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JUNE 13-JULY 2, 2008
hope in a hard place
beauty and inspiration from Nairobi's vast and awesome Kibera slum
For more information, contact Ron Reason, firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-562-7464
[Chicago, May 22] In the aftermath of Kenya's post-election bloodshed earlier this year, is the country safe and stable? How challenging is life in Africa's largest slums, for children in particular? Finally, where (if at all) does joy and wonder and art exist in such a life?
"hope in a hard place," opening Friday, June 13, 2008, explores these questions. It is the first exhibition at within(Reason), a contemporary art and photo space, 1932 S Halsted St. #408 in Pilsen. Chicago photographer-artist-designer Ron Reason is the creator of the space and the show; the work will include his photographs from two months in Africa this spring, as well as paintings and mixed media by Kenyan artists, including a self-taught collective in the Kibera slum whose work has never been shown outside Nairobi.
All profits from the show will directly benefit Kibera's kids. The exhibit consists of several parts:
"In Kenya, it's common for locals to implore a visitor to tell the outside world that things are OK there," Reason says. "The world news media have painted a dark picture of life there following the election rioting and bloodshed in January of this year.
"Even in early April, after a quiet day of work in downtown Nairobi, I returned to my hotel, opened my laptop to The New York Times, and read in the day's second top headline: 'Kenya is burning.' A relatively minor skirmish had occurred in the Kibera slum - discontent over lack of progress in naming a new Cabinet - but the the rest of the city and country in general couldn't have seemed more calm. The message to the outside world was, this place is going to hell. It's not really a clear picture of what's happening there."
Formally trained as a journalist, Reason designs newspapers around the world. While on a current engagement with The Standard newspaper in Kenya, he decided to make several trips into the Kibera slum, exploring homes, businesses, drinking dens. With an estimated 600,000 to one million residents, it is said to be second in size in Africa only to Soweto. "In my first moments there, I happened upon an art collective in a ramshackle hut, saw bright street signage everywhere, and graffiti calling for peace, even painted on the rubble of recently burnt pubs and churches. And the smiling faces of dozens of small kids running up to the mzungu (white guy) in their midst. I felt I was onto something unbelievable."
As it rebuilds from the skirmishes that left many thousands homeless and killed more than 1,000 nationwide, life in Kibera goes on. "Yes, it is extremely challenging - the food and housing and health-care realities are so daunting for so many - but there's also a side that is unusually beautiful, and I wanted to share at least a little of that in this show."
100 percent of any proceeds from the sale of photos or artwork will go back to the Kibera slum, to benefit arts programs for the kids and to the Nicofeli Kids Club, a newly developed program of after-school activities for the children who currently have none. For more information on how to contribute to these initiatives, contact Ron Reason at email@example.com
The opening night reception for "hope in a hard place" is Friday, June 13, from 6-10 p.m., as part of Pilsen's "Second Fridays" gallery open houses. The exhibit can be viewed by special appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Ron Reason at 773.562.7474. For more on his travels in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa, visit the new travel adventure blog, Travel With Reason.
Click image to enlarge