A small group of Excel @ Carolina students who are part of our EURO-TAM Program recently went to The Friday Center to see a multimedia art exhibition called REFUGEE: http://fridaycenter.unc.edu/refugee/
These students are part of a working group founded last year which focuses on service learning, refugees, and Europe. With these shared interests in mind, we seek out opportunities to learn about and share relevant information with university community. We encourage you to see this exhibit as it may well expand your understanding of what it means to be a refugee.
This show will run through November 3rd, 2017.
Please read the Excel students’ impressions below:
The REFUGEE exhibit was successful at connecting the viewers to the Global Refugee Crisis, specifically to the humans being affected. Numbers and statistics help us conceptualize and process the scale, but this process normally detaches us from the actual suffering. Through images and captions, we were able to get a sense of the people involved. The thing that stuck out most to me was human resilience and perseverance, which was a common thread through the exhibit. I found the photographer Ed Ou’s series “Escape from Somalia” intriguing because the photos were blurry, which added to the feeling of chaos and stress that accompanies this flight. Another series captured European locals and Afghan refugees; the residents were typically photographed behind gates or next to gate posts. The images compared the concerns of both the hosting and incoming communities side by side. Ultimately, I enjoyed the exhibit because it was informative and stimulating, raising questions I hadn’t previously contemplated.
I found the refugee exhibit interesting because I feel that it contextualized the sufferings of many groups of people across the world while also humanizing them. Before, I had not really heard or seen many individual stories of refugees, and while I sympathized with their plight, I still thought of them as a collective rather than individuals. This exhibit helped me to see the unique circumstances that surround every person fleeing their homeland. I found that all of the sections were effective in meeting their goal of humanizing the refugees. However, I found that the exhibit centered in and around the area of the Congo was least effective. To me, the portraits were too stylized and evoked a sense of falsehood. While I could read their stories, I felt that I still could not see their true lives and emotions.
The REFUGEE exhibit was a unique portrayal of the modern refugee experience. It included not only individuals from crises that we’re more familiar with (e.g. Syria), but showed people from many other geographic regions as well. For instance, I didn’t know that certain situations like the drug crisis in Central and South America were generating such large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers. I was also surprised to learn that the sheer number of refugees and IDPs in the world amounts to about 1 in every 122 people. Despite the suffering these individuals endure, the exhibit also showcases instances of joy and normalcy that are surprising given the dire nature of their circumstances. I think overall the exhibit broadened my image of what a refugee is, and provided an opportunity to view as individual people who are so often generalized or reduced to statistics.
The images of young women my age raising children in refugee camps – their siblings or their own – struck me the most. Here I am studying at one of the best research universities in the world while a girl with just as much ambition and potential has taken on responsibilities that some people have never had their whole lives. The images of other women, young and old, smiling or in pain, reminded me of my desire to work for the protection and advancement of women around the world. The images of children who have experienced a battle to survive that nobody should ever have to face also fascinated me. In the photos, they play together and smile. How could you expect such humanness from people who have lived under the most inhumane of conditions? The images of the REFUGEE exhibit had a profound effect not only on my perspective on life, but of my understanding of the strength of the human will.
The REFUGEE Exhibit was heart-wrenchingly raw. I felt every image and corresponding story; emotionally tied, it was painful to recognize that there is no direct help I can give to these people who aren’t treated as human. In this exhibit, the eyes were truly a window to the soul; they gleamed a pain that I will never know. Though I make a point to be aware of my privileges in society, my American privilege was further reinforced while internalizing each photograph’s implications. The exhibit captured the sorrow and resilience of refugees around the world, while humanizing them at the same time. Each image and story has been ingrained in the way I act and view the world.
The vivid photos included in the REFUGEE exhibit often depicted the harsh realities of life as a displaced person. An image of a couple fleeing their burning house during an air raid left me speechless and in awe of the horrors that civilians in conflict-ridden countries face. Despite the hardships that these refugees endure, the individuals highlighted in the REFUGEE exhibit demonstrated to me the strength of the human spirit. Stories of refugees supporting each other selflessly in refugee camps. Stories of long, tiring journeys to safety, often made on foot. Stories of displaced persons who have created new lives for themselves and thrive in New York or Berlin. These accounts serve as a testament to the determination of refugees to prevail in the midst of a worldwide crisis that has yet to be overcome.