“Catching the Land”Released on November 07, 2006
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Southern Sudanese art exhibition at Brandeis provides link to homeland for refugees.
Collectively called “Leave the Bones and Catch the Land,” the 30 paintings were created by amateur southern Sudanese artists from the Kakuma Refugee Camp. The exhibit is scheduled to be moved to the Goldfarb Library where it will reopen and be on display through December.
Some of the paintings present images of hope inspired by the thousands of families displaced following the Sudanese Civil War of the early 1980s, and many depict stories of loss and the struggle for survival.
“I think having all of those experiences expressed… it’s a universal language and they speak to experiences that are universal,” said Alier. “It keeps not only the history, but the experiences of the people.”
Under a partnership between Brandeis and the Sudanese Education Fund (SEF), the paintings now have a permanent home at the university. Twenty-five students from Professor Mark Auslander’s class, “Museums and Public Memory,” curated the exhibit with guidance from several members of the southern Sudanese community. The paintings will be shown in other locations but there is a plan to permanently house them in a new South Sudan Cultural Documentation and Preservation Project within the anthropology department.
Aduei Riak ‘08, a member of Auslander’s class who is originally from the refugee camp in Sudan, says she was overwhelmed by the amount of time and care her fellow students put into the exhibition.
“For me,” she said, “it is like the hidden hardship and suffering we all experienced in refugee camps is being uncovered for the first time. It is such a comforting feeling to know that what we have gone through is now in the public eye. It is my hope that these paintings will serve as a learning instrument as people witness the horrific plight of young Sudanese people.”
“The artwork speaks for itself,” said Namita Aggarwal, a junior anthropology major who helped curate the exhibit. “We have captions for everything and we got in touch with a lot of the painters themselves to get some analysis about each painting from a southern Sudan perspective.”
Before the exhibition took place a charitable auction organized by Brandeis and SEF was held to “sell” the paintings. Once each painting was “sold,” the originals were donated back to Brandeis. According to Susan Winship, the SEF director, the paintings’ auction raised almost $5,000, which will go toward the Sudanese artists. Additional items were auctioned off raising approximately $30,000 toward the education of Sudanese refugees living in the Boston area.
The SEF reports approximately 3,500 young south Sudanese refugees arrived in the United States in 2000 and 2001. Of these, Winship says about 200 are now living in and around Boston.
Daniel Chol, a southern Sudanese man who now lives in Arlington, Mass., was very pleased with the Brandeis exhibit, explaining that viewing the art is a great way for people to understand what the Sudanese have been through.
“We need to maintain it for future generations,” he said. “I’m happy something was done to keep this here. One-hundred years later and beyond, our story will exist.”
In October, dozens of people attended the exhibition’s opening reception, which featured a singing lesson with a hymn in Dinka, the most widely spoken language in southern Sudan. Members of the Sudanese community pledged to spread word back in their homeland about the exhibit and the plan to preserve the artwork at Brandeis.