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Danielle Meadows

Photo by The Gateway

Danielle Meadows

When Mavericks return to campus for the first day of the fall semester, there will be more to look forward to than starting new classes.

The first total eclipse of the sun in more than 60 years passes over Nebraska on Aug. 21, spanning the entire continent and creating a celestial phenomenon that won’t be repeated for decades to come.

From approximately 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., the earth will pass through the moon’s shadow and result in various eclipse results depending on where you live. Omaha will experience 98 percent of totality, meaning that while the sun will not entirely be covered, it will still hide the sun’s rays significantly. This will create a strange late-evening experience in the middle of the day — around 1 p.m. — as the moon casts its maximum shadow.

Due to the moon obscuring 98 percent of the sun in Omaha, a “diamond ring” effect will occur, according to eclipse aficionado and UNO mail services manager Mike Burton. Those in Omaha will see a darkened image of the moon with a very bright cap on top, said to mimic a diamond ring.

Burton is so excited by this once-in-a-lifetime event that he’s planned an extensive camping trip in order to see the eclipse more clearly. Nebraska cities that often aren’t tourist destinations, like Grand Island, North Platte and Beatrice, will be flooded with people trying to catch a glimpse of history as they experience 100 percent totality. Cities located in this special total eclipse band could experience temperature drops and darkness so intense that bright stars will come out.

Burton’s goal: to be right in the middle of the Platte River when it happens.

“It’s a lifetime event. I’m 62, so realistically I might not see the next one — at least I won’t travel to it. This one is going right through the center of Nebraska. I have to go out there and see it,” Burton said.

However, Burton stresses that preparation and safety are of utmost importance when admiring the eclipse, and there’s no reason not to be prepared. Special solar glasses are necessary for viewing, with some on sale for a dollar at the Durham Science Center.

At UNO, the department of physics is preparing for this unique event by planning multiple opportunities for viewing the eclipse. Any interested students, faculty or staff members are welcome to attend.

UNO physics professor Lendell Hillhouse said he believes these events are great opportunities for people on campus to view the eclipse safely and in a social environment.

“We’re going to have telescopes set up with safety equipment, solar viewers and solar glasses stations. Safety and comfort are very important,” said Hillhouse. “Anytime you talk about a sun event, you don’t want people running around without the proper equipment looking at the sun.”

Without the proper filters in telescopes, binoculars or cameras, eye damage will occur in fractions of a second and may be permanent.

“It’s going to be a good time but we want to make sure everyone enjoys it safely,” Hillhouse said.

From 11 a.m. through the end of the eclipse, UNO’s Mallory Kountze Planetarium will be open for observation. Four telescopes will be set up along the south side of Durham Science Center, along with two solar viewing screens projecting the eclipse.

In addition to the work being done on campus, the UNO-based Nebraska Space Grant will take part in the eclipse. Local students will assist NASA scientists as they live-stream the eclipse from a height of up to 100,000 feet, which will be available for viewing on NASA’s website.

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Photo Courtest of unomaha.edu

Danielle Meadows

Lisa Kristine hopes to promote awareness of modern slavery through her photography, which is currently on display at UNO’s Criss Library and Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center.

Over the last 28 years, Kristine has documented the indigenous cultures of more than 100 countries across six continents. According to a self-guided tour sheet from the exhibit, she met a supporter of Free the Slaves in 2009, which is a non-governmental organization dedicated to eradicating modern slavery. Through this organization, Kristine’s work with documenting slavery started.

Many believe that slavery ended hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for more than 20 million people enslaved in the world today. This is double the amount of people taken from Africa during the entire Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, according to an information sheet at the exhibit.

Today, families can be enslaved for multiple generations over a debt as small as 20 dollars. Many have been tricked by false promises of better jobs or education only to find they’re forced to work without pay. Those who are enslaved can’t easily walk away from the situations they’re in without the risk of being seriously injured or killed.

Although slavery is illegal worldwide, it still generates profits of over 100 billion dollars each year. Slaves are forced to do labor such as hauling heavy bricks and stone in scalding hot temperatures, sex work, fishing for hours in poor conditions and working in illegal mine shafts.

