I don't know much about Marwa Akway Omot, except that he was 23, he came here from Ethiopia in 1996, and his body was found on Sunday in the Mississippi not far from my where I live. As a 16-year old, he took part in the Walker Art Center's 2002 project, "Minneapolis and St. Paul are East African Cities," which was part of Ethiopia-born artist Julie Mehretu's residency. Mehretu and Walker staffers worked with Somali, Oromo and Ethiopian kids to help them map their lives here in Minnesota; the result -- including audio Omot recorded in his chemistry class at Edison High School in Northeast Minneapolis -- was presented in an online interactive map; plus participants' photos, notebooks and audio recordings are now part of the permanent collection at the Hennepin History Museum, where they were exhibited in 2003.
Given my tenuous connection to this young man, I'm not sure why I'm writing about this, except maybe to acknowledge sadness that his long journey here, presumably to find better circumstances, ended abruptly. And as a (probably unnecessary) reminder that when it comes to charting our own lives, we never know how soon 'til that last X on the map is laid down.
Condolences to his family and friends.