Critics’ Picks

Diego Ibarra Sánchez, Hijacked Education, Zahlé, Lebanon, December 16, 2016, 2016 ink-jet print, 7 7/8 x 11 7/8".


Diego Ibarra Sánchez

Mudima Lab
Via A. Tadino 20
October 11–November 25

“Hijacked Education,” featuring photographs by Diego Ibarra Sánchez, is the third in a series of six exhibitions titled “GUERRE” (WARS) that Mudima Lab is devoting to freelance war photojournalism. Sanchez began the exhibited project in Pakistan in 2009, in part as a means of documenting and denouncing the catastrophic effects of the region’s conflicts on the fate of children living in these war zones. Sánchez documented the violent Taliban campaign against education, which focused in particular on the suppression of girls’ schooling and culminated in the attack on the young activist Malala Yousafzai in 2012. The photographer moved to Lebanon in 2014 and then on to Iraq and Syria, where hundreds of schools have been destroyed, abandoned, or transformed into shelters by ISIS militia; classrooms stand empty, their walls pierced by bullets; the university library in Mosul has been burned down. Sánchez bears witness to the desolation that remains where young people once gathered—venues for learning—tracing in that squalor the unhealable wound inflicted on an entire generation.

The photos are predominantly blue in hue: walls of deserted classrooms, the nocturnal light of winter in temporary settlements; gloomy tones emanate from these joyless places, as in Hijacked Education, 2016. From Sánchez’s sorrowful and austere awareness, similar to that of Alfredo Jaar in confronting the disasters of war, there emerges a human empathy for his subjects’ wretched fates. Hovering over all these works is a question central to Sánchez’s practice: What is the meaning of such suffering?

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.