I thought I'd use this format as a way to begin to get some of my thoughts down.
For several years I've wanted to do a large-scale portrait project about genocide. I always thought it would be about my great-grandparents, whose lives and deaths haunt me to a great extent. But after reading a great deal about the horrors in Africa, and particularly after reading "What is the What," I decided that it was more important to talk about current genocide - and a real Diaspora in progress.
My entire existence is owed to my grandfather's participation in the Jewish Diaspora of the mid-twentieth century, so I am keenly aware and have written here before of the impact that has on individuals and the course of their family history.
The other reason for using portraiture, is the connotations it has in the art world. Portraiture came about in the Renaissance, and even earlier in Egypt, as a way for the noble, the royal, and the wealthy to document their lives and their wealth. Using portraiture for a group of people that are currently struggling against a malignant obliteration of everything they know and everything they are does two things: first, it humanizes and personalizes the struggle and secondly, it raises the subject to a level that honors their achievements - even if their only recognized achievement to date is surviving.
I've run my idea past the priests at the church that sponsors the show that I participate in every year that benefits the Southern Sudanese population, and they think its a great idea. I've left a message for the Rev. Andrew Akuak, although his wife sounded extremely suspicious of me. I'm hoping that this is of interest to them. Certainly, if the Sudanese community thinks its a dumb idea, then I won't proceed.
But I do think this would be a good project to apply for a Leeway Foundation grant. I'm going to work on my proposal and hope that the community comes through.
If anyone wants to volunteer to help me practice my portraiture skills, please let me know. It's been some time since I've tackled anything more than a self-portrait!
Any feedback on how this sounds would be great too.