Grown men and women aren’t the only ones victimized by modern slavery–children are involved as well–and are often made to work for hours on end. Children are especially desired in the slave trade because they have small fingers, which makes it easier to weave carpet and other textiles. Those who are enslaved are at risk of dying of exhaustion, malaria and tuberculosis among other things.

Kristine’s gorgeously affecting photos showcase the harsh, hidden reality that is modern slavery. Her photography is on display until May 19 in coordination with the 18th annual Leonard and Shirley Goldstein Lecture on Human Rights.

For more information on the exhibit and supplementary events happening around campus throughout April, visit library.unomaha.edu/enslaved.

Danielle Meadows

The University of Nebraska at Omaha Theatre will present “Tales of the Lost Formicans” by Constance Congdon–a play with a unique combination of joy, sorrow, humanity and aliens.

Directed by Professor Ryan Hartigan, theatre students bring “Tales of the Lost Formicans” to the UNO mainstage this month. The cast includes Bethany Bresnahan, Randy Breedlove, Ankita Ashrit, Noah Diaz, Enrique Madera, Kameron Shelley, Shae’Kell Butler and Angie Reynolds.

“Tales of the Lost Formicans” is centered around Cathy, whose husband left her for a much younger woman. Leaving life in New York, she returns to Colorado to live with her parents. A perpetually angry teenage son, a father with worsening Alzheimer’s and a local conspiracy nut might sound like a lot to handle–but then come the aliens.

During this production, the UNO Theatre Department worked with the Department of Gerontology to learn more about Alzheimer’s and how it impacts victims and their families. A common yet heart-breaking neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s (sometimes referred to as senile dementia) often comes on slow and worsens over time. Treatment may help ease symptoms but there is no cure.

“Alzheimers is sad because literally no one survives it,” said Jessie Curry, the production’s assistant stage manager.

Jim, the character who suffers from Alzheimer’s, often experiences episodes of forgetfulness. Actor Enrique Madera believes “Tales of the Lost Formicans” shines a light on what people endure as they care for someone who is slowly deteriorating.

“It opens your eyes to what people go through as they take care of someone with Alzheimer’s and making sure they’re safe, loved, appreciated and not taken for granted,” Madera said.

Madera plays Cathy’s son, Eric, who is very brash and frustrated throughout the play due to his parents’ divorce. In the meantime, aliens invade and analyze this family. After the mysterious creatures are introduced, the play centers around how the family deals with its dying patriarch while aliens look to this family in search of the humanity in humans.

“This show is kind of a comedy but kind of not,” assistant director Geran Ramet said. “It’s an interesting hybrid which should attract people because it’s not what they’re used to seeing.”

After auditioning at the beginning of the semester, rehearsals started about a month ago, according to Ramet. Through three hours of rehearsal per day, six days a week, cast and crew have worked together to embody the joy, sadness and humor of “Tales of the Lost Formican’s”.

Previews nights for the play will be April 12-13, with performances April 14-15 and 19-22 in the Weber Fine Arts building theatre. All performances start at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are free for all UNO students.

“The play shows that through adversity and struggle, we find who we are,” Ramet said, “There’s always hope in difficult situations and sometimes when we’re at our worst is when we find ourselves.”

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Photo Courtesy of facebook.com

Danielle Meadows

Everywhere he goes, the camera goes with him.

Omaha resident Manny Oyet made a deal with a friend six months ago that quickly transformed into a passion. After helping this friend move furniture to a new house, Oyet received something he always wanted but knew nothing about: a digital camera. This camera had dead batteries, was coated in dust and left abandoned on a kitchen table; however, Oyet saw its potential.

Born in Kenya, Oyet briefly lived in the nearby country of Sudan until he moved to the United States at 2 months old. Oyet, now 21, hasn’t had the opportunity to return to his home country since he left. Despite this, he still embraces his African culture in America through food, music and visiting family in Omaha who are also Africa natives.

“That’s when I’m really around it,” said Oyet. “My mom and sister still wear traditional African clothes, my mom plays African music when she cleans and cooks a lot of African cuisine.”

