The jury unanimously awarded a Special Jury Prize to the Italian artist Alba Zari for her ongoing project about the Christian fundamentalist cult “Children of God”.
“Zari was born in Thailand in 1987 into this Western-led cult, and spent some of her formative years, with her mother and grandmother, in it. As an adult, she has undertaken a deeply moving and occasionally distressing investigation into the lasting damage the cult on herself and others.
Making use of archival images, as well as her own photographs, Zari patiently accumulates visual evidence of the abusive practices of the Children of God (including the sexual abuse of children). She also undertakes memory work around the uncertainty of her own paternity. Finally, she looks into contemporary cults that similarly have Western leadership and questionable ethics, and that are based in Asian countries. With a proposal to include thermal imagery and found video, Alba Zari’s Occult proposes a remarkable and inspired use of the possibilities of images to confront suppressed and terrifying histories.”
Alba Zari, winner of the Images Vevey 2021/2022 Special Jury Prize for her project Occult, draws on her mother’s life story and her own childhood in Thailand. She retraces the history of the Christian fundamentalist cult ‘The Children of God’, into which she was born after her mother and grandmother joined this community in the 1970s. Through family archives, documents taken from the internet, and thermal images of contemporary rituals, Alba Zari highlights the misogynistic abuse this cult imposed. By means of introspection and deciphering, she denounces the propaganda techniques such movements use. Offering a damning look at the reality of these circles, Occult questions the deceptive nature of images, while also demonstrating their ability to reveal the truth.