Choose your dates:

  1. Tuesday, April 16, 2024

  2. Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Exhibitions

Ross Gordon: Ceremony Series, Lamboka Kenya

  • Ross Gordon (Louisville-based), Circumcision Series, Lamboka, Kenya, 2006. The men in the village gather at the boys home to share a fermented drink called Busaa through long, hollow reeds two days prior to the circumcision.

  • Ross Gordon (Louisville-based), Circumcision Series, Lamboka, Kenya, 2006. Daniel and Thaddius march proudly around their community in order to notify community members of the upcoming ceremony.

  • Ross Gordon (Louisville-based), Circumcision Series, Lamboka, Kenya, 2006. Thaddius cries tears if joy while dancing throughout the day preparing for the ceremony. At this hour, tears are allowed. During the circumcision emotion is forbidden.

  • Ross Gordon (Louisville-based), Circumcision Series, Lamboka, Kenya, 2006. A goat is slaughtered for a meal during the celebration the night before the circumcision.

  • Ross Gordon (Louisville-based), Circumcision Series, Lamboka, Kenya, 2006. Thaddius.

  • Ross Gordon (Louisville-based), Circumcision Series, Lamboka, Kenya, 2006. Daniel.

  • Ross Gordon (Louisville-based), Circumcision Series, Lamboka, Kenya, 2006. Daniel and Thaddius' father gives the boys stern instructions about what is expected of them to be thought of as men within their community.

  • Ross Gordon (Louisville-based), Circumcision Series, Lamboka, Kenya, 2006. Daniel and Thaddius's father ponders the upcoming ceremony. In a few hours, his sons will be considered men.

  • Ross Gordon (Louisville-based), Circumcision Series, Lamboka, Kenya, 2006. Daniel and Thaddius are taken from their home to the river in order to be washed and prepared for their circumcisions.

  • Ross Gordon (Louisville-based), Circumcision Series, Lamboka, Kenya, 2006. Daniel and Thaddius are bathed in the river near their home prior to the ceremony.

  • Ross Gordon (Louisville-based), Circumcision Series, Lamboka, Kenya, 2006. The boys are covered with mud in the river. This process is said to keep the boys cool and slow their blood flow so that they bleed less.

  • Ross Gordon (Louisville-based), Circumcision Series, Lamboka, Kenya, 2006. The boys are taken from the river back to their home where the ceremony will take place ...

  • Ross Gordon (Louisville-based), Circumcision Series, Lamboka, Kenya, 2006. These three men are the circumcisers. They are in charge of preparing everything for the morning of the circumcision. The knives they use have handles made from the root of a local tree and the stick in between them has two pieces of meat from the slaughtered goat's neck which is placed at the entrance to the boys home to signal community members where the ceremony will take place.

  • Ross Gordon (Louisville-based), Circumcision Series, Lamboka, Kenya, 2006. Daniel stands in perfect stillness while the circumcision is taking place. If he moves at all, cries, or even gasps for a breath, Daniel would not be considered a man and would possibly be beaten and would certainly be excommunicated from his village. Daniel didn't flinch.

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.

Continue Reading…

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.