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Theories and Practice

Theories and Practice:
My final project is based on a history of two individuals Ota Benga and Ishi both suffered greatly due to being Native in this American land. I was inspired to do this project by reading articles for my women studies class on the topic of Freaks and how freaks were mistreated and became the object of gaze. In other word they were called as “monstrous? and “Freaks? because they were not normal like other people.

My project is about a story of two individuals, Ota Benga and Ishi who were bought to the U.S. through slavery and later became part of the freak sideshows. In 1906, Ota Benga was sold into the tribal slave market where Samuel Verner purchased him. The same tribe killed Ota Benga’s family so he did not have a reason to return to home after the suffering. Ishi on the other hand was found in the slaughterhouse in Oroville, California in 1911. Ishi died from tuberculosis and Ota Begna committed suicide.
Freaks have always been seen as monstrous people and our society has never accepted them. What is more is that I came across several different racial types of freaks during my readings; but never once did I come across any Americans who were also called as Freaks. That indeed inspired me to ask the question why is that we call freak to only native people? And not to any Americans? I began my journey by searching more about the history of Ota Begna and Ishi. I chose those two individual because they both counterpart each other in some ways. Ota Benga was highly mistreated by his fellow who brought him to the U.S. and later kept him at the monkey house as a savage. He became the object of the display and many people gathered to see him all over but no one ever came to fight back for him. On the contrary Ishi, was given respect and was taught some manners but still he worked as a janitor in the university’s heart museum of Anthropology museum. I wondered how many professors around the university were treated that way around that time? That led me thinking more and more and I found the history of Ota Benga and Ishi. I found articles and book that talked about freaks more in depth. I search for their images. I also saw the video piece made by Fatimah Tobing Rony On Cannibalism, which dealt with a very similar question that I wondered. Rony also wrote a book call “The Third Eye?. In her book she talks about her practice and theories for the video. She gives a great insight of how she perceived native peoples have been looked at. According to her, “ ‘[t] hat man is Alive!’ The irony is that in order to look most alive, the “native? must be perceived as always already dead? (116).
Moreover, she mentioned that, “ the continued proliferation of images of indigenous peoples as spatially and temporally distant, however, sustains a denial of the history of native people’s struggle against colonialization and genocide, and their ongoing struggles for cultural identity against the forces of an image-hungry dominant culture which sees them as always already dead? (198). While constructing with the video I have tried to bring all the aesthetic and visual tools that I learned in this class throughout this semester. I liked the idea of telling a story through pictures and audio narration and you can see that in my final project. I have also tried to bring the history and struggle of these individuals and my goal is to make people think of what happened in the history was right or wrong? Like how Rony mentioned that, “ film and the discourse surrounding it can tell us about the nature of anthropological knowledge and the role of visual media in legitimating that knowledge and other regimes of truth? (100) and I hope that I succeed in my project.
Although, I dealt with some technological problem throughout the making of this documentary but in my final piece I believe I achieved a better documentary. In my project I have dealt with the racial difference that existed throughout the history. And my hope is that after seeing the video it will provoke the audience to think over and eventually it will do well to our society in the future.