Dear Grandmother

( Your Basket, Voice, and Home; the story of a Rwandan refugee in Worcester, Massachusetts)

“Dear Grandmother” is a 10-month digital storytelling project for Rwandan Refugee youth in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The project features the voice of Saidati, a high school refugee student, and her grandmother, an African Agaseke (basket)-making master, Patricia, who had experienced three genocides in Rwanda before coming to the U.S. in 2009. 

The project aims to weave together several creative themes: introducing African refugee arts, accelerating intergenerational communication, and enhancing refugee-non refugee connection.

Biweekly sessions are designed as a hands-on learning experience. The sessions consist of mainly two parts; narrative design and video production.

With the emphasis on the importance of the learning process, the project aims to produce the video as a final outcome of the 10-month journey. 

For the Harvard GSD Kirkland Gallery exhibition starting on April 19th, 2020, the trailer of the video and this website are launched. We also share the storyboard of the final video.  Showing the production processes is an experiment in itself and a proposal for rethinking film production processes.

This innovative community design methodology brings together traditional craft making with recorded video to share publicly through open spaces in Worcester, Saidati’s high school Department of Literature, and the websites of the collaborator organizations as well.

Ayaka, a graduate student at Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and GSD Community Service Fellow of Summer 2020, initiated the project  with guidance from the Refugee Artisans of Worcester and collaboration with Crocodile River Music in August 2020.

The City of Worcester has served as one of the top destinations for refugee resettlement and is known for creative art programs, which had been negatively impacted through COVID-19. The interview with the Worcester Cultural Coalition Director regarding the city’s response to  COVID-19 inspired Ayaka to kickstart the program to pursue digital engagement of refugees which emphasizes the voice of refugee youth and prevents social isolation of the refugee artisans in this hard time. 

The grandmother and granddaughter featured in the project represent a possible future series of videos highlighting the creative talent that contributes to resettled art diversity. Strong resourceful women contribute to the resiliency of not only their families but the intercultural community, as in this project.