A collaborative photography project created to dignify and raise awareness of the identities of stateless people through visual art.
Identidad. Idantite. Identity. is a project created with the intention of using photography and art to raise awareness of the identities of stateless people, specifically of those of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic. I have lived and worked on and off in the Dominican Republic since 2008, and began planning this project last year, in 2013, when the Dominican government passed legislation that revoked and prevented the citizenship of those who had been born in Dominican Republic, but by illegal immigrant parents. This legislation had been applied retroactively from 1929 to the present, and without citizenship these people became or remained stateless, many lacking eligibility for the Haitian citizenship of their parents or grandparents and the ability to speak the Haitian Creole language– thus leaving them with few options. Additionally, without citizenship papers, these people could not access public education, healthcare, or have the ability to find legal work.
In May of this year, internal and international pressure on the Dominican Government reinstated 24,000 citizenship papers to people who had previously had them, but a 2013 UN survey found there were 244,000 people in the DR whose parents were undocumented foreigners.
Communities that have been specifically affected by this are known as bateyes— sugarcane worker “towns” that were filled with Haitian immigrants brought over by the Dominican government to work in the harsh conditions of the fields, but considered “illegal”.
A description of the bateys from Raul Zecca Castel paints a picture of these communities with the following—
“The most powerful symbols of this harsh reality are the bateyes, agglomerations of dormitories scattered within the immense sugar cane plantations. These are created to accommodate workers during the cane harvest, the zafra, but with time they have become truly invisible communities, emblems of poverty and marginalisation. An inheritance of the original places that were similar to concentration camps not so long ago, the bateyes are still social and economic ghettos reserved for the Haitian population. Here is where the human tragedy is perpetrated against the workers forced to survive day by day in conditions on the brink of endurance and human dignity.”
Outside of Batey 9, Dominican Republic. Amy S. Martin
Through the project Identidad. Idantite. Identity., I will be working in the southern part of Dominican Republic in the region of Barahona with the communities of Batey Bombita, Batey Robles and Pueblo Milton to create a physical and tangible piece of identity through visual art for those denied citizenship papers and cedulas. The project will be two-fold. As a documentary photographer I will create portraits of individuals wishing to be photographed to serve as a visual identity which can be used to share their story as an individual and as a community. The images that I collect and capture will form an exhibition shared and shown within the Dominican Republic and in the United States to raise awareness of this issue and support dignity and identity of these stateless people.
In the second component I will be working in partnership with the Batey Rehab Project presenting workshops that teach illustration and photography for children of the bateyes to use as tools to explore and share their identities. We will encourage them to use the definition of identity “the collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which someone is definitively recognizable or known” to explore their lives through creative art. We will supply cameras and the ability to print images for the students to keep and create pendants and other jewelry with their images as reminder and keepsake of their identity.
The outcome of both will be a collection of portraits of batey community members declared stateless— those who want their face and voice to represent a future that is currently denied.
Helping fund this project will help create art to spread knowledge and compassion which, when shared widely, can lead to understanding and change.
Batey 9, Dominican Republic. Amy S. Martin
“I am a citizen of the world”–Sylvia Beach
Amy S. Martin
Before becoming a documentary photographer, Amy was a Peace Corps volunteer in Dominican Republic from 2008-2010 working in Environmental and Community health as well as with with migrant Haitian coffee workers. She spent time in the southern bateyes learning Haitian Creole language, and worked on the border of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Through her photography she has documented the work of development and conservation non-profits in Dominican Republic, Kenya, Uganda, and her home of the southwest United States. Growing up in close to the US/Mexico border in Tucson, Arizona has contributed to Amy’s interest and attention to migrant and border issues.
Link to Kickstarter site: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/amysmartin/identidadidantiteidentity-portraits-of-the-haitian