The Bonum Factum gallery in Tashkent, with the support of the Swiss Embassy in Uzbekistan, opened the “Courage and Empathy” exhibition, timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The exhibition displays a series of retrospective photographs by Swiss traveler and writer Ella Maillart (1903−1997), as well as images by Max Penson, P. Kildyushev, B. Shukhatovich and other photographers of the early 20th century, covering the turning points in Central Asia during the revolution.
“Courage and empathy — these two traits have great power, value and significance. They are more important and needed nowadays than ever before. I hope that after visiting the exhibition, everyone will wonder to what extent in the modern world we follow these values,” Konstantin Obolensky, Swiss Ambassador to Uzbekistan, said at the opening ceremony.
The core of the exhibition reveals more than 35 works by Swiss photographer Ella Maillart. While those photographs are reproductions of the original pictures, the latter remain in the collection of the Photo Élysée museum in Lausanne. Previously, in July this year, the pictures got exposed to the public eye in Samarkand.
Maillart dedicated herself to a life-long journey of research and exploration of different countries and cultures. In 1932, the young photographer’s passion for new lands led her to Soviet Turkestan. She was in an era when a new political and social system was changing people’s lives: centuries-old customs and traditions were fading away, and new ones were coming in.
The camera helped Maillart preserve the remnants of a bygone authenticity. She used her skill to show the inhabitants' reactions to the changes brought to Central Asia against the backdrop of a rapidly advancing civilization. After returning home (to Switzerland), she wrote the book “Turkestan Solo: One Woman’s Expedition from the Tien Shan to the Kizil Kum” that featured illustrations from her trip.
In the exhibition, Maillart’s photographs are extended by excerpts from the UDHR articles and her personal reflections. One of the posters quotes the traveler: “As soon as life is beset by difficulties, people take on a triumphant look, as if they are congratulating themselves on staying alive. Oh, how dearly I can relate!”
Ella Mayar’s images are complemented by Uzbek photographers' works taken in the 1930s. One of the most famous is the photograph “Mothers Learning” by Max Penson (1932). The author shows the eagerness of local women to receive education in such a pressing time.
Other images immerse the visitor into a rally against the paranja (veil) and the struggle for the opportunity to work on an equal footing with men. Alongside gender inequality, the exhibition sheds light on the sociopolitical changes in Central Asia through the photographs by Kildyushev, Kotlyarovsky, Dubinsky, and Shukhatovich.
The narrative of freedom, courage and empathy is continued in their works by contemporary photographers and artists of Uzbekistan. Visitors to the gallery are welcomed by the series “Portraits for Biometric Passport” by Viktor An, a well-known photographic publicist. He supplemented the film portraits with images of the fingerprints of the invited documentary photo models. Thus, Mr. An illustrates individuality, personal space, freedom and equality attributed to each person.
Artists Sanjar Jabbarov, Diyor Razykov, Serafim Dim brought a variety of colors, shapes and textures to the exposition. In addition to references to the past — perestroika, the Aral Sea drought — the artistic creators transferred to canvas tragic events of international scale, reminding of the significance and relevance of the UDH
The exhibition “Courage and Empathy” is open at Bonum Factum Gallery until December 12. In the following year, the exhibition will be shown in Bukhara and Khiva.