B–eing H1

Girija Kaimal

Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center


The idea underlying the artwork is that each H-1B visa is encased in a compelling individual life story. My aim is to highlight and showcase how a small strip of paper that fills one page of a passport, has a life changing impact on the person who holds the visa. The images include the connection to India, the feeling of being distanced, adrift and without a safety net while bringing richness and contributing deeply to the US economy. All the while not being able to fully participate or benefit from the resources available to citizens. The artistic elements include canvases (held together only visually) that depict images of the earth as seen from above. These highlight the sense of being somewhat apart and ungrounded from the overall experience of U.S. citizens and green card holders. The H-1B visa holder is in this in-between space that is neither in India nor completely in the U.S. They are outsiders and are in the unique position of being keenly observant of life in the U.S. without being grounded or secure being here. The images also highlight the emotional churn of the experience. Specific elements of include narrative quotes overlaid on images of H-1B visa stamps and passports. The artwork and imagery seek to visually represent these unheard stories.

DR. GIRIJA KAIMAL is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University. Dr. Kaimal received her Doctorate in Human Development and Psychology from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Master of Arts in Art Therapy from Drexel University and a Bachelor of Arts in Design from the National Institute of Design in India. She serves as a research consultant to Save the Children for their project on arts-based psychosocial support for vulnerable children in trauma zones around the world. For her research on arts and human development, she has received awards from Drexel University and the American Art Therapy Association. She is a practicing visual artist and her work explores the intersection of transnational identity and sustainable artistic practices. Her art integrates her multiple identities of educator, artist, mother, woman, art therapist, and researcher.

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  • Title: B–eing H1
  • Creator: Girija Kaimal