Voices In The Aftermath
Voices in the Aftermath displays a collection of photographs reflecting the lives and experiences of those who have been affected by armed conflict and violence. It has been launched as a backdrop to the conference Voices of Post-Conflict, to offer new perspectives on issues of gender and agency. Using images from ten different contexts around the world, the exhibition depicts the mental, physical and social impact that these troubles inflict upon communities and individuals. The exhibition does not depict the violence itself but rather focuses on the consequences that follow.
In this day of coloured photographs and video clips in the news, we are flooded with violent images of armed conflicts to the point that there is a risk of these images losing their effect on us; we may become immune to the shock factor they provide. This exhibition takes a different and more subtle approach to helping us understand the cultural, legal and political hurdles that people face after these conflicts. One image shows a woman in Afghanistan holding up a blue-stained finger, showing that she has just voted in an election. The placard next to the image reveals that there are some Taliban members who have threatened cut off the fingers of voters in order to intimidate civilians from participating in the elections. By avoiding disturbing images in order to show those affected as they are now, it depicts the subjects of the photographs less as victims and more as admirable people who have tackled suppression.
The exhibition also offers new perspectives on issues concerning us in the UK. The section ‘Inhabiting Borders, Routes Home’ shows perspective on the experiences of migration and settlement. It shows photos taken by young people reflecting on their lives after migration. One work, ‘Chains’, taken by an 18 year old Middle Eastern girl, shows a chain fence in a council estate. The image portrays her feelings of restriction in her new home. It seems we rarely hear the voices of migrants. The use of a simple photo of an object is a more metaphoric style of expression.
Voices in the Aftermath is highly informative and offers us new perspectives on the trauma experienced by many in the world today. It gets you thinking about our own ideas of safety and what ‘home’ means for us; viewers are invited to record their thoughts on postcards hung from pegs at the front of the space. The exhibition also effectively promotes the conference through images of the work carried out by non-governmental organisations in rebuilding lives and communities. It successfully avoids the common approach of showing hard-hitting images to shock us into understanding the impact of social upheaval by instead opting for those that reveal sadness but also great strength; they demonstrate an uplifting message about the human ability to overcome pain.