December 24, 2009


A small island in the Solomon Sea east of Papua New Guinea. Discovered, isolated, embattled in World War II and then torn up again in a 1990s secessionist war. Behind Lloyd Jones Man Booker Prize winning novel, Mr. Pip, is that island of Bougainville.

In Jon Lewis's images, the faces of the inhabitants seem far from the novelistic lessons that Jones suggests through the tale of Dickens' 19th-century Pip; lessons of coming to be morally cognizant, of coming to bear the responsibility of (human) rights. The idea that such ideal inscriptions might so nimbly take root in the soul, and that the price for articulating the moral ideals presented in this literacy project is a savaging of the human body, is a familiar story in the era of human rights. Such hopes, of course, have little to do with the brute inheritances of that island, becoming yet another veil of a worn language that shrouds its actual wars and their aftermath.