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Katrina: An Unnatural Disaster - Home
Project: Lives Out of Context: A Hurricane of Race

Kamoinge is a New York-based African American photographers' collective whose name means "group of people working together" in Kikuya (an East African language). For this project, ten photographers from the collective—Salimah Ali, Gerald Cyrus, Collette V. Fournier, Russell K. Frederick, Wayne Lawrence, John Pinderhughes, Eli Reed, Radcliffe Roye, Frank Stewart, and Shawn Walker—documented ravished communities impacted by the hurricane. These photographers traveled, at staggered intervals, to the Gulf Region, covering its most publicized areas (such as the Lower Ninth Ward or French Quarter), as well as forgotten costal towns (such as Pointe a la Hache, in Plaquemines Parish).

Everyday activities centered on visiting areas being rebuilt through the sheer will of residents who have lived there for countless generations. The photographers interviewed and photographed the displaced, handicapped, and elderly, among other residents. Many were on a perpetual search for displaced family members, their sole/common purpose in life now reduced to this single activity.

The photographers traveled by car, bicycle, and foot to reach areas that time and the U.S. government had forgotten; in these places, cars were still overturned in the streets two years after Katrina, abandoned houses stood as testimonials to lives destroyed by the apathy of others, and the sight of a child playing or an occupied home was a solitary, miraculous find. While visiting these places, the photographers made trailer parks, abandoned homes in desolate communities, and rented vehicles their homes, in an effort to be more closely connected to the devastation and the despair, hope, and resilience of its residents.

As Kamoinge states:

We overcame the lack of communication resources and modern–day necessities such as lights, running water, and nearby food supplies by borrowing on the strength and resiliency of the residents we befriended. Our success in this endeavor is a shared one that encompasses the hearts, minds, souls, words, and hopes of an American community, who like cream has risen above their circumstances through the sheer strength of their cultural heritage.

Our photographic artifacts will serve as documentation of this devastation's far–reaching ramifications with regard to the economic, social, and racial fabric of local residents. Through our photographic images, we have captured resounding visuals that echo the psychological trauma and social ills that permeate America's nucleus. We have juxtaposed the lives of the low-income and African-American residents of the pre-hurricane Katrina Gulf region with their post-hurricane Katrina struggle for continued existence.

Our work will disclose to the world's audience the stark truism that prior to Katrina these areas were long–standing victims of poverty, racism, disinvestment, de-industrialization, and corruption. Through our photographs, we bring to light how this reality is shaping the current recovery (or lack thereof) in these devastated communities.


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