The Ecumenical Church of Sudan will open a landmark art exhibition in the Malakal region of southern Sudan on 28 October 2007 aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation in an area devastated by 21 years of civil war. It is being backed by Christian Aid - the UK-based churches' international development agency.
The exhibition, the first of its kind in the region, comes amidst growing tensions as a peace agreement, signed in 2005, looks increasingly fragile. The exhibition, The Art of Reconciliation, which has taken two years to organise, was the brainchild of the Bishop of Malakal, Hilary G Deng, himself an artist specialising in sculpture.
Malakal is a small, predominantly Christian, town on the banks of the White Nile where most people depend on fishing, farming and cattle rearing. Development in the remote region following the signing of the peace agreement has been slow.
Malakal and the Upper Nile in general have been the source and centre of major violence in southern Sudan because there are many different tribal groups living together. Malakal is also the meeting ground of very different Sudanese cultures: Islam and Christianity, Arab and African. So I believe the exhibition would carry to our people a variety of cultural messages from the people of Sudan.
"We need to build new relationships, new communities, new homes and futures for ourselves and our children. Art will speak to them with a new language of hope rather than that of violence and guns, soldiers and war," said Bishop Deng.
The exhibition will take place at the ECS primary school, built largely with Christian Aid funds, with each artist exhibiting five pieces combining a mixture of sculpture and graphics. Local people are being encouraged to get involved and the show will include a display of traditional crafts by the local Mother’s Union and work by pupils of the school.
A series of eight after school workshops will be held to involve children in a variety of artistic projects including traditional modelling with local clay.
The exhibition will be opened by the Bishop of Malakal and local leaders and is expected to draw thousands of visitors from miles around.
Caroline Wood, Christian Aid’s programme communications officer for Sudan, said: "We are delighted to be able to fund this event. It is vital at this time amidst growing tensions and increasing frustrations to enable religious and societal leaders of the community to encourage their people to reflect on what peace and reconciliation means. The exhibition has already been delayed once due to local tensions but Bishop Deng and the Church were determined to make the event happen, believing that art and reflection has a pivotal role to play in helping people to recover from war."