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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Photojournalist displays Mexican ‘Pura Mujer’ exhibit

Published: September 23, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.

A new photography exhibition portraying the women of Oaxaca, Mexico by photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal Finalist, Dana Romanoff, is on display in the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis. The display, which opened Sept. 20, will be exhibited until Dec. 16.

Dana Romanoff’s exhibit is titled “Pura Mujer,” or “Purely Women,” to reflect the absence of 80 percent of the community of Oaxaca’s men. Due to the dire need to support their families, most men turn to illegally entering and immigrating to the United States in search of work in order to send money back home, while others escape to the United States and choose not to maintain contact with their families. As a result, the women of Oaxaca who are traditionally in charge of maintaining their home and raising their children are now the bosses of the family. Many women are now starting small businesses in town and choosing to continue their education. In addition, because the women of Oaxaca provide for their families, they are now aware that they have value, and therefore value themselves.

Michele L’Heureux, Curator of the Kniznick Gallery at the Women’s Studies Research Center, wrote that she decided to exhibit Romanoff’s work “to put together a show that addressed borders and the crossing of borders in some way, given how prominent the topic of immigration is in our current international news.”

A critical aspect of Romanoff’s exhibit is that not only does it broach the topic of illegal immigration, it addresses the untouched topic of “women left behind as a result of their husbands and sons emigrating to the United States, and the feminist nature of the newly formed matriarchal culture,” L’Heureux wrote.

Upon entering the Women’s Studies Research Center, viewers will immediately be struck by the ordinary scenes of daily life portrayed in Romanoff’s photographs.

Displayed are scenes of women working in their fields, eating dinner with their families and selling their goods in the local market. Viewers will also notice scenes of heartbreak as family members say goodbye to young sons, fathers and brothers who are preparing to cross the border to the United States.

It is important to observe how strong and resilient rhe women of Oaxaca are while emigration continues to tear families apart.

According to L’Heureux, each viewer can take something different away based on his or her background, knowledge and experience. Romanoff is interested in portraying a humane side of immigration, and giving voice to an underrepresented population. The content, color and editorial choices Romanoff uses are bound to take different viewers in different directions.

L’Heureux included that Gannit Ankori, Art History professor, will be bringing students in her course “Inventing Tradition: Women as Artists, Women as Art” to Romanoff’s artist’s talk and video screening on Nov. 11. The students will get to meet Romanoff and talk with her about her work. Additionally, the Women’s Studies Research Center will be hosting an Immigration Reform Panel on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. that will feature the artist, Steve Gutherz, an immigration attorney, and Alexandra Pineros Shields, a policy scholar. This event is open to the community.