Project Spotlight: Darfur, Sudan
Since 2003, armed conflict in the Darfur region of Westen Sudan has claimed the lives of over 300,000 people and displaced over 2.5 million more. In partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), Pamela and her Beautiful Project team shipped nearly half a ton of art and other supplies to the refugee camps and worked with 160 of Darfur's child refugees to sketch, draw, and paint not only their deeply personal experiences with the war in Sudan, but also their hopes and dreams for themselves, and for the world.
"What we really want to share with the children", explained Pamela, 'is that they can learn to use art as a healing and transformational force in their lives - that their minds have the power to create something beautiful.'
On the request of the children, The Beautiful Project then displayed the children's artwork and their stories in the traveling art show, displayed next to Pamela's artwork at her galleries around the U.S. and New York Art Expo so that others could become aware of the situation, lives and great challenges faced by the Sudanese people. Read about just one of the profound and intimate experiences below.*
On one of her trips to Darfur (with the “Beautiful Project”), Pamela experienced what it means to bare witness to the organic unfolding of a profound healing process. She explained after working with the kids in a refugee camp on trust exercises for a few weeks, her team decided to give the children simple tools, paper and pencil… with an invitation to draw… anything… thoughts, feelings, experiences.
“There was a boy in the back of the room,” Pamela begins. “And he asked through one of the translators if they could draw about the war. We said; 'Of course, you can draw about anything you want, including your experiences in the war.’ As soon as we said this, all their heads went down, and they were drawing furiously for
The Healing Power of Baring Witness - an excerpt from an interview with Pamela via DailyGood.org
the next hour. The energy in the room was palpable. In that moment, we asked ourselves, what should we do next? How can we honor this space? We offered (none of our exercises are ever mandatory, they are always an offering) to the children if they would like to tell the story of their picture or experience, they were welcomed to one by one. It was amazing! All of the children, and there were eighty of them, queued up in line, and for the next several hours, we sat there, and one by one, each child described their picture and told their story. These pictures were filled with imagery of villages being burned, bombers flying from above, limbs being cut off, people being shot. These were images coming from children five to eighteen years of age. It was something we could never have imagined, and here they were expressing it, their memories of it. We realized in that moment, our job was not to teach anything, but merely to be there to listen, to be witnesses, to let them be the teachers. Each of them asked, ‘Would we tell their story? Would we pass this on?’ They wanted so much to be heard and to be seen. The same was for the boy in Tibet. Many of them wanted us to take their artwork and their stories back to the United States. We had a show in New York City where their artwork was shown right along side mine. We were able to raise additional funds to send back to their camp in Darfur. The lesson was for us was to be present and listen.”
“No matter what experiences we bring to the canvas, our joy, our gratitude, our anger, our dark night of the soul,
there is an incredible alchemy that occurs in the art form; this gift is offered to the world.
Out of the rubble and ashes of my life, I do have a gift to offer.”- Pamela Sukhum