Oyet’s family helps expand his interest in photography. He often teams up with his brother, Bill, when taking pictures—exchanging ideas and taking turns as cameramen.

While most photographers prefer their subjects to be staged in some way, Oyet strives for a more organic, candid approach. People simply being themselves in their own environment may sound boring to some, but Oyet transforms these mundane activities into works of art.

“The world is so surrounded by media and obsessed with what you’re supposed to be doing or how you’re supposed to look in photos,” Oyet said, “so if I catch people off guard doing their thing, what they genuinely like to do, it’s refreshing.”

Oyet’s photoshoots involve friends, family or anyone interested. They meet at an agreed upon location—typically downtown or anywhere with interesting scenery. They walk around and whatever or whoever they see has the potential to be the subject of a photo. When the photoshoot is complete, Manny uploads the images to his computer and spends hours editing. Along with obscure angles and varied subjects, editing is what makes Oyet’s photos stand out.

Many of his images are edited to look eccentric and cartoonish, as if they were drawn over with colored pencil or transformed with paint. His photos have a rug-ged, urban vibe, often capturing his squad hanging out in spots around Omaha decorated in vibrant graffiti or other eye-catching backdrops. Oyet’s photos are beautifully distinct, displaying people in their most genuine, relaxed conditions.

Aside from taking pictures, Oyet has dabbled in other creative endeavors including music recording, creating instrumental beats, designing mixtape album covers, screen pressing t-shirts and drawing.

“Anything that has to do with art and media interests me,” Oyet said.

Traveling, meeting new people and taking photos of these experiences are Oyet’s primary goals. He dreams of having his own space for creative projects and would like to build a community around his work.

“I’d like to teach people that they can do something new and creative if they really want to,” Oyet said. “No one should just settle. Life is all about finding what drives you, no matter where or when you start.”

To see some of Oyets’s work, contact him for photo inquiries or even participate in a photoshoot, follow him on Instagram @observe.and.learn.

Danielle Meadows

Art students have their time to shine at the University of Nebraska at Omaha gallery.

The annual juried art student exhibition is open for viewing on the first floor of the Weber Fine Arts Building. A juried exhibition is when a professional guest or panel of judges are selected to review pieces before choosing artists to feature in an exhibit.

Metropolitan Community College animation and computer graphics professor Rebecca Hermann was guest juror of this year’s exhibition. Hermann is a graduate of Cranbook Academy of Art with a master’s degree in painting. Her animations and paintings are often featured in various juried and invitational shows across the country, according to information cards in the exhibit.

Originally, Hermann had 105 pieces by 45 UNO art majors to review. After much deliberation, 58 works by 37 students were chosen to enter the exhibit.

“Since the quality of the work overall was very high, my work was also difficult,” Hermann said. “I let the visual impact and my initial reaction to each piece steer some of my first decisions.”

One of Hermann’s selections is “Pneumonia Study” by Nicholas Clark. This piece is done with graphite on bristol board, making for an incredibly eerie mix of grey, white and black tones. A frail woman is the focal point of the drawing, shown in a contorted position on a hospital bed. Her mouth is wide open and her eyes appear empty–perhaps the final moments before the woman’s death.

The shading of “Pneumonia Study” is beautifully intricate, adding texture and depth to her wrinkled clothing, fluffy pillow and curly hair. A man is shown seated on a couch in the background, looking down while tiredly propping his head up with his hand.

When selecting pieces, Hermann wanted to feel visually stimulated, with some form of communication expressed. The idea of the art had to be relevant, with materials used in an interesting way. She also looked for talented craftsmanship, presentation and how engaged an artist was in their process.

“Putting work out in the world is not an easy thing to do, but it’s a necessary step in becoming an artist,” Hermann said. “The show
displays beautiful, moving, intellectually challenging work by talented individuals.”

Each year in conjunction with the juried show, a hexagon gallery installation proposal is selected by a staff committee. The selected student artist is in charge of all aspects regarding the installation the week before the gallery opening.

