‘We Are No More’: Objects From Previous Lives

I recently came across an interesting photo exhibition on the news, and though that some of you might find it interesting from a literacy aspect. Unfortunately, the exhibition is in Montreal so I won’t be able to attend it in person, but I have read a few articles about it (both in French and in English).

The French photographer Valerian Mazataud visited three Syrian refugee camps in Jordan in autumn 2012. Rather than focusing on disembodied information ― statistics, numbers of victims, bombings, etc. ― Mazataud wanted to bring the humans to the foreground in this photo exhibition called ‘We Are No More’. On his website he explains:

‘At the beginning of the project was a simple question. “What did you keep from your previous life?” Sometimes it was an object, sometimes a memory, other times a simple gesture. A flag, a wristband, a diary, two necklaces… What would you bring with you if your home was bombed or looted by soldiers? What would you gather if you had to flee through the night and walk for days to a refugee camp?’ (FocusZero)

Many literacy artefacts were amongst the objects the refugees showed to Mazataud: sketchbooks, a necklace with “love” written on it, a mobile phone, the Quran, a death certificate, etc. (see pictures here).

I find this photo exhibition very touching. I also found it very fascinating from an academic point of view because it underlines the importance of literacy artifacts in people’s lives (particularly in difficult and extreme situations). It reminded me of the work of Kate Pahl and Jennifer Rowsell on artifactual literacy (particularly Pahl, 2004). What do you think about it?

Virginie

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