Enduring Personal Portraits
When we die, our stories are passed on via the loved ones we leave behind. Yet some people have no one. Some are buried without anyone ever knowing who they were. Their tombstones remain blank and there are no words of remembrance to see them to the grave. Moved by the painful anonymity of such funerals, Agata Niemkiewicz sought for a way to regain access to these dispossessed souls and honour their memory with a sense of identity. Piece by piece she reconstructs minute shreds of lost personal histories. Extracts from books found in the home or decorative fragments from jewellery or personal forms of expression such as tattoos are collected and mapped on an archetypal simple urn, forming a visual lifeline of an individual. In her project called Enduring Personal Portraits, Niemkiewicz created three urns based on three real cases: a Nigerian drug mule, an eccentric elderly recluse, and an unidentified young woman found in a canal. Public information such as a name or date of birth can be seen on the urn in plain view. Private details such as a person’s religion require closer inspection. Only then do these elements reveal themselves. “Just like when you get to know someone,” Niemkiewicz says.
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