Her Name is Beatrice. My Name is Lara

September 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

This past June an exhibition presented by Ryerson University MFA students enrolled in the Documentary Media program was the focus of an exhibit titled Doc/Now at the Lennox Contemporary Gallery in Toronto.  Among the four artists’ works on display, Lara Rosenoff’s  photo essay of her meeting  with a Ugandan girl entitled Her Name is Beatrice. My name is Lara, was the most appealing.

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Rosenoff who is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker has had her work shown in festivals and showcased to the media in Canada and abroad.  She is also an activist and a lecturer for peace in strife torn Northern Uganda.  She has travelled to Uganda where the 23 year-old conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government has been an ongoing problem.  Rosenoff subsequently befriended and interviewed Beatrice, a 17-year-old Ugandan girl, living in Padibe who was residing within an Internally Displaced Persons Camp situated in the Kitgum District.  The photographs were divided into three parts, documenting the artists’ visits in 2007 and 2008.

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Each C-print photograph uniquely depicts the daily life of Beatrice and are followed by didactic dialogues between Beatrice and the artist.  Crisp chromatic images were utilized in the photos in contrast to the harsh surroundings that these girls must face.  The depictions reveal candid living conditions in the camp and Beatrice’s strong desire and struggle for a better life.  In the photos, Beatrice laughs without restraint, cries, fetches supplies, washes a baby, and prepares food as part of her duties in the camp.  Like a typical 17 year-old girl she poses with sunglasses or shows off a new hairstyle with braids, having fun in front of the camera.  She dreams of learning the skill of tailoring and having a better life with her baby and her husband.  Her spouse is currently incarcerated for having sex with a minor.

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An installation entitled My Name is Beatrice. I am 15 years old is a 25 second video loop covered by thousands of crumpled papers relating to the United Nations resolution on Children in Armed Conflict and Internal Displacement.  The video constantly emits the sound of Beatrice uttering hello and rapping the camera lens as if it were a door blocking herself from the viewer.  In the last two weeks of June Torontonians would have also been able to witness  this piece projected on a screen at the Eaton Centre or at Pages Bookstore, engaging the passive passerby in subtle reflection concerning Rosenoff’s  social message.

This exhibition and these images are only a glimpse into the work and compassion of the artist’s  work.  She has also documented through her photography the plight of homeless and starving children in this African nation who are uprooted and are forced to travel throughout the night due to concerns of abduction from the LRA.

The simplicity of the photographs in Her Name is Beatrice. My name is Lara and the earnest face of the youthful girl are touching.  The images and the voice of Beatrice emoting from the video installation evoke a warm smile from the viewer, inviting humanitarian sympathy and concern for her plight.

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On-line exhibition: www.hernameisbeatrice.com

CBC metro morning interview with Lara Rosenoff  http://docnow2009.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/docnow-artist-lara-rosenoff-interviewed-on-cbcs-metro-morning/

Photographs courtesy of Lara Rosenoff

Vicki Sung-yeon Kwon

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