Gage Gallery highlights stories of stateless children

By Zachary Wright, Copy Editor

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Photographer Greg Constantine during a speech, showing the audience of a makeshift birth certificate that is kept by a child that gives his siblings birth dates. Photo by Zachary Wright

Opening to mark the end of the American Dream Conference, the Gage Gallery is currently showcasing photographer Greg Constantine’s project: The Nowhere People: the Children. The photo exhibit displays Constantine’s ten-year journey, focusing on children of stateless communities worldwide.

Constantine originally planned to devote his time to this project for a year and a half after relocating to Bangkok in 2006. After that year, Constantine realized this was a project he could devote all his time to, leading to the project to grow “organically.”

This community is made up of people who may be stateless for many reasons, most often due to discrimination, conflict or fleeing their country as a refugee. They’re often overlooked and forgotten about, living in total isolation until someone, like Constantine, decides to give them a voice.

“I think this is a really important topic that obviously gets ignored a lot in the news,” said Kathryn Irving, high school teacher at Northside College Prep High School. Gallery curator Mike Ensdorf, assistant dean of the college of arts and sciences, said the event went well and was happy with the turnout.

Gallery curator Ensdorf narrowed down hundreds of photos to just 100. Noticing that 3/4 of the photos featured children, Ensdorf and Constantine that the gallery should focus on the children, one of the groups majorly impacted by statelessness.

Ultimately, seven countries are displayed, but they represent the millions around the world. For Ensdorf, the photos selected represent the social justice values Roosevelt strives to uphold.

“Social documentary of photography, which is a subgenre of documentary, does just that,” said Ensdorf.

In the speech given on opening night, Constantine said, “What my work is focused is on, these communities, these ethnic communities of people, who have lived in a place for generations, but because of racism, discrimination, and intolerance, their governments have said ‘you don’t belong here.”

Unwelcomed by their country and those who live there, many stateless people find themselves at the brunt of discrimination. Constantine gives few examples, making references of the Dominican Republic stripping Haitians of the country their citizenship or children being born stateless in the Middle East due to discrimination against women.

Stateless children are more or less born to live of a constant setbacks. For stateless children, education is unavailable or poor and limited, they cannot get vaccinated, receive government assistance or protection and cannot get legally married. Constantine said for most stateless families, they have been stateless for generations, meaning most are born into it. Stateless children, despite being born in the country they reside in, aren’t granted citizenship despite efforts from organizations like the United Nations.

For stateless children, Constantine said they are one of the most impacted groups, regardless of ethnicity. Like other children, they all have hopes and dreams that Constantine says that children belonging to a nation would be able to follow.

“The task at hand for me as a photographer was to try to visually articulate what this very complex issue does to people and how it affects the human condition,” said Constantine.

At the end of the American Dream Conference, Constantine had left the country to cover the current ongoing situation with the Rohingya people, who make up one of the biggest populations of statelessness.

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