Brooklyn artist creates immigrant version of classic ‘Life’ board game

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BAY RIDGE, Brooklyn — One Brooklyn artist has put a new spin on a classic board game. Isabell Garbani created an immigration version of the game Life in the hopes of shedding a little light on the immigration experience.

“I want people to be a little more sympathetic to the immigration experience,” Garbani said as we played the game at Caffe Cafe in Bay Ridge.

She started working on “Life: Immigration Game” during the 2016 Presidential Campaign when, then candidate, Donald Trump made immigration a central focus of his platform.

“It’s everywhere, it’s not just here, if you look at the news worldwide there’s a resurgence of nationalism and xenophobia and it’s kind of worrisome to me to see that happening.”

Recently, the rhetoric hit even closer to home when an undocumented pizza deliveryman was arrested and detained by ICE at Fort Hamilton Army Base, just a few blocks from her home in Bay Ridge.

“It is happening in our backyard now,” she said. “This is not something that is far away in Texas or in Arizona. This is actually happening in our neighborhood and this is making people a little bit more aware of those things.”

Garbani drew on her own experience immigrating from France more than 30 years ago and interviewed more than 20 immigrants who shared their own stories for her project.

From losing a turn while you wait for your visa at the American Embassy to dealing with a monetary loss because you’re afraid to report a robbery to the police, each of the scenarios you come across in her version of the game are based on real life experiences.

The board is a mosaic of her family photos laid over the American Flag and all the flags of the United Nations. While some of the buildings from the original game have been replaced with symbols of immigration like the Statue of Liberty and tenement houses, the game ends with a modest ranch style house, complete with at two car garage and an above ground pool – the quintessential American dream.

“The idea is to really humanize the experience and humanize immigrants. We’re all the same, we all want basically the same thing in life.”

Right now you can play the game at Caffe Cafe in Bay Ridge, but Garbani hopes to make it available at cafes in other big cities throughout the country later this year.

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