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Multiracial student union hosts second portrait gallery

May 5, 2023

Andrew Yuan
FACES FROM MANY PLACES: Students browse the MRSU’s new portrait gallery in Smith Union’s Lamarche Gallery. The gallery aims to create a sense of belonging for multiracial students.

“My mother’s womb,” Sajel Surati ’25 said, when asked where she was really from. In the Lamarche Gallery, hanging neatly below their speaker’s portrait, are dozens of similar replies—some punctuated and to the point, some dreamy and meandering, but all exploring the same, loaded question: What are you?

The exhibit, curated by Multiracial Student Union (MRSU) members Miki Rierson ’23 and Maya Chandar-Kouba ’23, opened yesterday evening and will remain in the gallery until the end of the semester. It is the project’s second iteration. In addition to MRSU members’ statements, the gallery features personality-filled headshots—captured by Brandon Lozano ’24—of MRSU members. New this year is the addition of poems and prose written by MRSU students, which dangle on red yarn hung from the ceiling.

Rierson and Chandar-Kouba were first years when the MRSU’s initial gallery exhibit opened in 2019. The pair, slated to take part in the inaugural exhibition, ended up not participating; they were too nervous to have their photos taken. Three years later, the pair see the gallery’s revival as both a redemption for their younger selves and a way to carry MRSU’s legacy forward.

“I hope there’s at least one person who walks in and is really touched by the exhibit and really feels like they belong at Bowdoin,” Chandar-Kouba said. “It was really sweet and sentimental, and it made me tear up a lot of times when we were putting it together.”

Maya Lamm ’24, who joined MRSU last year, said she was encouraged to participate by fellow MRSU member and friend Owen Ratliff ’25.

“I got the email, and I was super excited because I was part of my high school’s multiracial student group—we wanted to do something like that but couldn’t because of the pandemic,” Ratliff said. “I think it’s hard to find things that bring multiracial people together, but something like this, where we can celebrate one another, is really cool.”

Lamm also touched on this complexity—of being mixed-race, of feeling like you don’t really belong in the cultural spaces on campus. Both students appreciated MRSU’s ability to make space for mixed students.

“There’s a lot of affinity groups, but sometimes it’s hard if you’re multiracial to feel like it’s your space. I think it’s really cool to see how everyone has mixed backgrounds here. It’s normalized,” Lamm said.

While Chandar-Kouba and Rierson hope that the exhibit showcases Bowdoin’s diversity, their main priority is that other multiracial students feel seen and appreciated. It appears their goal hasn’t fallen short.

“I love being mixed!” Lamm said.


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