FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Skirball Cultural Center presents
Photographs by Michal Ronnen Safdie
May 24 October 1, 2006
Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90049 (Exit Skirball Center Drive off the 405)
(310) 440-4500, fax (310) 440-4595
Contact: Stacy Lieberman (310) 440-4578, or Mia Carino (310) 440-4544
Web site, http://www.skirball.org
Michal Ronnen Safdie, “Orphaned Child with Grandmother, Bahai Refugee Camp”, 2004.
Los AngelesThe Skirball Cultural Center will present Rwanda/After, Darfur/ Now: Photographs by Michal Ronnen Safdie, featuring nearly forty color and black-and-white photographs from the Central African countries of Rwanda and Chad. In October of 2002, Ronnen Safdie traveled to post-genocide Rwanda with Samantha Power, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide, to witness and document the pilot phase of a traditional, citizen-based tribunal process known as the Gacaca (pronounced ga-CHA-cha). In September of 2004, she traveled to the Bahai refugee camp, a desolate site on the Chadian border of Sudan, where she documented the hardships of refugees who have fled the ongoing genocide in Darfur. Rwanda/After, Darfur/Now: Photographs by Michal Ronnen Safdie will be on view from May 24 through October 1, 2006.
The exhibition, which is presented during a season of New Photography exhibitions at the Skirball, including The Jewish Identity Project: New American Photography and L.A. River Reborn, will be accompanied by a variety of public programs, including evenings with well-known authors Samantha Power and Gabriel Meyer, African music concerts and additional film and drama presentations.
Born in Jerusalem in 1951, Michal Ronnen Safdie is known for contemporary art photography highlighting the anthropomorphic and abstract qualities of nature. As the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Ronnen Safdie’s trip to Rwanda in 2002 evoked suppressed memories of her childhood. Though her mother shared few details of her experience, Ronnen Safdie always felt the presence of that “unspoken and unanswerable question of the capacity of humanity to do evil.” By depicting the humanity of genocide survivors in the face of the atrocities they were subjected to by their own neighbors and governments, she hopes to “arouse us out of our opacity as bystanders.”
Ronnen Safdie’s Rwanda photographs, taken eight years after a horrifying genocide left 800,000 dead and over 100,000 in prison, depict the country’s efforts to provide justice, truth and national reconciliation to its citizens. Her images of the Gacaca courts expose the emotionally-charged quality of this process as prisoners confess to their crimes and ask for forgiveness, while onlookers and victims offer evidence. Photographs of neatly arranged skulls and sacks full of bones in the Ntarama church accentuate the harsh reality of human cruelty. Her work is a photographic testimony to a population still struggling with the legacy of genocide.
With her images of the Bahai camp, framed matter-of-factly against the stark, barren environment the refugees have been forced into, she challenges the viewer to look at the consequences of violence. The vast, treeless desert devoid of even the most basic resources necessary to sustain life was home to 18,000 Darfurian refugees in 2004most of them women and childrenwho were the survivors of genocide, the so-called “lucky ones,” who now face starvation, disease, the threat of attack and the possibility of never again returning to their homes. The passive gazes of survivors in Ronnen Safdie’s photographs reflect their shock at the horror they witnessed.
Safdie’s photographs quietly reveal the unavoidable truth that violence occurs under a full sun and in plain view. Her focus on human beings, both those trying to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of genocide and those who struggle daily to eke out a life when robbed of everything important to them, underscores the tragic lack of attention the rest of the world gave and gives to these people.
“With her photographs, Michal Ronnen Safdie will not allow us to forget. If we averted our gaze during the genocide, she has insisted that we fix our gaze on its aftermath,” says Luis Moreno Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. “If we needed any reminder of the human lives at stake in this endeavor, [she] has offered it. And for that, we are all very grateful.”
The Skirball Cultural Center presents Rwanda/After, Darfur/Now as part of the series “The World Now: Global Understanding through Arts and Culture.”
“Genocide impacts each of us,” comments Uri D. Herscher, Founding President and CEO, Skirball Cultural Center. “By passive observation of the murder of defenseless millions of men, women and children, we ourselves become accomplices. We are impelled to search our hearts and ask how such events are to be prevented, stopped when they have not been prevented and civility restored once they have been stopped. Our hope in presenting this exhibition is to inspire visitors to help secure a world in which everyone is safe and can feel at home.”
Michal Ronnen Safdie is author of The Western Wall (1997), a book of photographs with an introduction by Yehuda Amichai, which also took the form of an international traveling exhibition. Her work has been exhibited at Salander-O’Reilly Galleries in New York, Robert Klein Gallery in Boston, and Tel Aviv University Art Gallery. Her photographs are included in museum and private collections, including George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, and The Jewish Museum in New York.
Many related programs accompany Rwanda/After, Darfur/Now. On Monday, May 22, author and Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government professor Samantha Power will discuss “Genocide Sixty Years After the Holocaust: Have We Moved Beyond Remorse?” In conjunction with Town Hall Los Angeles, award-winning journalist Gabriel Meyer, author of War and Faith in Sudan, will lecture on Tuesday, June 20. ThongJieng will perform in concert on Thursday, July 6 and The Refugee All Stars of Sierra Leone will perform on Thursday, July 20, as part of the free Sunset Concert series. A documentary film about the group will be screened on Wednesday, July 19 and from August 1619, the U.K.’s Unlimited Theatre presents the U.S. premiere of “Static,” a satiric play by Chris Thorpe addressing television news coverage of tragic events. Finally, on September 7, a slide lecture, “Hungry Planet with Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio,” will explore the effects of conflict, poverty and globalization on family nourishment. Please see attached for further details on all of the exhibition-related programs.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Audrey’s Museum Store will be selling “Save a Child, Save the World” t-shirts to help create global awareness. In-kind support has been provided by American Apparel, with all proceeds directly supporting elementary school education in Darfur.
This exhibition has been fully supported by seven anonymous donors.
Visiting the Skirball: The Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA (exit Skirball Center Drive off the 405). Museum Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 125 p.m., Thursday until 9 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.5 p.m.; closed Monday. Gallery admission prices: $8 General, $6 Seniors. Free for Skirball Members, Students and Children under 12. Ruby Gallery exhibitions are free to the public. Admission to all exhibitions is free to the public on Thursday. Parking is free, except on Thursday evenings during the Sunset Concerts series from July 20 through August 24, 2006. For general information, the public may call (310) 440-4500 or visit http://www.skirball.org.
The Skirball is also home to Zeidler’s Café, which serves innovative California cuisine in an elegant setting, and Audrey’s Museum Store, which sells books, contemporary art, music and more.
About the Skirball: The Skirball Cultural Center is dedicated to exploring the connections between 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals. It welcomes and seeks to inspire people of every ethnic and cultural identity. Guided by our respective memories and experiences, together we aspire to build a society in which all of us can feel at home. The Skirball Cultural Center achieves its mission through educational programs that explore literary, visual, and performing arts from around the world; through the display and interpretation of its permanent collections and changing exhibitions; through scholarship in American Jewish history and related publications; and through outreach to the community.