|Subject: KY: E. Timor kids show their world
through camera's eye
E. Timor kids show their world through camera's eye Maya Kaneko
TOKYO, Oct. 13 Kyodo
ON PHOTO EXHIBITION, CALL 03-3269-6943)
A bright-faced boy jubilantly clutching a cockerel, a swaddled baby asleep in the sunlight, a contemplative girl crouching by the wooden cross of a loved one's makeshift grave.
These are a few of the photographs taken by 101 East Timor children who held a camera for the first time in their lives in a unique program organized by a Japanese photographer.
'At first I had mixed feelings of hope and fear, but it turned out quite satisfactorily. Contrary to my expectation, many pictures had fresh and lively images, and I think this is a cause for hope,' said Hikaru Nagatake, 41, organizer of the 'Wonder Eyes' project.
About 200 pictures taken by children aged 6 to 15 in the capital Dili, in Suai, southwestern East Timor close to the border with Indonesia's West Timor, and in Tutuala on the eastern tip of the territory are now being shown at the Photo Space Koyo Gallery in Tokyo's Ichigaya district in an exhibition running until Oct. 31.
The children's photographs are being displayed together with portrait pictures of them taken by Nagatake, and the exhibition also features works by the photographer herself.
The works, shot with disposable cameras donated by Konica Corp. between August and September and developed in Japan, will return to East Timor for exhibitions to be held in Dili, Suai and Tutuala from Nov. 29 to Dec. 20. The children will also receive copies of the photographs, Nagatake said.
In workshops she conducted with local photographers, Nagatake merely told the East Timor kids to 'enjoy the camera' and shoot whatever they want.
'Children not only took pictures of their families and scenery around them, but also shot avant-garde works. I hope this project contributed to promoting education and creative activities in the country,' Nagatake said in an interview with Kyodo News.
'The basics of photography are coordinating the shutter with the photographer's feelings. An instant's joy will be reflected in the picture,' she said, adding she felt 'purified' by the innocent sensitivity of the children's works.
Nagatake, a fluent Portuguese speaker who has been taking pictures for the past 15 years mainly in Latin American countries, traveled to the former Portuguese colony in May for the first time.
She said she was dismayed at the time by the difficulties facing the territory, which was recovering from massive destruction last year and now inundated with foreign aid workers.
But the smiling faces of the children made a deep impression on her, prompting her to launch the photo project during her second visit to the territory.
'I was excited to think what a collection of images through children's eyes could bring to a country experiencing rebirth. I also thought the project would produce valuable records of the country before it achieves full independence,' she said.
'When a country is making a fresh start from scratch, politics and economic recovery become priorities and cultural matters are put on the back burner. But I believe culture is essential to human beings,' she said.
Nagatake said the project is not a one-off event and hoped to conduct it every year in different parts of the world where people are starting something new.
As a message to Japanese visitors to the exhibition, Nagatake said she not only wants them to enjoy the pictures but also to learn about the situation in East Timor, including past armed conflicts.
'Japanese people often do not care about events happening abroad. But I hope visitors will feel the new world seen by East Timorese children and contemplate why conflicts happen,' she said.
East Timor is currently under U.N. administration, following last year's orgy of violence by pro-Jakarta militias supported by the Indonesian military after a U.N.-administered referendum.
In the referendum Aug. 30 last year, East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence, ending Indonesian rule. The territory was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and annexed as its 27th province in 1976, a move never recognized by the United Nations.
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