So start anywhere; just start now. We need you. Many of us find ourselves charged, either by that little voice inside us or the loud voice of external social and philosophical mandates, to “Save The World”.
I’ve known how to write my name since I was four years old, so as I watched Cedeh sit down with paper and a prized ink pen and slowly work through the letters of her name I had a sense of peering into someone’s shame. Then Cedeh looked up with a proud smile and I could see that she clearly had no time for self-consciousness; she was the mother of many children, leader of the village choir, and a survivor the Liberian Civil War. She had also just finished her first year of schooling, and could now meet the national goal of having all Liberian women be able to sign her name on the ballot for the upcoming Liberian Presidential Election. I was awed by her.
The refugee story is both as big as the world, with nation-state boundaries being drawn by international powers dividing families, and as small as the individual child, orphaned by violence and brought to safety by another child or relative. Their welcome is temporary.
The photographer Chris Rainier is our guide, and an expert in indigenous and threatened cultures. He reminds us of "the conceit that we've evolved," thinking that we've written the one true story and others are somehow behind, or left out or wrong. His world view is "learning to ask the right question" as we stretch the porous edges of our own story and learn to pause, to listen, to look both out the window and in the mirror; letting go of our own narrative to become the storyteller ourselves.
The political tension is like a wire running through the community that everyone seems adept at bending under and around, while earnestly praying that it doesn’t cut you off at the neck. Despite these challenges, a remarkable team of people are quietly going about the business of tackling AIDs.
· My narrative becomes the many colors of grey. I see the weapons and the bleakness of destroyed community, and I see the cheery colors of a hopscotch board for the Settler children’s play. I see the red and green national colors of the angry Arabic graffiti on the walls, and I hear from an Israeli/American father who is nervous but proud of his son who has just joined the military, is working the check points, and is playing his part in Zionism. The complexity grows as the narratives build, and are as varied as human lives. Absolutely nothing here is black and white, and it seems wrong to portray it as such.
“It is a happy talent to know how to play. Ralph Waldo Emerson.” Every culture plays, and understands play as a tool for healthy social and emotional development, for relaxation, learning and peace. Play is a way of trying out certain behaviors both physical and emotional, and of building strong and cohesive community values. I am interested in exploring this photographically on a global scale, and have begun in India to document how Magic Bus puts this into practice.
"Perhaps the only people with the right to (record such stories) of suffering of this extreme order are those who could do something to alleviate it — or those who can learn from it.” - Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others