On April 14, 2014, nearly a year ago, the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls, between the ages of 16 and 18, in the town of Chibok. The Nigerian government has so far proven powerless in their pursuit of the militant organization that now controls most of northeastern Nigeria. Although the twitter campaign #BringBackOurGirls was quickly picked up by commercial media and popularized by Michelle Obama, it gathered less than 9,000 followers and did little to galvanize the world. As of this writing, none of the girls have been rescued and only 57 have escaped on their own, returning with stories of rape, forced marriage, and abuse. Some reports claim the girls have been used as suicide bombers. A year after their disappearance, the story of the Chibok girls has been shrouded in mystery. We know little of who they are, what they aspired to be, or what their future entails.
Peer is an ongoing effort to re-contextualize this horrific event that remains inaccessible to much of the world. Once completed, the work will consist of 219 portraits of American girls (the same number of Chibok girls still missing) between the ages of 16 to 18. All portraits are taken in the girl's bedroom where she is asked to write a message to her Nigerian contemporary. The name of a kidnapped Nigerian girl is paired with each portrait. Like their Nigerian peers, each American girl is approaching a pivotal moment in their lives, as they prepare for college, careers, and adulthood. By re-imagining the scale of devastation wrought on the people of northeastern Nigeria, Peer aims to find new ways of understanding this conflict.
#5, Mwa. "My perception of the world is seen through my eyes and my eyes only, but I chose what I see and how I see it. Take any piece of happiness you have and let it be a part of each moment in your life and have that be what you remember, not the darkness."
#11, Gloria. "Hearing about kidnaps, rape, forced marriage, abuse, and other horrifying situations is always difficult to hear about and in my case hard to relate to. My heart goes to the girls from a secondary school in the town of Chibok. The girls that were kidnapped were so young and all had a life ahead of them, with hopes and dreams. The amount of girls kidnapped is also very upsetting. It's difficult for me to relate to what happened to these girls because I can't imagine what it would be like loosing so many young girls in my community to something as horrible as a kidnap. My wish for what comes out of this situation is that it brings awareness to many people and I hope that for the girls that escaped that they are still able to create lives for themselves and spread awareness of their story."
#16, Awa. "The world is not always a happy place, and we have to do our best to look at everything positively. I have great hope that everything will turn out okay. Don't forget that we are all thinking of you."
#19, Aisha. "I could never understand how you feel at this very moment. I wouldn't know what I would do in your place. Yet [you're] still here reading this, and that makes you the strongest person I know. Keep pulling through not just for you but for your family to. No one should ever fear being taken out [of] their own home."
#23, Esther. "I absolutely cannot imagine the horror of being taken out of your home within these circumstances. It's unfathomable. I cannot begin to process what that would be like, all of the fear and pain that you must be experiencing. You are all in my prayers."
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I am currently looking for girls in Brooklyn and Manhattan to participate, contact me if you are 16 - 18 years old and interested.