Seth Minturn’s video installation “One Second” was picked out of 12 other candidates to be featured in the hexagon gallery. The piece is inspired by social media, a shocking example of how much internet content is produced in a single second.

Minturn believes the mass influx of information has caused many things to be less surprising and meaningful.

“This has drawn our focus away from the things that are happening around us, or that could be happening if we take one second to step away from our devices,” he said.

To see these pieces and more, stop by the UNO art gallery Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public until March 30.

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Photo Courtesy of unomaha.edu

Danielle Meadows

The Office of Multicultural Affairs is teaming up with various sponsors and organizations to engage UNO and the surrounding community in celebrating Black History Month this February.

Black History Month, also known as National African American History Month, is a yearly celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for appreciating the important role of African Americans in United States history. This year, the Office of Multicultural Affairs in collaboration with the Department of Black Studies and the Urban League of Nebraska have worked together with multiple community and student groups to promote a variety of events happening during this special month.

Events kick off Thursday, with Gospel Fest happening in the Strauss Performing Arts Building. A presentation of “No Place to Eat, No Room to Sleep: The African American Experience of Route 66” will be held Feb. 7 in the Criss Library. Netflix documentary “13th” will be shown Feb. 9 in CPACS, which is followed by a social justice discussion.

Other Black History Month events happening on campus include the Health and Wellness Fair for a Healthy Soul, which is Feb. 16 in the student center. A presentation by Omaha Public School students called “Making Invisible Histories Visible” will take place Feb. 17 in the Criss Library. Open Mic and Divine 9 is the next event, happening Feb. 21 in the Thompson Alumni Center.

Finally, Feb. 28 is an evening with Wes Moore, which will be held in the Milo Bail Student Center ballroom. Wes Moore is an acclaimed author and veteran, Rhodes Scholar and the founder of BridgeEdu. Moore brings a very human perspective in combination with his transformative programs, which often leave audiences with new outlooks and motivation to tackle problems.

Located on the first floor of the Milo Bail student center, the Multicultural Affairs office provides cultural programs that involve and educate the diverse student body of UNO. The office plans programs during nationally recognized heritage months throughout the year. The office provides support with academic advising, tutoring, assistance with resume writing, scholarship programs and cultural and social justice programs. Additionally, the space is home to a quiet study area for students with computers and printers.

All Black History Month events are open to the public and the Multicultural Affairs office hopes this will be one of the best celebrations on campus to date. For more information on the events happening, visit mca.unomaha.edu.

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Danielle Meadows

Award-winning Israeli film director Shimon Dotan visited Universty of Nebraska at Omaha last week, screening his controversial film “The Settlers.” The film covers conflict between Israel and Palestine in a way that is unique and necessary.

People from all backgrounds filled a room Thursday in CPACS to watch the film. The movie chronologically displays the historical conflict between Palestine and Israel in two hours of fascinating emotion. Primarily in Hebrew, “The Settlers” is both beautiful and tragic, showcasing two incredibly different sides that may only share one thing in common: love for the land of the West Bank.

The West Bank is located near Israel, with Jordan to the east. This area is also home to a large section of the Dead Sea’s western shore. The film mostly takes place in Israeli settlements. Most homes in these settlements are built close to each other, perched upon extraordinary hills overlooking both sandy and lush, green landscapes. The views may be beautiful but this land is notorious for one very ugly thing: violence.

Approximately 371,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank. After various wars, many settlements were established on land some would say belongs to Palestine. Despite this, Palestine never actually held sovereignty but rather “occupied territory” of the West Bank.. The Israeli citizens who have built homes on this land often face conflict with the existing Palestinian residents, leading to anger and destruction.

The international community considers these settlements to be illegal—not because the settlements are in the West Bank—but because they violate population transfer, which prohibits a state from moving into an occupied territory. Israel sees this differently as Palestine never truly held sovereignty. The situation is clearly very complex and controversial, explaining why tensions are so high in this part of the world.

