A mixed-media exhibition by Josh Hester, a former graduate student in the University of Illinois Springfield Communication Department, will have his work featured during a six-week run at the Robert Morris University Art Gallery starting in January.
The “Witness: Mathare,” exhibit features photography and film of the people and story of the Mathare Valley slum in Nairobi, Kenya.
“It's considered one of the oldest slums in all of Africa,” Hester, a multimedia specialist for Memorial Health System, said.
Hester was part of a team from Hope Evangelical Free Church in Springfield that traveled to Nairobi in September. The church partners with Bright Hope, a Christian development organization that serves people in the world living on less than a dollar a day. Hester took an estimated 4,000 photos and shot five hours of video to document the trip.
"Mathare is a place of extremes," Hester said. "While I encountered extreme and unimaginable poverty, pain, disease and death, I also encountered tremendous joy, love, faith and hope. More so than you could ever imagine would exist in such a place."
A reception will be held from 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, at the Robert Morris University Art Gallery located at 607 E. Adams St., Springfield. A $5 donation is suggested but not required. All proceeds will benefit Mathare Community Outreach’s schools and feeding program. Hope Church and Bright Hope have also partnered to organize a 5K run, Run for Hungry Children, to aid Mathare Community Outreach.
"It's easy for us to see Africa as this far-off place and so their problems are not our problems," Hester said. "But this isn't true. The world’s much smaller than we think it is. And we don't realize the impact we can have."
The exhibit will run from Jan. 5 through Feb. 19. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. The exhibit features 33 photos and 45 minutes of video on a continuous loop.
For more information about the exhibit, call (217) 522-8977.