Darfur in Central Park

"Try to imagine that your whole way of life destroyed"

Two day later at "Darfur/Darfur," an exhibit held at the James Cohan Gallery, the work of five photographers—Lynsey Addario, Mark Brecke, Helene Caux, Ron Haviv, and Brian Steidle—brings the reality into vivid focus. As the music of Sudanese artists Hamza El Din, Rasha, Mustafa Sid Ahmed, Abd Al Hafiz Karar, and Mustafa al-Sunni plays over the sound system, wall-sized projections fill the room: Sudanese women huddled together beyond the borders of their camp, their colorful wraps obscured by a sandstorm; a man in a bright orange turban, his body taut and pitched like a desert sentinel in the burned-out ruins; children peering from behind makeshift shelters, their war-scarred faces still bright with curiosity; desiccated bodies, which seem all the more obscene for the clothes that still hang on them, adding character and personality to the corpses.

"Children had found this mass grave while they were watering their goats," says Mark Brecke, a resolutely independent war photographer, whose images were selected to hang in the Capitol after he presented them to Congress. "That was a hard moment for me. As I stood there, it struck me: Here I am again, witnessing another ethnic cleansing in another country. Humanity has once again left its fingerprint of genocide on the world. This time in the shape of Darfur of Sudan.

"These are some of the most generous, dignified, beautiful people I've met in the world," he continues. "It might be strange to say, but I wish everyone could spend just five minutes in a refugee camp or war zone to see what humanity is really about."

A Darfurian mother and her children arriving in a refugee camp in eastern Chad
photo: Mark Brecke
A Darfurian mother and her children arriving in a refugee camp in eastern Chad

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See also:
Refugee Camp in a New York Park
Photo gallery

Former Marine Brian Steidle is equally strident and unflinching. His images include charred, castrated, and beheaded corpses, along with the hardened face of little girl carrying her baby brother on her back through a refugee camp in Chad.

"If doing good isn't a good enough reason to help," says Steidle, "do it for her."

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