Darkness into Light seeks to immortalise tributes donated after the March 15th Mosque terrorist attacks. The project aims is to make a contribution to our community by encouraging them towards considering dialogue, tolerance, inclusivity and maintaining an informed, empathetic and socially conscious society.

When the March 15th Mosque attacks happened, it reminded me of the hardship I and my fellow Colombians’ endured when I was living there in the 1980’s and 1990’s – the violence and pervasive sense of insecurity felt within certain areas and demographics of the country, at that time due to armed conflict and the war on drugs. I was also reminded of the importance of familial and community support; the significance of the connections we form with others, and how these significant relationships are imperative for us to be able to confront and rise above adversity.

It was extremely saddening to see that extreme acts of violence could happen also in New Zealand, a seemingly peaceful and tolerant place in comparison to others we are regularly exposed to within the media. However, I noted when this tragedy occurred, New Zealanders’ in general tended to respond in a supportive way. For example, by means of donating money to help affected families; by publicly acknowledging and discussing systemic problems that might have contributed to an environment or culture that led to such an atrocity, and of course through the expression of grief and remembrance through the act of giving and laying flowers in an impromptu memorial for the victims and their families.

In my view, these tributes became a powerful symbol of sympathy, support and respect. The act of giving, seeing and receiving became a gentle vehicle for dialogue. They helped create a space where people could open up and discuss various social issues that otherwise might have been ignored, and this dialogue encouraged tolerance and inclusivity between members of our increasingly diverse multicultural society.

One of the widows of shuhada ( Martys ) from the March 15th tragedy said to me, “It is only the support from others that is helping me move through this tragedy. I feel I am not alone”.

Thinking about her words and reflecting on my own views and experiences growing up, I came to think that through my artistic practice I want find a way to sustain this support; to keep this positive dialogue within public consciousness and to challenge certain negative perspectives that inevitably linger. Through my work I primarily want to immortalise the tributes as a metaphor for human empathy, connection, solidarity, respect and support, and to emphasise the few good aspects this tragedy brought to our communities.

Intention or context

My aim is to create a body of work that uses photography, collaborative practices and a broad range of related processes as a tool for social change; to develop a variety of creative outputs suitable for different audiences and cultural spaces.

My intention as an artist is to act as something of a conduit between people and wider communities; through the process of art making to engage people in conversations and experiences that lead to a greater sense of individual and collective agency and voice.

Participants that are like-minded professionals are invited to collaborate with the project in their area of expertise to create a greater positive impact to the work.

Methodology and Output

Documentary style photography and video are be used to create a visual story about the views people have regarding the tributes. This aspect of the project will aim to contextualize the broader body of work. New and pre-existing photographs are used. For example, photographs of the tributes when they were first placed at the Botanic Gardens or outside the Al Noor Mosque, and photographs of the subsequently collected, preserved and / or dried flower tribute. I am also making and use portraits of people who are part of the Muslim community and who were and continue to be affected by the events of March 15th.

The video is has been developed  in collaboration with Colombian TV producer and researcher Hans Araujo, who has a vast experience in research, field work and content design for various types of documentaries. Some of her work includes the collection of witness statements and personal testimonies from victims, their family members, their communities and other organisations that have been affected by the guerrilla and military violence in the remote areas of Colombia.

Inspired by the way Colombian artists Beatriz González, Oscar Muñoz and Doris Salcedo presents absence in their work, fine art photographs will be also created.

To present the victims absence in “Darkness into Light”, abstract and emotive photographs from people directly affected and images of objects from the victims and their families are taken. These photographs will act as indexical presences to emphasize human pain and loss. “Indexical presence” means an object or image that recreates a reality in such a way that it is not represented but rather present, giving the opportunity to the spectator to search for the meaning of the work.

These photographs are developed applying various alternative photography methods such as anthotype and gum bichromate processes. Tributes from the Botanic Gardens and the Al Noor Mosque will be utilised as raw material in the creation of photosensitive material in order to produce the images.

In this way I seek to immortalise the tributes presented as a metaphor for human empathy, connection, solidarity, respect and support, and to emphasise the few good aspects this tragedy brought to our communities. Most importantly I want to pay tribute to those whom had to endure the pain of this tragic events and to those that lost their lives.

Additionally to the images mention above, sculptures from people, the tributes and related objects will be created

Captions and titles for the work mentioned may reference interviews conducted with participants / collaborators or written material they wish to share with me for this end use.

People who are rightful owners, recipients of, or offer these tributes to me to use in the creation of work, will be invited to name the works created in reference to them. This is a way of acknowledging the significance of the giving and receiving of these tributes, thus furthering the work as a living and equal exchange of knowledge and experience.

A publication as a physical book, online multi-media archive or both will be developed in order to contextualise the body of work. Such publications will show the process of the work’s development and a final, well curated selection of final works created.

A curated exhibition will be mounted for the participants / collaborators and public to view all the work described above, with full acknowledgement (where appropriate) of the contributions, words and help received from the community.

In researching for and making the work, members of the Muslim community and general public will be invited to take part in free workshops facilitated by myself. These workshops will impart specialist knowledge of how to make inks and other basic materials used in the processes listed above, with the aim of helping participants produce their own work as a form of self-expression and artistic output in response to the event, their life and / or experience. Participants will also be invited to write poems, essays or thoughts related to the tributes and with emphasis on themes of love, support, collective and individual strength of connection and empathy. Ultimately, my artistic imperative here is to act as a conduit between communities; to create a space in which people feel empowered to express thoughts and feelings, impart knowledge to one another and build new relationships and connections. In this sense the forum / dialogue, social activities and social interactions are considered creative output in their own right, the equal of any resulting physical artefacts that may be produced during participation.

With consent, any resulting work made during and / or documentation of the above may be exhibited alongside my own work in order to emphasize the nature and importance of social exchange and collaboration.