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Facing Uncertainty - 3 Bedfordbury Gallery

Facing Uncertainty

Exhibition preview

FACING Uncertainty, an exhibition of photographic portraits from Kenya by John Kenny, will be on display at 3 Bedfordbury Gallery from September 21 to October 2, 2011.

The exhibition is drawn from Kenny’s recent journey to the northern lowlands of Kenya and includes both intimate portraits and large format depictions of individuals in their environment.

Kenny is renowned for the remarkable level of detail he achieves in his portraiture, which is now enhanced by using a 10 × 8 format Chamonix camera for some of his work.

The proud Samburu, Turkana and Rendille he photographed face daily challenges that we would find insurmountable, and yet, through the strength of their cultural traditions, survive the extreme climate of the region.

Their homes are set in the harsh scrub, sweltering heat and dust-laden winds, where traditional societies manage large herds of cattle, goats and camels. It is an area now suffering from a prolonged drought which threatens to reek irrevocable damage.

Each ethnic group has, over many centuries, mastered their environment by relying on the certainties of tribal tradition and a profound understanding of the rainfall and pasture patterns that provide a structure to life. Within this structure they live a modest existence, without the material wealth of the western world but infinitely richer in other ways.

Increasingly these certainties are becoming less so. The climate appears to be changing: ‘rainy seasons’ frequently provide no rain, and if rain does appear it is often in events too violent to be harnessed. Against such a backdrop, the knowledge passed from generation to generation; of where, when and how to move people and animals, ceases to act as a compass for survival.

This, together with the escalation of armed conflict between tribal groups, poses a very serious threat to the long term viability of such communities.

The exquisite detail of Kenny’s portraits highlight both the influence of the modern world and the pride inherent in traditional cultures. They are stark reminders of how climate change is threatening to have a direct impact on our global cultural diversity, jeopardizing centuries-old ways of life that could disappear in some areas within a few generations.

Kenny has been travelling to some of the most remote corners of Africa to photograph the beauty and diversity of peoples from Kenya, the Omo valley of Ethiopia, the Kalahari of Namibia and the sub-Saharan Sahel of western Africa since 2006.

Admission: Free.

Times: 12 – 6pm (closed Monday, September 26).

3 Bedfordbury Gallery, Covent Garden, London, WC2N 4BP