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Global refugee in lenses of Annenberg space

By Tajudeen Sowole
15 May 2016   |   1:50 am
Africa’s refugee status is focused among the global crisis in an international gathering as Senegalese photographer, Omar Victor Diop joins four others.

Annenberg (1)

Africa’s refugee status is focused among the global crisis in an international gathering as Senegalese photographer, Omar Victor Diop joins four others. Titled Refugee and currently ongoing, the exhibition which ends on August 21, 2016 at Annenberg Space for Photography, U.S, features works of other photographers: Lynsey Addario, Graciela Iturbide, Martin Schoeller, and Tom Stoddart.

Organised by the Annenberg Foundation and Annenberg Space for Photography, in focus are select refugee spots such as Bangladesh, Cameroon, Colombia, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Mexico, Myanmar, Serbia, Slovenia and the U S. The works, according to Annenberg Foundation, are newly commissioned, specifically for the exhibition.

With a blurred line between refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), the exhibition, surprisingly exclude the victims of Boko Haram insurgents, north east of Nigeria whose plight has been noted as one of the largest IDPs in the world. However, some of the Annenberg Refugee exhibition captures, viewed via digital images, give diverse perspectives to the plight of refugees around the world.

Among the works of Diop, for example, are those of refugees said to have fled to Cameroon from the civil war in Central African Republic and camped at Mbile site of the host country. However, it’s a relief to see the Senegalese photographer reduces despair from the faces of a mother and child in one of his works. Dignified in an oval framing technique, the family portrait suggests hope for women and children, who, usually, are two most vulnerable victims of wars. Diop who is known for his work in fashion photography has shown at Paris Photo and FIAC (Paris), the Arles photography festival, and 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair (New York and London).

Stoddart’s lens goes to Lesbos, in Greece, bringing the joyous moment of a father celebrating his family’s arrival in a foreign land after a “stormy crossing” from Turkey to Aegean. “During my assignment, I saw once again the tired faces of desperate fathers trying to find a place of safety and peace for their families, away from the bombs and inhumanity of war,” Stoddart recalls.

A double agony in separation and displacement comes in the capture by Addario, of a lady from Myanmar, who cooks in her family home in Say Tha Mar Gyi Camp. Married, but her husband left her within the last year to return to his family. Addario was recently named one of American Photo Magazine’s top-5 most influential photographers of the past 25 years. Her recently released New York Times best-selling memoir, It’s What I Do, chronicles her personal and professional life coming of age in the post-9/11 world.

Time to play as Iturbide brings into focus lads in Puente Nayero, Buenaventura, Colombia, who play an improvised game of table football, in search of respite away from the trauma of displacement. Described as one of the most prolific Mexican photographers, Iturbide has participated in group exhibitions throughout the globe. Her solo exhibitions include the Casa de la Cultura in Juchitan, Oaxaca, Mexico; Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Museo de Arte Moderno, Buenos Aires; and the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City, among others.

In what he calls, New Americans Portraits, Schoeller tells the story of refugees who have recently resettled in the U.S., as part of the American government’s Refugee Admissions Programme. The portraits include Bhimal, 42 Bhutan; Maryna, 27, Belarus; and Patricia, 22, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Among the photographer’s works are projects for such publications as Rolling Stone, National Geographic, TIME and GQ, among others. Schoeller joined Richard Avedon as a contributing portrait photographer at The New Yorker in 1999, where he continues to produce award-winning images.

Annenberg notes the records of UNHCR that about 60 million refugees exist around the world, arguing that the exhibition is “timely,” and should “allow audiences to engage with aspects of the plight of refugees not previously encountered, and to reflect on a full range of current global refugee experiences through singular and compelling images.”

Similarly, Internal Displaced Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), in 2014 disclosed: “Violence, abuses, and forced evictions all add to the conflict-mix in many of these situations, while in places such as Nigeria we see how challenging life becomes for those already displaced by conflict when they are struck down again by severe floods and storms,” said Alfredo Zamudio, Director of IDMC.

Annenberg Foundation Chairman of the Board, President and CEO Wallis Annenberg states:

“I’m proud that the Annenberg Foundation has built a strong tradition of exploring our most pressing and complex public issues, of promoting meaningful dialogue even where there is contention and controversy. I can’t think of an issue more important and vital than the global refugee crisis. Now more than ever, we need to go beyond superficial readings of this worldwide concern in order to understand its deeply human ramifications. In this powerful exhibit, I believe we do.

I believe we go to a place that only great and stirring art can truly go—deep into the humanity of the refugee crisis, as seen through the eyes of some of the greatest photographers alive. These extraordinary and visionary artists don’t advocate, they illuminate; they don’t argue a position, they enlighten. I believe it’s essential viewing, so we don’t just see what’s happening in our world, we feel it.”