WE COME IN PEACE
The human spirit is one of tremendous strength and virtue. As human beings, the dream of a harmonious existence is a continuing battle, but one very much worth fighting for. Unfortunately, differences of race, colour, and gender far often serve to hinder us in progressive and constructive thinking. Frequently it has been proven that which is misunderstood is quite often feared. This fact is the fundamental basis for the development of prejudice. There is so much pain and suffering which has occurred and still does as a result of this.
The unifying thread of our existence is not in our physical or outer appearance, but it is in spirit; that we are all brothers and sisters. The physical differences between us are no more to be feared than flowers of varying colours and sizes. Indeed, such differences are to be marvelled at in sheer and absolute appreciation. It is with this very same rationale that I present you with this ambitious project.
Not too long ago, I was approached by five African-Canadian young men armed with a strong sense of entrepreneurialism. They also possessed a desire to contribute something positive to the world. Needless to say, I was impressed. As good fortune would have it, these young men were all aspiring professional bodybuilders. It became obvious to me at this point that photographing beautiful, physical specimens and selling them as posters, limited prints, etc., to the general public was by no stretch of the imagination an original idea.
The challenge, now, was to go beyond simply photographing beautiful bodies. After giving this much thought, I concluded that no matter what I did (photographically speaking) aside from painting my subjects, the one inescapable fact was that the end result would always depict black men. Being an African Canadian myself it was clear that such images would be easily accepted by others of my race, but may have very little acceptance from others of various cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Thus the work’s visual range would now seem to be restricted by the one thing as black people we cannot change, our skin. As necessity is the mother of invention, it is from here that my vision took form.
The goal of these images was now not only to go beyond being about five well-built black men but to visually communicate a concept of racial unity through appreciation rather than fear for the physical differences that exist. A lofty and noble task indeed! First, the images were to be de-personalized so that individuality would be of no importance. This now emphasized the forms to be depicted. When one sees a flower of particular beauty, appreciation for its uniqueness should not and is not restricted to its particular genus and thus it should be for existing beauty in human form.
A total of twelve images were to be created, each radically different from the next but beautiful in its own way. The idea of a calendar format for the presentation of these images was now beginning to emerge. The image-making process took a total of six weeks. To date, it has proven to be my most demanding and satisfying project. I have included them in this project so that you may judge their visual impact for yourself.
The current state of the world is that almost all regions may be considered melting pot societies to a certain degree. The North Americans, particularly Canadians pride themselves on their promotion of multiculturalism. Unfortunately, while the notion of various cultures living together in one society and working harmoniously towards a greater good is its purpose, the very differences often tend to hinder this ideal. People of various cultures and ethnic origins migrate to Canada and the United States seeking greater opportunity both economically and educationally.
Once they have arrived, it does not take long to realize that others from far and wide also came for the very same reasons. My observation of the end result is that each culture regards the other as being somewhat alien and to a certain degree, almost non-human, arriving from another destination other than Earth. While this may seem rather ludacris, it is obvious that the segregation of various cultures and races; due to, amongst other things, a lack of understanding and fear of the unknown is indeed a reality. The notion that other cultures and races are perceived as aliens has served as a catalyst for the development of the imagery for this calendar.
The chosen forms appear both humanoid and strangely reminiscent of creatures of the Earth. Undoubtedly, the naming of the project was to play an integral part in solidifying the concept and purpose for its very existence. Hollywood most graciously and unwittingly supplied me with the answer. From movies of old, quite often we were led to believe that aliens land on Earth and mean us no harm, thus the key phrase “We come in peace.” Has been adopted for this project. We come in peace has been born out of the desire for human understanding and racial harmony.
It is my wish that this project should serve as a catalyst for the understanding and appreciation of, not only the black race but various races and peoples of cultural diversity. I am therefore offering the challenge to other photographers or artists of various cultures to take on the immense task of visually educating people to promote the idea of racial harmony. The W.C.I.P. calendar project is just that, a project. Ideally, it is meant to grow and expand as each year a new calendar featuring another culture or race is to be highlighted.
It is by this process that the many existing cultures shall be given equal opportunity to enlighten the masses as to the beauty and uniqueness of their heritage. From this deed, I am hopeful that greater appreciation for our differences shall one day be achieved. For those who understand the nature of light, it is evident that in darkness we are all the same
- Montano St. Jules (TheArtof1)