Friday, October 24, 2008

Tikkun Olam Fridays – Repairing the World One Step at a Time

Another Friday, another post on tikkun olam – to repair the world. Remember, you don’t have to finish the job, but it is your responsibility to start.

What action did you take this week, big or little, to make a difference?

I met Barbara Grover, an award-winning photographer, several months ago through a friend. She was looking for a college intern to help with her upcoming art exhibit. I suggested one of my daughter’s friends who was going to school at Santa Monica City College, working to ultimately get into UCLA’s Film School. The young woman had the resume and the work ethic. The gallery was in Santa Monica. Better than e-Harmony, I’d made a match.

In talking with Barbara I was fascinated by the political nature of the exhibit, photographs from her 7 weeks spent in a Darfur refugee camp. I’m ashamed to say I had only a passing knowledge of this crisis. But I casually offered some help with the publicity.

A few days later, Barbara called me back and even though I was juggling paying clients, I knew this was something I had to do. And if you live near Los Angeles, it’s something you ought to see.

‘Refuge(e) – Moments with the Darfuri of Iridimi’, is Barbara’s second solo photography exhibition at the Sherry Frumkin Gallery. While previous exhibits about Darfur exposed the genocidal killings in this western part of Sudan, Refuge(e) takes a unique approach. It creates an unforgettable picture of those who live the conflict every day, serving as a wake up call to Americans to not forget the Darfuri who survived.

The show consists of three parts. Refuge(e) is a collection of 25 medium to large-scale color photographs. The photographs show what the Darfuri refugees are doing to reclaim hope and dignity in the confines of an isolated, drought-ridden refugee camp. A six-minute documentary short, The Women of Iridimi – the Story of the Jewish World Watch Solar Cooker Project, tells the story of how solar cooking has transformed the lives of refugee women and girls. Reality Check is a multi-media piece including stories told by several refugees in their own words, focusing on daily realities and juxtaposing our world with theirs.

“I believe art can change the life of the viewer and the life of the people that the art is about,” Barbara told me. “In 2007 I received special permission from the United Nations to spend an unprecedented seven weeks in the Iridimi Refugee Camp. Most people spend, at most, a day or two at a camp like this. What I captured was daily life, the struggle of people fighting to retain their humanity in the midst of a political conflict that the world has pretty much ignored.”

Every person visiting the gallery will be able to design 'Postcards to the President' to send to the next American president. To further create a call to action, Barbara has partnered with Facing History and Ourselves and Jewish World Watch to bring middle school, high school and college classes to the gallery.

“Almost every refugee I met asked me one thing: please tell your President and the American people to bring peace to Darfur,” Barbara said. “They believed in their hearts that we had the power to do that. I am hoping that this exhibit not only helps people to understand this crisis, but also moves them to believe, as the refugees did, in the power of activism.”

So if you live in the general Los Angeles area, you can catch Refuge(e) – Moments with the Darfuri of Iridimi’ at the Sherry Frumkin Gallery, located at 3026 Airport Avenue in the Santa Monica Airport. Regular gallery hours are 12 – 6 pm, Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is free. The exhibit is running now through Jan 11, 2009. In keeping with the show’s theme of political action, proceeds from the sale of the photographs will be donated to Jewish World Watch, benefiting the Solar Cooker Project and other Darfur refugee relief programs. Click here for more information about the Sherry Frumkin Gallery and a sample of photographs from Refuge(e).

Barbara Grover has traveled to over 40 countries, many facing conflict and poverty, to create photographic works that effect social and political change. To learn more about her work you can visit her website.

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