Saturday, October 17, 2009

This Week in Being We, the People

This week saw more interesting parallels, as students eight and a half time zones away from each other continue to capture the same themes in their respective communities. As an example, in order to show 'expression," a Constitution High School Student went to a tattoo parlor and photographed a customer. When Marefat students uploaded their most recent photographs, several depicted a young woman painting a traditional henna tattoo onto her hand, in preparation for celebrating Eid, a Muslim holiday.

It may seem at first that tattoos in the two cultures are used for completely different reasons-here to establish individuality, and in Afghanistan, to conform to a religious tradition. The images themselves confound this notion, though, as the young Afghan women in the photographs do not appear somber or pious as they apply and display the decorations on their hands, but rather genial and expressive. And of course, when one considers how many in the West use tattoos to demonstrate their faith, the photographs seem to be depicting a similarity rather than a difference.

The most informative point of comparison, however, may in fact be between the Eid photographs and the earlier photographs taken by the Afghan students themselves. The red celebratory ink on the young women's hands in the photographs from Eid contrast sharply, not only in color but in purpose, with the dark purple ink voters have on their fingers in the photographs the students took of Afghanistan's elections.

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