Here and There is a personal chronicle that expands into a series of photographs on the displacing of humans in general.
When Jillian Edelstein discovered an unknown branch of her family were living in the Ukraine, the sense of inequality that was so familiar to her from having grown up in Apartheid South Africa was given another dimension. In particular, as the story emerged of her great aunt Minna, whose life was punctuated by three forced evacuations and who coincidentally had died the same year Jillian was born, the fate of Minna's brothers and their descendants, who had prospered as Whites in South Africa, developed ever greater contrast.
Later in the same year that she first saw Minna's photograph, Jillian was commissioned to photograph the South African Sangoma shamans, whose rituals employ the intermediary healing powers of their ancestors. A shaman told Jillian that her own ancestors were in conflict. Catalysing a growing determination to untangle her family's hidden history, Jillian began a journey that took her from her chosen home in London to the heartland of the Ukraine and then to her grandfather’s birthplace in Latvia.
Refracting images of displaced people through the lens of her family’s own mystery, Jillian reaches the refugee history we all have in common, whether we know its details or not.
Here and There is also commissioned by Counterpoints Arts – a creative hub producing projects by and about refugees and migrants. See here: www.counterpointsarts.org.uk
I was born in South Africa, the same year that my great aunt Minna, my paternal grandfather’s sister, died in the Ukraine. The poignancy of this coincidence seems great to me now, because until 2002 I had no idea of Minna’s existence. I knew that my grandfather, Abraham, and his two brothers, Charles and Sascha, had fled their village in Latvia at the beginning of the last century, made their way across Europe and eventually boarded a ship to South Africa. I had even heard the story of how my grandfather sailed down the Volga disguised as a woman to avoid being caught and drafted into the Russian army. What I didn’t know was that their sister Minna, her husband Georg and their two small daughters, together with Minna’s parents (my great grandparents Isaak and Tomer) and her grandmother (my great, great grandmother, Zita) were planning to reach South Africa, too.
After being forced to leave Latvia, they travelled south, through what is now the Ukraine, and arrived in Feodosia on the Black Sea in November 1920, just as the Red Army occupied the town and closed the port. Having lost their chance to escape, they would remain in the Soviet Union for the rest of their lives. They quite literally missed the boat.
(Originally published on http://www.jillianedelstein.co.uk/, July 25 2014)
I missed the pilots shout of Emergencia that came across the intercom system. I don’t know why. I was told later that it sounded faintly hysterical – a pitch or two too high for comfort. I did hear the only English announcement – a garbled one at that – about oxygen masks. It was then…
A few days ago I discovered that the Sangoma, the traditional healers who were living in the Valley,
and who partly inspired this project, have been kicked off their ancestral land.
I understand that a wealthy businessman bought the land in the Eastern Free State near the Lesotho border
and that the army and local police were instructed to move in to ensure that the Valley dwellers were…
Jake Lee, whom I met at a Counterpoints seminar at Dartington, kindly and generously kicked off the pledging yesterday as it went live. I am indebted to him and to Aine O'Brien and Dijana Rakovic at Counterpoints who followed suit swiftly thereafter. Thanks also to my best colleagues Antonio Olmos, Stuart Freedman, Del Barrett of the RPS, and to my dear friend Judy Friedberg . You all rock, as they…
These people are helping to fund Here and There .