Dotan mostly focuses on the lives of the settlers in this film. Their opinions are rooted heavily in religion. The extreme opinions shown in this movie are laced with racism and ideologies being pitted against each other. One particularly alarming scene in the film shows a man beaming as he talks with
his children about how much they will enjoy beating up Arabs once they grow up.

The film ended with much more to be discussed, especially in the constantly evolving state of the West Bank. The story of Palestine and Israel will end only when there is peace, which doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon. Despite this, Dotan believes this film needed to be made.

“I didn’t include the Palestinian side so much because I wanted to focus on the settlers in a way that
hasn’t been presented before,” Dotan said.

“The Settlers” received good reviews from the audience. A post-show discussion was held featuring Dotan; Bill Blizek, UNO professor of Philosophy and Religion and Rabbi Sholmo Abramovich from the Beth Israel Synagogue. Many people with Jewish and Israeli ties were in the audience.

Audience members asked important questions, picking the minds of each contrasting panel guest.

The fact that not everyone in the room shared the same opinions led to an occasionally heated discussion, which proved to be fascinating nonetheless.

Dotan always hopes for the best in his home country of Israel. Right now, he doesn’t know of any solutions that would end the chaos and bloodshed. If a resolution were to be presented, Dotan would fight hard to implement it.

“I have lived in America for many years, but my home will always be Israel,” Dotan said.

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Photo Courtesy of unomaha.edu
Photo Courtesy of unomaha.edu

Danielle Meadows

Touching artwork is often strictly prohibited in galleries. The new University of Nebraska at Omaha Weber Fine Arts exhibit “Sensory: Please Touch the Art” opened a few weeks ago, inviting guests to get more interactive.

“Sensory: Please Touch the Art” was put together by many people, including faculty and students. The idea originated more than a year ago through discussion between Denise Brady (the art gallery coordinator) and Dr. Lisa Johnson, who is currently the Student Support Services director at Nebraska Methodist College. Johnson is visually impaired and had never been able to fully enjoy art galleries, so an exhibit featuring art that engages multiple senses other than sight interested her. From there, plans for the exhibit began to evolve.

A series of workshops for the visually impaired were held in the Weber Fine Arts building over the summer, with each workshop featuring a different art medium. The various workshops included clay, soft sculpture, fabrics and textiles and tactile drawing. Ann Cunningham, a tactile artist with years of experience working with the blind, Dr. Jeremy Johnson and Dr. Lisa Johnson organized the workshops and taught classes to the visually impaired artists.

The workshops were offered at a low cost and supported by various Nebraska-based groups, including the UNO Art Education program. Many of the pieces featured in the gallery belong to those who attended the workshops. Twenty teens and adults participated, giving those who are visually impaired access to art instruction and creating pieces they are proud of and passionate about.

While some of the works displayed in the exhibit were made especially for the gallery, others have been shown in different locations. Every artist represented granted permission for their work to be touched, as long as the guests touched with care and clean hands.

The staff at the gallery also took steps to ensure the pieces were accessible to those with little or no vision, adding large print, braille and push-button audio files to most of the work.

Many of the artists featured in the first hallway of the exhibit are visually impaired. That didn’t stop them from creating unique, beautiful work. Some artists showcased their talent in multiple forms such as sculpture and textiles, while others stuck to one particular medium.

On the labels of the artwork, guests are able to learn the names of the pieces, artist’s name, type of medium, price (if for sale) as well as where the artist is from. Multiple artists featured in the gallery are from Omaha—some being UNO students—while others came from places like Philadelphia, New Mexico and even India.

As guests travel further into the exhibit, they will find work that is distinctly interactive. UNO art student Laura Simpson created chimes out of recycled materials placed in wooden frames. Guests are asked to strike the various materials with spoons to create sounds.

Artist Jamie Burmeister of Gretna had rocking chairs on display–but they weren’t just any usual chairs. The piece titled “Opus 1” is designed to have guests sit in the chairs which create unique sounds depending on how they move.

The gallery in the Weber Fine Arts building shows off these pieces and over 50 others, creating a remarkable experience for any guest who enters. The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. “Sensory: Please Touch the Art” is presented during October’s Art Accessibility Month and will be available for viewing until Nov 10.