will inspire others to recognise their privilege and see the responsibility that comes with it.”
Shira Inbar, designer
Shira Inbar/Dragana Kaurin, writers
Draw Down Books, distributor, photographer
Bráulio Amado/Laura Berglund/Chris Bruffee/Erik Carter/Laura Coombs/Lorenzo Fanton/Dora Godfrey/Elizabeth Goodspeed/Raoul Gottschling/Yotam Hadar/Jerome Harris/Shira Inbar/Chantal Jahchan/Jonathan Katav/Dragana Kaurin/Mira Khandpur/Nicole Killian/Joyce Kim/Kellie Konapelsky/Jake Longoria, Dark Igloo/Raphaelle Macaron/Gina Moreno Valle/Leanna Perry/Tala Safié/June Shin/Sally Thurer/Rich Tu/Richard Turley/Benjamin Tuttle/Kelly Walters/Daniel Zender/Zipeng Zhu, contributing artists
Anna Meixler, editor
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.