[27 August 2009] -- For the first time in history, more people live in cities than in rural areas. One-third of those city dwellers—over a billion people—live in slums, mostly in the rapidly urbanising cities of Africa and Asia. Slums have become the fastest growing human habitat in the world.
An extraordinary new multimedia exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. provides US audiences with a first-hand look at slums and slum dwellers, courtesy of a unique partnership between the Cities Alliance, USAID and the World Bank.
Created by Norwegian photographer Jonas Bendiksen and produced by Magnum Photos, the Nobel Peace Center and Canon, The Places We Live compels visitors to reflect on what it means to live in a city in the 21st century.
Visitors to the exhibit “virtually” enter the homes of 20 different families living in the slums of four cities: Caracas, Venezuela; Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya; Dharavi in Mumbai, India; and Jakarta, Indonesia.
Inside each shack, visitors see a family in their home and hear them talk about daily life in the slums in their own words. They tell of the dangers of the environment in which they live, their work, their joys, hopes, and frustrations.
The families are a diverse group; some were born in the slum in which they live, and some found it to be the only place they could afford when they moved to the city in search of opportunities. All have made an effort to turn their dwelling into a home.
The exhibit is the result of a three-year project by Bendiksen, an award-winning photographer for Magnum Photos. In 2005, he moved to a shack in Nairobi’s Kibera slum in order to understand what daily life is like in the slums. Over the next three years, he traveled to slums in Caracas, Mumbai and Jakarta documenting households, families and their surroundings.
In the process, he challenged stereotypes about urban poverty and discovered that it was impossible to generalise about people who live in slums—one-sixth of the world’s population. Bendiksen was particularly struck by slum dwellers’ tremendous capacity to create normalcy and dignity out of extremely challenging living conditions.
He discovered that beyond the common perceptions of poverty, misery, destitution, insecurity, and danger, there were more stories that needed to be expressed. In The Places We Live, Bendiksen captures the enterprise and hard work, hope and humor, and love and compassion that occur even in the face of some of the world’s most difficult environments.
The Places We Live exhibit is showing at the National Building Museum, one of Washington, D.C.’s premier museums located on 401 F Street, NW from September 17, 2009 to January 15, 2010.
It is an official programme of the 2009 World Habitat Day, holding for the first time in Washington D.C. on October 5th at the National Building Museum under the auspices of UN-HABITAT, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the White House Office of Urban Affairs.
A range of related public education activities will be held from 1 October through 7 October in Washington, DC and around the United States. There will also be celebrations around the world.
For more information about World Habitat Day activities and events in Washington, including The Places We Live exhibit, please visit www.OurUrbanPlanet.org.
Read the press release about The Places We Live
What: The Places We Live
Where: The National Building Museum
When: September 17, 2009-January 15, 2009