What lives or dies in our stuff? This project will explore the truth behind the "three Ts"-- East African conflict minerals.
1,100 Women are raped every day in the Congo, making it the "rape capital of the world." This is not a new statistic, but rather has been a known fact for over a decade.
Despite the fact that the Western media often labels fighting in Africa "ethnic violence," such conflicts can easily be traced back to colonial forces, which pitted arbitrary groupings of citizens against one another. This was known as the "divide-and-conquer" tactic. Today as well, there are many realities that evidence our everyday ties to the East African crisis.
Such buried ties are at the heart of this site-specific installation, which will be featured at the internationally renowned art space PACT Zollverein in September, as part of the Ruhrtriennale, an international festival in Essen, Germany.
PACT has secured their foyer, which was originally an industrial group shower for local miners, for this installation.
East Africa also has its own complicated history with mining: the "three Ts" (tantalum, tungsten, and tin), which along with gold are currently funding the violence in Congo, will serve as a frame for this piece. This is a familiar dilemma: anyone who has seen the film Blood Diamond remembers a similar situation in the West Africa. Now, the term "conflict free diamond" is a household phrase.
What will the installation look like?
With the mining connection in mind, I plan to fill PACT's foyer with the everyday electronics that use such minerals (so far, without any "conflict-free" regulation): iPods, computers, cell phones, etc. Don't worry, funds aren't going to purchase these. (Unfortunately, I already own many of these electronics and will borrow others.)
Recorded on these devices will be various media (sound, text, film, photos) showing where/how these minerals travel, and how the violence they fund has affected citizens' lives all over East Africa. My research will give special attention to the way in which women's bodies have become tools of war, and how this has affected the attention such crises receive.
The aim here is to transform conduits of effacement and apathy into conduits of information and engagement, and to invite close acts of listening and seeing-- to real people living in countries marginalized by Western powers. The goal is not to encourage everyone to live technology-free, but rather to inspire viewers to contemplate the implications of an increasingly globalized, disinterested, and abstracted economy. What lives or dies inside our stuff?
The installation will include a meta- text: photos and textual artifacts will offer history of the PACT foyer and background on East African conflicts and their intimate connectivity. As part of the festival, I will also participate in several talks which will address how theory can be transformed into practice.
Your support will allow me to return to East Africa to continue the dialogue I began last summer in Rwanda, and years ago as a teacher in Tanzania. This installation has already received generous support from California Institute of the Arts, but I need your support to complete it! Donations will go straight into supplies needed to facilitate the project: ie. visas, lodging, travel through out East Africa, printing and other technical needs. While researching this project I will also be volunteering throughout the region wherever possible. So, by proxy, you are supporting this volunteer work as well!
As many of you know, when traveling abroad-- or any place where you find yourself a somewhat foreign, intrusive force-- things never happen exactly as planned. This is undeniable linked to my primary concern: remaining ethical, and first and foremost asking for conversations, rather than forcing uncomfortable or traumatic interrogations. So this is a part of the project I'd like to keep a bit malleable.
However, to give you an idea of what sounds/voices/stories/images I hope to capture, I am currently slated to travel to sites including:
Hope North (Uganda)
River Blue (Uganda)
PEN Uganda- assisting in their "write childhood memories" program
National Theatre (Uganda)
Centre by Centre (I participated in this international arts festival last year in Rwanda-- this year I will be assisting in the satellite program in Uganda)
Please look these fantastic organizations up!
I will also be working extensively with the International Genocide Studies Center in Rwanda-- a nonprofit I worked alongside last summer-- as well as various theater groups in Rwanda and Uganda, and possibly (depending on safety and many factors) traveling into Congo. While Congo seems the most immediate concern, in terms of the violence in the region, I hope to attend to the intricate connection shared by conflicts in the region, as well as the way in which Rwanda's past has been resolved.
With your support, this is just a beginning list of the conversations that will be possible. And I will surely keep each and every donor updated on the trip via my blog!
This installation is about beginning conversations and inciting awareness. It began as an exploration of memorialization in Rwanda, where more than two million Tutsis were slaughtered in a genocide that has undeniable roots in colonialism. As the project developed, I realized that I couldn't bare talking about "what happened" in Rwanda without attending to the imperative conflict in the Congo (and Sudan and Uganda), as these atrocities are all intricately connected.
You may also note that some aspects of the project have changed over the past thirty days-- this is because the project has been evolving, and with your support, I will be able to continue to grow this project over the next few months, during the research process.
For these rewards you will receive prints of either photos or texts used in the show to inform festival goers of the context I've outlined for you all above (what I call the "meta-text" above). The handbound texts will couple these photos and texts with copies of my personal field notes.
pledged of $4,000 goal
seconds to go
Apr 30, 2011 - Jul 1, 2011
Pledge $5 or more
Postcard from East Africa with thanks, for supporting a project that encourages dialogue about violence in the region.
Pledge $25 or more
A postcard-sized print of one of the text pieces used in the show.
Pledge $50 or more
A postcard-sized print of one of the photos used in the show.
Pledge $100 or more
A handbound collection of texts used in the show.
Pledge $200 or more
A handbound collection of texts used in the show AND a handmade surprise from an East African women's collective!
Pledge $300 or more
Three 5x5 museum quality photos of the full, completed installation AND a handmade surprise purchased from an East African women's collective.
Pledge $500 or more
Three 5x5 museum quality photos of installation, a handbound collection of texts used in the show, AND a handmade surprise purchased from an East African women's collective.
Pledge $1,000 or more
Your own personal installation: three 10 x 10 museum quality photos of the show. PLUS a handbound collection of texts (remember: this little book includes photos taken in East Africa, field notes, and text used in the installation!) AND a bag of handmade surprises purchased from East African women's collectives!