An outdoor photography installation currently exhibited in the Stern Plaza was brought to the University of Richmond to raise awareness of human trafficking with the help of a guest lecturer.

Abolition of gender violence was the vision of the women, gender and sexuality studies department members when they revisited their curriculum four years ago, Mari Lee Mifsud, the WGSS program coordinator, said. The realization of this goal involved the addition of a gender violence elective requirement for the WGSS major and hiring Debra Bergoffen as a guest lecturer.

Bergoffen worked to bring the installation, called Bought and Sold, to UR. Bought and Sold is an outdoor photography installation, created by Kay Chernush, that she said was meant to raise awareness about human trafficking, challenge public indifference, mobilize grassroots action and empower people and communities to be part of the solution. The installation is on display in Stern Plaza, in front of Jepson and Ryland halls, from March 29 to April 16.

One focus of the installation is awareness.

“It’s easy to ignore human trafficking if it doesn’t happen to you, and this is really in your face and you can’t ignore the issue,” freshman Camille Edwards, a viewer of the installation, said.

Patsy Moore Talbot, a Richmond resident and wife of a UR professor, said bringing attention to difficult topics was especially important in places such as UR, where it had been easy to shut out the bad parts of the world.

Bergoffen also spoke to the effects of awareness.

“Having been stripped of our ignorance, we are forced to act,” Bergoffen said.

Bought and Sold is different from many other works of art because it is displayed publicly, rather than in a gallery or theater, Bergoffen said.

“The idea is, you don’t go to see it, you’re confronted with it,” Bergoffen said. “First push it beyond policy and get into the classroom, then push it beyond the classroom, make it a university issue, a community issue.”

The Bought and Sold exhibit is circulated by Artworks for Freedom, an organization that uses photography, dance, theater, film, murals and other forms of art to promote the abolition of modern-day slavery.

Ladelle McWhorter, the chair of the WGSS department, said she was happy with the student and faculty reaction to the installation.

Mifsud said she was heartened to see large student turnout to previous events about sexual violence and modern-day slavery, a trend that continued Monday with a round-table discussion.

“Students are really hungry to be audience to this scholarly exploration of gender violence resistance and abolition,” Mifsud said.

The discussion was headlined by Bergoffen, Chernush, political science professor Monti Datta, American studies professor Laura Browder and Bonnie Price, the director of forensic nurses at Bon Secours Richmond.

Approximately 60 people, mostly students, attended the the discussion.

Bergoffen and Chernush both delivered speeches, and Datta, Price, Browder and Chernush answered audience questions. Chernush talked about her artistic process and how she presents her work in a specific manner to avoid re-exploiting and stigmatizing the experiences of victims.

Contact news writer Cal Pringle at cal.pringle@richmond.edu.

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