Press Release: The New Gallery at University of Miami, FL, December 14th, 2004

Contact: Annette Herrera
December 14, 2004

For Immediate Release

The New Gallery at University of Miami Presents:
“Africa / A Harvest of Quiet Eyes”
Photography Exhibition & Lecture Series

CORAL GABLES, FL – “The Africa most often portrayed in the western media is of refugee camps, starving children, people with AIDS, or of perishing traditional ceremonies. While these stories are extremely relevant to our global knowledge, other aspects of African life are often overlooked,” states photographer Alison Randall Williams.

The University of Miami’s Department of Art & Art History and The New Gallery, in collaboration with Africana Studies, and several student organization cosponsors, present a thoughtful and visually stunning celebration of African culture with Africa / A Harvest of Quiet Eyes from January 18 through February 12, 2005. A special opening reception will be held on Friday, January 21 from 7- 9 p.m. at The New Gallery and is free and open to the public.

Alison Williams’ photographs, along with photographs by three other women artists, comprise one part of this exhibition and lecture series that shows Africa as a vibrant force where culture and commerce thrive. The centerpiece of the exhibition is “Through the Eyes of Children: The Rwanda Project,” a series of 26 photographs taken by child survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

The children’s photographs are the result of continuing photographic workshops for children who live at the Imbabaz Orphanage, in Gisenyi, Rwanda. The workshop program, established by photographer David Jiranek and Imbabazi Orphanage founder Rosamond Carr, gives Rwandan children disposable cameras and encourages them to capture images of each other and their community. The photographs are on a national tour to mark the tenth anniversary of the genocide. Africa / A Harvest of Quiet Eyes, its collaborators and sponsors, encourage us to examine and “reflect upon this tragedy,” which began April 7, 1994.

Several of the children’s photographs have won prestigious awards including “First Prize – Portraiture” in the 2001 Camera Arts Magazine Photo Contest, and Honorable Mention in the adult category of an international competition featuring professional and non-professional photographers. This is a considerable accomplishment considering an 8-year-old girl on her first roll of film took one of the award-winning photographs.

The fifteen photographs in Alison Williams’ exhibit, “Women of Mali / Spirit of Resilience,” highlight the humanistic and community aspects of African life by showing African women completing daily chores and interacting with one another, an element of African life not often seen by many Westerners. These portraits of Malian people come from three years of documenting while working as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1997 to 1999 and on two separate return trips in 2000. Some of the photographs included in the exhibition “are part of a collaborative documentary project on the lives of thirteen women from different regions in Mali. Their own recorded words and stories give us an extraordinary glimpse at life in the ordinary pursuit of survival . . .”

Vera Viditz-Ward’s life as a professional photographer began in Sierra Leone, West Africa, twenty years ago with free-lance assignments working for various state ministries and international agencies. Vera Viditz-Ward’s exhibit of fifteen photographs, “Other Africas / Sierra Leone” depicts people living through an ongoing war and continuous political and economic crisis. “My photographs illustrate the blend of indigenous and colonial cultures as Sierra Leoneans struggle with the complexity of their post-colonial existence and attempt to define and develop their relationship to the rest of Africa, Europe, and America,” she explains. “I realized there was indeed much that needed to be photographed beyond the stereotypical Western images of Africans, which presented them as "primitive" people, mired in poverty, disease and chronic political turmoil . . .”

Also featured are Betty Press’s series of fifteen photographs entitled “Africa in Images and Proverbs.” Betty has been taking photographs in Africa since 1987. These images of ceremonies and everyday life were taken while on travel all over East and West Africa. Each image is coupled with a relevant African proverb. “Proverbs are rhythmic, poetic, instructive, easy to remember and pleasing to hear. Joined together African proverbs and images make a powerful expression of African life and the universality of human emotions, ideas, and behavior . . .” For example, in one image a young boy imitates the photographer. The caption reads “When a child behaves like an adult, he sees what the adult sees.”

“Photographs of Panafest 2003 / Ghana” by Sharon “Umoja” Rock, sponsored by the Government of Barbados Commission for Pan-African Affairs, rounds out the exhibition. Sharon “Umoja” Rock, from Barbados, West Indies, has traveled extensively and photographed in Thailand, U.S.A, 10 European countries and 11 African countries, visiting Ghana three times before Panafest 2003. She had her first solo exhibition in May 2004 in Barbados, and has a permanent exhibition in the Africa section of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. Rock’s contribution of fifteen photographs, like those of Williams, serves to deconstruct the image of Africa as a starving, war-ravaged, disunited continent.

The following lectures, intended to contextualize the exhibition, are presented in conjunction with Africa / A Harvest of Quiet Eyes, at The New Gallery:

January 25, A World Gone Mad: Myths and Realities of the Rwandan Genocide, Edmund Abaka, Ph.D., Dept. of History, University of Miami
January 27, The Image of the Black in Western Art, Rebecca P. Brienen, Ph.D., Dept. of Art & Art History, University of Miami
February 2, African New World Art, Ludlow Bailey, M.I.A., Art Consultant, Modern and 21st Century World Art
February 8, Other Africas, Vera Viditz-Ward, M.F.A., Dept. of Art & Art History, Bloomsburg University, PA
February 10, The Crisis in the Sudan, Akin Ogundiran, Ph.D., Dept. of History, Florida International University

All lectures begin at 7 p.m. at The New Gallery and are free to the public.
The New Gallery is located in the Wesley Foundation Building at 1210 Stanford Drive, on the Coral Gables campus. The gallery is open 12-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and the second Saturday of each month.

For more information, contact Kerry Stuart Coppin, University of Miami, Department of Art & Art History, at (305) 284-6966 or e-mail, or Tracey McSwiney-Kallaher, Gallery Director and Coordinator of Special Events, Department of Art and Art History, at (305) 284-2792, e-mail at

The University of Miami’s mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of the diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world.