Child Soldiers 2002
Children of Conflict” grew out of my involvement with children of Northern Uganda who have escaped from brutal captivity at the hands of a rebel group called The Lord’s Resistance Army. I had the privilege of spending time with them and I was given 53 drawings that they drew fo as part of their therapy. The drawings and their explanations of them tell of their experiences at the hands of the people who had enslaved them to be used as porters, soldiers and “wives”.
The rehabilitation camps where they received psycho/social counseling appear at first glance to be summer camps full of children playing soccer, resting in the shade or participating in activities. But on second glance one notices the crutches, bandages, casts and scars. A careful look reveals faces old beyond their years, eyes with depths of sorrow or anger unexpected in so young a person or an empty blankness revealing nothing and everything.
They receive the visitor with quiet dignity and afford her a careful respect. They listened patiently to their counselor and followed his instructions
seriously. They bend over their drawings with the concentration of people who have something important to say. And when they are finished, they smile cautiously and display their drawings with touching pride and quietly explain to the willing listener what they have drawn.
I returned to Uganda to help the children produce murals depicting their shared trauma. These murals, the drawings, their photographic portraits and oral testimonies formed an exhibition that traveled to raise awareness of the plight of the children of Northern Uganda.
The children whose portraits I drew are between the ages of eleven and seventeen. They were cared for by loving, kind and committed people who have hope that they will survive emotionally and lead productive and non-violent lives. I pray they are right.