Fathers Guil(t)d

Radek Polak

2016 - Ongoing


''I and the Father are one'' John 10:30

''Initiation is less about being a warrior than about being conscious, awake, alert. ''

Richard Rohr “Adam's return 5 promises of Male Initiation”

In my world, there are no expressive father figures and there is no clear answer to the

question of fatherhood and masculinity. My personal experience of a son-father

relationship was rather non-existent for many years. For these reasons, I have never

gone through a proper initiation into the world of mature masculinity. It affected my development

and my life choices. My personal experience made me curious to study a culture based entirely on masculinity. I wanted to find out how father - son relationship affected entering the path of adolescence by men living in a traditional Islamic community. For that purpose I chose – Pankisi, a small community, where no official initiation rituals and habits are established at the moment.Suprisingly, this far and distant valley in Caucasus, became my mirror.

Pankisi Valley - the land of Chechens and Kists – who, for centuries, have been a traditional society, the so-called aristocracy of warriors. It is estimated that around 200 Kists out of

the whole population of 5000, were fighting in Syria . To many of them it was not the first war, but another one, after Afganistan or Dagestan. The life of Kists is lined with invisible furrows and many of them concern father-son relationships. That is what I want to embrace and highlight in my project. I believe that by showing this distant and different culture through the prism of the father - son relationship, viewers will be able to redefine their own attitudes and choices. The project is ongoing. For more than 2 years I have been bonding with three men of different age: Omar (55), Ali (43) and Ahmed (18). Each one of them had been experienced by war in a different way and dealt with it in a different manner especially in perspective of father- son relation. Omar is a veteran of the first and the second Chechen war- the two most important wars for Chechen identity. He was protecting the so- called„Chechen way” with support from his own father. After having been heavily wounded, he nowadays enjoys lonely life away from the village. Ali left his home when he was 13 as an act of rebellion again his father. As a teenager he was fighting in both Chechen Wars, and he become a Mujahedin continuing his fight through many wars in later years. He came back home to Pankisi in 2015/16 when his son was already a boy, almost a teenager. Ahmed - Ali’s son was raised without a father. Most of his class mates went to Syria and most likely died fighting there. Ahmed is an idealist and a believer. Will he radicalize, on his search for manhood ? What will his future choices be? This is a turning point in his life.

Richard Rohr writes: ''The hunger for a father figure is a difficult subject, as one of the most fragile parts of man's life is urgent desire for a contact with someone older, wiser and stronger, who would lead, accept, teach and correct, who would believe in him and challenge him. Men need other men to learn passion and perseverance.'

Getting to know my heros and observing them, makes me aware of the great importance of father-son relationship in young man's developement. This turns out to be universal reality highly downplayed in our society as well as in individuals life and sometimes even perceived as atavistic.

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