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Sunday, August 8, 2010

US-Afghan Students Photo Exhibition at National Constitution Center























There’s a poem by Nikki Giovanni called Nikki Rosa that I like a whole lot. It’s a poem about stereotypes and how people make assumptions about other people based on superficial things. It’s about how we seldom imagine people seemingly different from us as having the same basic expectations of life. I thought of this poem last week when I visited the National Constitution Center and saw the most amazing photography exhibition called Being "We the People"; Afghanistan, America and the Minority Imprint.

This exhibitions features the photographs of students from Marefat High School in Kabul, Afghanistan and students from Constitution High School right here in Philadelphia. The following information, provided by the National Constitution Center, explains this unique and moving collaboration:

Equipped with digital cameras, the 21 students – many of whom had never held a camera before – learned how to conduct documentary photography and ventured into their communities to capture images of freedom, religious expression, protest, and other civic themes. Their photographs, portraying everything from weddings to parades and prayer services to political demonstrations, explore how minorities in different democracies perceive themselves as citizens and how they define citizenship.

Beginning in July 2009, students from both schools shared their work and ideas online at http://beingwethepeople.shutterfly.com/. In March 2010, the Afghan students traveled to the United States and met face-to-face with their American counterparts to curate the exhibition. Together, the students scoured through over 500 photographs in order to select pairs – one image from each country – that showcase both the striking differences and startling similarities between Afghanistan and the United States. They also wrote accompanying captions, explaining the circumstances under which the photographs were taken.

"The camera taught me how to capture moments,” said Fatima Jafari, 16, of Marefat High School. “It is inspiring to be able to deal with living moments in a still frame. I have a tough future ahead, but I am determined not to surrender to the harsh realities of my community and my time. I want to be instrumental for a better change in my fate, and one of the ways I can accomplish this is through photography. There is a lot that can be said through the camera; it is a miracle.”

“This has been one of the single greatest and most poignant projects I've been involved in,” said Ian McShea, a senior at Constitution High School, who taught himself Dari in preparation for the Afghan students’ visit to the United States. “Meeting the Afghan students has taught me volumes of things that I didn't know about Afghanistan, Islam, and the Muslim world in general. I have regained faith, not only in humanity, but especially in my own generation, my global brothers and sisters.”

“This enriching cultural exchange has sparked an important conversation about the meaning of citizenship, and the students are shining examples of active citizens,” said David Eisner, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center. “The exhibition will have a profound effect on visitors, who will be fascinated and shocked by the parallels in the photographs, the products of a visual dialogue between young people in two vastly different democracies.”

Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to join in the dialogue. A total of 70 photographs will be on display, but additional images will be accessible at electronic touch-screens, where guests of both the National Constitution Center and the National Museum of Afghanistan can peruse photo pairings and recommend those that resonate with them most. Through internet connectivity, users in both countries will see how their recommendations compare with those made by other visitors to the Center and the National Museum of Afghanistan.

This exhibition will be open until the end of September.

For more information about this exhibition visit the Constitution Center’s website-
http://www.constitutioncenter.org/ncc_visit_Landing.aspx


National Constitution Center
525 Arch Street, Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106
T (215) 409-6693 (215) 409-6693
F (215) 409-6650

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