Exhibition Dates: 10/11/12 - 11/11/12
Opening Reception & Book Signing: 10/11/12, 6-8pm
A Photographic Documentation of What Remains of the Horrors of War
In 1979, after over a decade of struggle, the socialist Sandinista movement in Nicaragua overthrew the dictator, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, and ended the family’s more than forty-year reign of terror. The Sandinista National Liberation Front, or FSLN, quickly began the work of applying its social and ideological values in the hopes of creating a better Nicaragua.
In the Cold War environment of the 1980s, the prospect of a socialist government gaining a foothold in Central America was unacceptable to the United States. The CIA began ﬁnancing, arming, and training a clandestine rebel insurgency to destabilize the fledgling government. These anti-Sandinista counter-revolutionaries became known as Contras. Between 1980 and 1990, Nicaragua was the battleground of conﬂicting political ideologies. The promise of a bright future was lost as the nation descended into civil war.
American photographer Kevin Kunishi’s interest in Nicaragua was kindled while he was a History major at the University of California Santa Barbara. After receiving his undergraduate degree with an emphasis on U.S. foreign policy in Central America, Kunishi wanted to “move beyond the broad recital of policy and ideology within textbooks and explore the personal experiences of individuals directly affected by those policies.” From 2009 through 2010, twenty years after the Nicaraguan civil war ended, Kunishi traveled throughout the highlands of Northern
Nicaragua where the most intense fighting took place in an attempt to discover and document with his camera the legacy that this protracted and controversial war left behind. A selection of the resulting photographs, moving portraits of survivors, both Sandinistas and Contras, as well as exquisite landscapes and still lifes significant to the war, are gathered together here in Kunishi’s first monograph Los Restos de la Revolución (Daylight Books, September 2012).
The opening photograph is a pristine, verdant landscape that we discover only when reading the caption at the back of the book was the crash site for a Sandinista M1-24 helicopter. Other images reveal visible traces of war, such as Sandinista red and black graffiti (black signifying death and red the resurrection) painted on a rock wall, a detonated US issued landmine found by two children while chasing an iguana, personal photographs and ephemera of a former Contra commander, a tree branch at the site of the Somoza-run Prison 21 from which prisoners were hung upside down and tortured to death, and the grave of an American volunteer killed by Contra rebels marked with a single pink rose.
Kunishi’s portraits tell the stories of survivors, such as Pedrito, a Contra rebel, who was hit by a grenade and blinded, Charillo (FSLN) who fought for four years in the jungle, and is the lone survivor of his unit, and Julio (FSLN) who survived three months crammed in a tiny cell with 40 prisoners where he learned to fight. Some images embody a spirit of renewal and healing, including a portrait of Josefina shown in her cap and gown on graduation day, and two trees intertwined like lovers.
The photographs within Los Restos are notational records of the experience of the collective memory of those involved. Although at one time sharply divided by two polarized political philosophies, the survivors are now bound by a landscape ﬁlled with physical and psychological scars. The markers of afﬁliation are slowly fading, but the horrors of war remain.
Kevin Kunishi (www.kevinkunishi.com) has been based in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2004, where he continues work on numerous projects both at home and around the globe. His work has been recognized by many notable organizations and publications including The New Yorker, American Photo, The International Photography Awards, Vice magazine, the New York Photo Festival, ONWARD, Photo District News, CENTER, Photolucida, Monocle magazine, CMYK magazine, Photographer’s Forum and Prix de la Photographie, Paris (PX3). His work has been shown nationally at Project Basho in Philadelphia, PA, The Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography, The Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C. and The Bekman Gallery in New York, among other venues. In 2011 he was the honorary recipient of the Blue Earth Alliance Award for Best Photography Project, an award that honors projects that demonstrate excellence in the field of photography.
Daylight is a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing art and photography via books, a magazine, and multimedia programs. By exploring the documentary mode along with the more conceptual concerns of fine-art, Daylight’s uniquely collectible publications work to revitalize the relationship between art, photography, and the world-at-large. For more information, visit www.daylightbooks.org