I Love You Real Fast

Young Swazi girls sing and jester to passing cars as they join 40,000 virgin girls as part of the annual Umhlanga Dance, a right of passage into womanhood in Swaziland. Each year King Mswati III continues the practice of polygamy and chooses one of the girls to be his wife. He now has 13 wives. Photo by Krisanne Johnson

Young Swazi girls sing and jester to passing cars as they join 40,000 virgin girls as part of the annual Umhlanga Dance, a right of passage into womanhood in Swaziland. Each year King Mswati III continues the practice of polygamy and chooses one of the girls to be his wife. He now has 13 wives. Photo by Krisanne Johnson

Opening night of photographer Krisanne Johnson’s exhibit “I Love You Real Fast,” will include a slide show and conversation moderated by photographer and President of the Magnum Foundation, Susan Meiselas. Ms. Johnson writes about her project on young women in Swaziland:

“Coming of age for Swazi girls is tough. A tiny African nation of one million, Swaziland is ruled by one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies. Its age-old tradition of polygamy and relaxed attitude toward sexuality is a devastating combination for young women: Swaziland reports the highest percentage of HIV positive people in the world, with the hardest hit being women aged 15-29. For every two young Swazi women, one is HIV positive. It should come as no surprise that life expectancy has dropped from 61 to 31 over the past ten years. After living and studying in South Africa in 1998 for a year, I returned over the years. After graduate school I knew I wanted to begin a long term personal project in the region. I made my first self-funded trip in 2006 to begin documenting the lives of young Swazi women.”

Catch the opening and discussion at The Half King at 505 West 23rd Street in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood on October 4th, 2011. Curated by the husband-wife team writer Anna Van Lenten and Newsweek photo editor, James Price, the Half King Photography Series emphasizes photojournalism with bi-monthly exhibits and salon-style discussions. All images courtesy Ms. Johnson.

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