The Centenarian Portrait Project
Term: 1 Year: 2018
Frau M, 85, “Yes, Yes, Yes. I was there”. [Dresden, 1945]. She pauses. “Tea?” Her hand shakes placing a steaming glass on the bench. “Speak with your mouth” she barks. She glares at me intently whilst correcting my pronunciation. One would not suspect her of failing eyes. She tells me of her post-1989 travels to Australia and reveals her disdain for women of West German descent.
It’s mid 2012 – I’m 23 and living abroad - and it dawns on me, after six months in this new city, I realise my world has been age-segregated. It’s a strange thought. Half a year of new friends, house concerts and an internship, and all my interactions have been with people 35 and under.
I start thinking about this more deeply. How can I get a true understanding for this place, when I’m only spending time with one demographic? These thoughts are concerning; a different perspective is essential.
An online search leads me to a buddy program bringing generations together. I sign up. Shortly after, my weekly visits to Frau M begin. We drink tea, discuss the world, our travels and slowly, with time, these weekly visits become very memorable history lessons seasoned with a spattering of home-grown wisdom.
This experience prompted me to question the lack of inter-generational contact in our modern day Western societies and provoked me to do something about it when I arrived home from travelling. Hence, The Centenarian Portrait Project by Teenagers was born. The project not only brings generations together but it celebrates, profiles and honours our local elders via the talents of young local artists.
The 2017 Victorian Seniors Festival saw the first large-scale realisation of this program. The exhibition entitled 100: A Celebration of Melbourne’s Oldest Residents, is the culmination of a life-affirming inter-generational process. As part of The Centenarian Portrait Project by Teenagers, 100 centenarians from across 60 Melbourne suburbs were introduced to 100 skilled young artists to begin their inter-generational exchanges that would lead to the creation of 100 portraits of 100-year-olds.
Rose Connors Dance
The Centenarian Portrait
Project by Teenagers