Lives Liberated by Art
I'm just another voice crying out for those who are helpless to change theirs. In the Philippines, and in Manila alone, a city of the privileged and the poor, thousands live in shanties or on the streets. There are1.5 million street children, a number that continues to grow. It is a sad and tragic sight. Many are runaways from dysfunctional homes, often with abusive parents who are illiterate and jobless. Plying the streets day and night to earn a living, they become victims of criminal elements and suffer sexual abuse, rape, rejection, malnutrition, and sickness like malaria, diarrhea and dengue. There are agencies and religious groups who are doing what they can to assist in eradicating this problem. But, it seems it's not enough. The children are still out there, lost and without a future.
And, there are others, like Zana Briski, who, through her photography has impacted the lives of children in India. For me, this lady is a mirror, of who i am, and where i am. She does not let me rest and let me go about living my life as if all is 'normal', because it's not. The world is a place crying for help. It's been two years. since i watched her docu movie and it's message still haunts me. It's impossible for me to continue doing my work, my art without thinking there is a mission bigger than myself.
Zana Briski is an English artist (photographer, filmmaker) and activist. Her mother is an Iraqi Jew, who resides in Israel.Her paternal great-grandparents, also Jews, fled Poland during World War II. Briski, whose interest in photography began at age 10, says, "I feel at home everywhere and nowhere." Her documentary film, Born into Brothels, was the winner of the Best Documentary Feature at the 77th Academy Awards in 2005. After earning a Masters Degree at the University of Cambridge, Briski studied documentary photography at International Center of Photography in New York. In 1995, she made her first trip to India, producing a story on female infanticide. In 1997, Briski returned to India and began her project on the prostitutes of Calcutta's red-light district, which led to her work with the children of prostitutes.
The most stigmatized people in Calcutta's red light district are not the prostitutes, but their children. In the face of poverty, abuse, and despair, these kids have little hope of escaping their fate or for charting another life. Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman chronicle the amazing transformation of the children they come to know in the red light district. Briski, a professional photographer, gives lessons and cameras, to wake up latent artistic genius within these children who live in the most hopeless of worlds. The children's photographs are remarkable. They reflect something much larger, how art can liberate and be such a positive force.
What does it take to change the world, or someone’s world? I have stopped asking ‘what can I do?’, because it is sadly, hypocritical and futile. I say that because i have realized that all good intentions are worthless if not demonstrated. We may feel great sorrow for children dying of AIDS, but this does not translate to that lifeline much needed for their survival. I used to be one of those who used to watch TV, be shocked by the horrible images of hunger, feel pity, then flip the channel. They were much too ugly to deal with. But, by a mere 'touch' of a remote control, the images disappear, and so we think it will go away because we have ignored it.
But, thank God for those who do something, and change the world. There is hope. Through their labor, other's will be inspired to follow. We learn the 'power of one'. Like one Mother Teresa, who for over 45 years ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying. Small of stature, rocklike in faith, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was entrusted with the mission of proclaiming God’s thirsting love for humanity, especially for the poorest of the poor. She said:, “God still loves the world and He sends you and me to be His love and His compassion to the poor.” In serving the people abandoned by society, Mother Teresa put love into action. Her spirit of giving inspired many to follow her, and her work eventually expanded to many other parts of the world. Today over 5000 sisters, brothers, and volunteers run approximately 500 centers worldwide, feeding 500,000 families and helping 90,000 lepers every year.