(NEW YORK, March 5, 2009) -- Through breathtaking images and the poignant voices of its subjects, I AM BECAUSE WE ARE (PowerHouse Books, $49.95), by award-winning photojournalist Kristen Ashburn, provides an intimate look at the AIDS pandemic in Africa. The book is a companion to the documentary film by the same title written and produced by Madonna and directed by Nathan Rissman.
The book will officially launch at the PowerHouse Arena, 37 Main Street, Dumbo, Brooklyn on Thursday, April 2, 2009, with a photo exhibition and fundraiser for the charitable organization Raising Malawi. This event is by invitation only. The exhibition is open to the public from March 25. All proceeds from the launch party will go to The Raising Malawi Academy for Girls.
"I AM BECAUSE WE ARE is a book that touches the heart. In photographing the grieving, devastated, still beautiful, children of Malawi, victims of the AIDS epidemic that has murdered their parents, Kristen Ashburn gives everyone on the planet the opportunity to come to the aid of those most bereaved and helpless in this world," said Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple. "It is a rare gift she gives: for we know in our deepest emotions that without the world coming to the defense and care of these children, the least of these, there will be no world peace."
Both the book and film share the stories and images of seven children living with the effects of HIV/AIDS. These children are just a handful of the 1 million AIDS orphans in Malawi, a country of only 13 million people.
Joyce, a 12-year-old, is forced to care for her younger siblings while her parents die of AIDS; Fanzio, an orphan at 14, declares that he will rise above his own difficulties and ultimately finds help to do so; Sinode, an HIV-positive 6-year old, is carried for hours by bicycle to get the care he needs. Each child's story is accompanied by a series of powerful photographs by photojournalist Kristen Ashburn, images that - in the words of Madonna - capture "the paradox of beauty and tragedy that exists today in Malawi and many other countries in Africa." Ashburn has photographed the impact of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa for almost a decade and brings her passion for the issue to bear on every image.
I AM BECAUSE WE ARE takes its title from the traditional African philosophy of ubuntu which speaks to the interconnectedness of humanity, reminding us that the fate of AIDS orphans in Malawi is inextricably tied into our own, that we all rise or fall together.
Ashburn began to photograph the impact of AIDS in southern Africa in 2001. Her work has also taken her to Iraq a year following the US-led invasion; Israel and the Palestinian Territories; Sri Lanka in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami; and Russia to cover the spread of MDR-tuberculosis in the penal system. Her work has appeared in many publications including Time, Newsweek, US News & World Report, Life and others. She lives in New York.
About the Charity
Raising Malawi is dedicated to bringing an end to the extreme poverty and hardship endured by Malawi's one million orphans. Co-founded by Madonna and Michael Berg, the organization uses a community-based approach to provide immediate direct physical assistance to create long-term sustainability. Author proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the charity for their extensive work with orphans throughout Malawi. For more information on Raising Malawi, please see www.raisingmalawi.org.