MADELINE COTTINGHAM
Peer

On April 14, 2014, the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls, between the ages of 16 and 18, from the town of Chibok. The Nigerian government has so far proven powerless in their pursuit of the militant organization that now controls most of northeastern Nigeria. Although the twitter campaign #BringBackOurGirls was quickly picked up by commercial media and popularized by Michelle Obama, it gathered less than 9,000 followers and did little to galvanize the world. As of this writing, none of the girls have been rescued and only 57 have escaped on their own, returning with stories of rape, forced marriage, and abuse. Some reports claim the girls have been used as suicide bombers.The story of the Chibok girls continues to be shrouded in mystery. We know little of who they are, what they aspired to be, or what their future holds.

Peer is an ongoing effort to re-contextualize this horrific event that remains inaccessible to much of the world. Once completed, the work will consist of 219 portraits of American girls (the same number of Chibok girls still missing) between the ages of 16 and 18. The portraits are taken in the girl’s bedroom where she is asked to write a message to her Nigerian contemporary. The name of a kidnapped Nigerian girl is paired with each portrait. Like their Nigerian peers, the American girls are approaching a pivotal moment in their lives, as they prepare for college, careers, and adulthood. By re-imagining the scale of devastation wrought on the people of northeastern Nigeria, Peer aims to find new ways of understanding this conflict.

2014 - Ongoing