Despite It All We Never Learn, is a book of refugee testimonials taken from the Mediterranean Sea from those living in situations beyond our imaginations released by photographer and documentarian, Kenny Karpov.
Karpov’s mission is to share the stories of the many refugees that he encountered during his time in Europe. The book that he crowdfunded earlier this year, describes the agonizing first person narratives and impossible decisions that refugees have to make as they head toward what they believe is a better life.
No refugee should have to experience this journey and not have their voices heard.
I’ve spent the last four years documenting the lives of people at various stages of their migration to Europe. I chronicled every aspect of the men, women and children on their journey, living day-to-day, displaced from their native homes in order to escape war and persecution.
It has been my goal to create awareness, compassion, understanding though written and visual storytelling to what’s happening right now.
Despite It All We Never Learn is a collection of short essays and 85 testimonials from refugees that were recorded and written while I was volunteering in the Mediterranean Sea on board various rescue vessels operated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The purpose of the project is to increase awareness of the existence of the people taking to the sea and the abuses they endured through their own words.
From his Kickstarter:
This nonfiction novella acknowledges a resilient community of refugees making the journey from Libya to the Mediterranean Sea by unsafe dinghies or “rafts.” It chronicles the men, women, and children fleeing from their homeland from parts of the Middle East and Africa. Many of the refugees are coming to escape discrimination and terrible poverty, while others are fleeing years of war and conflict. As migrants pass through Libya, they enter a system marked by abuse, corruption and a near-complete vacuum of state authority.
Many migrants remain in the system for months or years, some settling or returning home and some raising money for an onward journey to Europe. These stories have captivated him for nearly four years, even after paging through them hundreds of times. “Despite It All We Never Learn” an unbelievable, rare and intimate look at their stories, and a deep look into the largest migration crisis since World War II.
This series began due to the conversations that Karpov had with survivors fleeing horrific violence-
Each and every one I sat with had a traumatic story to share. Some fled wars they wanted no part in, while others faced discrimination based on their sexuality, violence, persecution, extreme poverty and destitution. Their journey of suffering begins in countries that range from as far away as Pakistan, to countries across the Sub-Saharan Africa, such as Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and The Gambia and from the Horn of Africa, Eritrea and Somalia as well as the Middle East, ravaged by years of civil war, tension and instability. Horrifying stories of torture have emerged from those rescued. The men, women and children were kept in cages for days, holed up in ditches, killed in cold blood, raped and tortured. They know from the start that they may not survive.
On November 22nd, Despite It All We Never Learn, his corresponding solo exhibition of photographs will also open at M Contemporary Art in Ferndale. The exhibition will present a selection of images from Karpov’s time spent in the Mediterranean Sea between 2015-2019 working with various NGOs. Despite It All We Never Learn is intended to help raise awareness of this humanitarian crisis, as well as highlight our shared humanity, as too often peoples’ stories remain abstract and distant from us.
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