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Sudan Democracy First Group: Art as resistance – art as resilience

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Sudan Democracy First Group

Art as Resistance – Art as Resilience

September 8, 2014 - To mark the third anniversary of the resumption of civil war in Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains/South Kordofan, Sudan Democracy First Group is today launching a campaign to draw attention to the conflict’s effects on civilian communities. The campaign includes a series of posters calling for an end to the government of Sudan’s (GoS) aerial bombardment of civilians in areas under rebel control and the schools, hospitals, mosques and churches servicing them. Throughout the month, SDFG will release other campaign materials, including videos, drawings produced by children affected by the conflict, a booklet comprising the narratives of women victims, and briefing papers, all of which document the harsh living conditions Sudanese affected by war continue to face within the country and in refugee camps. "The GoS has recently agreed to open humanitarian corridors to relieve citizens of the Republic of South Sudan displaced by conflict in their country, and sent supplies to the victims of Israeli bombardments in Gaza," noted SDFG executive Director Dr. Suliman Baldo. "But who will relieve the suffering of the Sudanese who find themselves behind rebel lines or who have been forced from their homes?"

From 18 July to 23 August 2014, in collaboration with Sudanese-American artist Khalid Kodi, as well as the women, men and children in war affected areas in Nuba Mountains/South Kordofan and Blue Nile and in refugee camps in South Sudan, SDFG held workshops for teachers, and social and humanitarian workers on how to apply art therapy using local materials in order to address the stress and trauma that bombing survivors have to cope with daily.

Khalid Kodi traveled to Nuba Mountains/South Kordofan and to the camps hosting refugees from Blue Nile and South Kordofan in South Sudan three months after the GoS launched its “Decisive Summer” operation, intending to end the insurgencies in Darfur, Blue Nile, and Nuba Mountains/South Kordofan. The GoS has since intensified its military campaign, targeting civilian communities, in violation of international humanitarian law. This has included, in South Kordofan, the bombing of villages, two clinics, the offices of the key local humanitarian organization, and the Mother of Mercy Hospital in Gidel, near Kauda. This further robs an area that has historically been marginalized of its human resources and of its limited infrastructure.

The GoS has also continued to use hunger as weapon of war, by obstructing access to humanitarian assistance by the local population, again in violation of international humanitarian law. The bombardments have also disrupted agricultural activities in the area, further undermining food security.

In Kauda, Kodi organized a four-day workshop, which over 60 women, children and men attended. Children under 10 years of age produced art about their dreams, fears, and concerns. Adults used the language of art to express their ideas freely. As part of the anti-bombardment campaign, Kodi and the community identified civilian structures and locations that were bombed, which members of the community then stood in front of holding anti-bombardment signs. The communities in these bombarded areas expressed deep appreciation for this activity.

Kodi also organized workshops in Yida, a refugee camp in South Sudan that hosts 68,000 refugees, mainly from Nuba Mountains/South Kordofan. Another workshop targeted participants from Gendrassa, Yousif Batil, Kaya and Doro refugee camps in Maban, South Sudan. Approximately 260,119 refugees from Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains/South Kordofan inhabit these camps, in addition to the camps in Ethiopia. Refugees in these camps have fought with the host community over scarce resources. Kodi worked with young people from these camps on how to produce artwork from recycled and found objects, two-dimensional artwork, and environmental art.

“Returning to the Nuba Mountains is a dream-come true, and a life-changing experience,” said Kodi, who teaches fine arts at Boston College, and is an African American Master Artist at Northeastern University in the US. His art, including on the bombing of a school in Kauda at the turn of the century, has highlighted the atrocities and dreams of people in the war affected areas of Sudan. “I have learned from the people of Kauda, and those in Yida and Maban refugee camps as much as I have shared with them. These are people who show courage, dignity and resilience in the face of terror.”

Through this campaign, SDFG aims to share the message of the people of Kauda, and those who were forced to flee to South Sudan, to the GoS, and to the international community: that the bombardment of civilian communities should stop, and that the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those behind battle lines should commence immediately. International organizations, United Nations agencies, and Sudanese civil society organizations, activists, and politicians should firmly support this message.

Click here to read the statement calling for an end to aerial bombardments signed by SDFG along with Sudanese and international civil society organizations. For further information, please also visit SDFG’s new website.

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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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