PARALLEL UNIVERSES OF CHILDREN: A BOOK THAT BEARS WITNESS TO THE TRUE PRICE CHILDREN PAY FOR OUR WORLD’S INEQUALTIES
Turkish artist Ugur Gallenkus brings global attention to the injustices affecting children through the poignant, heart-wrenching collages in his first book
As the global pandemic has pulled international injustices into sharp relief, the lives of many have been thrown into precarity while others have begun to question realities they once took for granted. Artist Ugur Gallenkuş and publisher Arzu Tunca, also the artist’s manager, chose to debut Parallel Universes of Children in this moment, knowing that its message was more urgent than ever—we have too often ignored the inequalities facing the world’s children, and we must begin to pay attention. The book, a beautiful 11 x 11 inch, 108-page hardcover volume, acts as both a call to action and a tender meditation on the preciousness of our youngest, most vulnerable citizens alongside the suffering so many of them endure. It features 50 collages from Gallenkuş’ moving, ongoing series about the starkly different realities inhabited by children around the world. Parallel Universes of Children aims to make a difference in how we understand children’s lives and the social disparities that separate those who live in privilege from those who are oppressed. The book officially became available on Nov. 20, 2020, International Children’s Rights Day.
Gallenkuş, an Istanbul-based digital artist, considers his art a humanitarian endeavor as well as an aesthetic one. The collages in Parallel Universes draw from a range of source material, including the work of some of today’s most intrepid photojournalists. By contrasting images of realities both foreign and familiar to contemporary viewers, Gallenkuş touchingly depicts a range of intensely relevant issues affecting today’s children: from hunger to poverty, child trafficking, child labor, child soldier, immigration, healthcare, and education. In Earning Play, a child in fresh, clean clothes plays at a park while two equally young and innocent children work at a factory in Fatullah near Dakka in Bangladesh, moving bricks—for each 1,000 bricks, they earn less than one U.S. dollar. Bathing at Peace, Bathing at War contrasts a pristine porcelain bathtub with a tub in Gaza, in which a father bathes two girls amidst the rubble of an airstrike. In Learning to Trust, a child with dengue fever in Jalozai, Pakistan reaches across a lush green background, his fingers nearly touching the muscular arm of God as depicted in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel mural. In Duality View, a refugee girl watches the sunset from the Debaga Refugee Camp near Mosul in Iraq, her body nearly merging with that of another girl, sitting looking at a city scape in a manicured city park. Children Are Children Firstshows children running with balloons past shelled buildings on the outskirts of Damascus, while, in parallel, a little boy in a bowtie runs along a paved path with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Produced on artist-print quality paper, the book offers a carefully crafted, memorable pictorial experience, but it also endeavors to be more than that. The book takes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, enforced since 1990, as its foundation, aiming through these 50 collages to convey the essential rights each child should have, regardless of their circumstances or geography. Each collage represents one of the U.N.-determined rights of children and is accompanied by statistics indicating the pressing realities putting children in danger world-wide. This data reminds us that we all share responsibility for making our world better for its children and protecting their rights to nourishment, safety, happiness, and so much more. In Gallenkuş’ words, those living and struggling in developing countries, “have every right to feel as empowered and peaceful as those in developed countries.” Moreover, those of us who read this book have a responsibility to act to protect our world’s most vulnerable inhabitants.