CHESTNUT HILL — Imagine walking into someone’s home and seeing a child’s drawing on the refrigerator. It’s filled from edge to edge with bright colors, wobbly lines and adorable depictions of everyday scenes. Now imagine taking a closer look at that drawing and noticing that in it there is a helicopter shooting bullets at a person who’s lying dead on the ground with blood coming out of his head. Meanwhile, a lime green and pink tank spits bullets at a cozy yellow and orange home made up of the most basic of shapes.
A child who escaped the nightmare in Darfur drew this disturbing image coated in candy colors.
Showing until March 27
Boston College’s Gargan Hall in the Bapst Library
That drawing is among a set of 500 others done by child refuges of Darfur as part of a traveling exhibition called Waging Peace.‚ The event is sponsored by Boston College’s center for Human Rights and International Justice, and the Center for the Arts and Social Responsibilities.
In 2007, Waging Peace member Anna Schmitt went to the country of Chad to learn about the living situations and humanitarian rights of Darfuri and Chadian refugees. Schmitt began collecting testimonials from adults in these areas when her focus turned to the youth, who had witnessed just as much terror as their elders. Schmitt handed out paper and pencils to kids between the ages of 6 and 18, and asked them to draw their future hopes and their strongest memories. What she found were honest depictions of the horror that these children witnessed in their everyday lives.
The government of Sudan’s story of the events that have unfolded in the past four years is not surprisingly very different from the pictures drawn by the children. What makes this exhibit fascinating is that the viewer enters with the back-of-the-mind thought that children have no reason to dramatize or fabricate their illustrations. At this age they are naƒ¯ve to the workings of politics and of government and its role in the gore and terror that they witnessed.
They just drew what they saw.
The sketches in the exhibit feature a number of elaborate events. Just as an American child might draw a scene from their home or school, the Darfuri children depict villages on fire, men on horseback shooting machine guns into crowds, and tanks and helicopters shooting into the air and dropping bombs on towns. The one common element that ties all of the drawings together is the blatant, and obvious red scribbles. Thick red smudges draw the viewer’s eye to outlines of adults, animals, and babies that lie on the floor of the representational villages, unmistakably and brutally murdered.
The images serve a duel purpose. While serving as a form of therapy for children that have obviously been emotionally scarred, the pictures also serve as an eye opener to audiences that may be unaware of the crisis that has taken over Darfur. The illustrations also provide evidence that there is much more brutality happening in Darfur than is being represented by its government. Therefore, many of the pictures will be submitted as evidence to the International Criminal Courts in the proceedings against officials of Sudan that have denied policies of genocide. The drawings certainly bring a level of awareness of the tragedy in Darfur to Boston, and shows how art therapy can be a useful tool when helping children and others deal with a crisis.