About the Exhibition
The portfolio of images of the traditional Luhya circumcision ceremony is a project I came across while doing non-profit work building classrooms in Kenya, 2006. One night while in bed I heard music and singing from far away. The next morning I asked my hosts what was going on and discovered that every other year in August circumcision ceremonies take place all over the region. I took the next few days to organize a hike to a village where a circumcision was to take place hoping to photograph this cultural event. I was greeted warmly and was allowed to return the following week in order to spend several days within this community to photograph the celebration. As thanks and without solicitation of the community I delivered antibiotics and other medication to ensure this procedure was safe for the boys.
This ceremony is an example of a tradition that is standing on its last legs. Circumcision is a very serious debate in Kenya. Issues from the brutality and inequality of female circumcisions (which have been outlawed, however, in some areas is still practiced) to the issues of spreading disease and children, even men, being forcefully circumcised against their will. This ritual will most likely not be done in a traditional way in the near future.
On November 4th, 2008, the night of Obama’s acceptance speech, I embarked from Chicago on a world-wide journey to document my main photographic interest, “vanishing cultures.” I am currently traveling in South America documenting the lives of “cowboys” as we call them. From the Chagras and Montubios of Ecuador to the Gauchos and Baqueanos of Chile and Argentina, a tradition, way of life and cultural legend is possibly in its last true generation of existence. Families who have worked with cattle, sheep and the land for generations are being pushed aside by government, business and tourism. These and many others are the stories I hope to capture and freeze in time for future generations to see and hopefully appreciate. I believe being able to see what was here, where we came from and where we have ended up, will be an important lesson as to how we decide to move forward with our own lives, within our own communities and with our world.
—Ross Gordon, 2009
21c Museum is proud to present the opening of this exhibition in conjunction with the Louisville Visual Arts Festival. The LVAF is a local collaboration of participating museums and galleries featuring work by the Center for Photographic Studies and other local photographers.