This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: St. Louisans who have a mundane reason to go to St. Louis City Hall next week - renew license plates, check a deed, pay a water bill - will come face to face with people a world away.
"Faces of Darfur" presents images of refugees who have fled what has been labeled a genocide, of Darfuris who have remained in Sudan and face continuous danger, of people trying to maintain a life where stability does not exist.
One of the goals of the exhibit is to develop "interest among regular people, not those in ivory towers," according to Cecilia Nadal, executive director of Gitana Productions. Gitana is presenting the exhibit, which features the work of Gina Bramucci, a graduate of the University of Missouri - Columbia.
Bramucci was in Darfur in 2005 and 2006; she has worked in humanitarian relief in that area and in other parts of Africa. The photos are Bramucci's personal record of a crisis; they were discovered by St. Louisan Lee Patton Chiles when doing research for another project.
Gitana is an 11-year-old nonprofit arts and education organization that works for "global healing through the arts," according to Nada. It has produced cultural events to bring people together and decided more than a year ago to mount a play on the crisis in Darfur.
Through her research, playwright Patton Chiles came in contact with Bramucci. As they discussed Darfur, Bramucci sent copies of her photos, which led to the exhibit. An opening reception will be held at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, April 27. Patton Chiles will be there, and actress Vivian Watt will do an 8-10 minute sketch from the play.
"Complacency of Silence: Darfur" will be presented May 23 through June 8 at the St. Louis University Theatre. As with the photo exhibit, the full-length play tries to show the human dimension of the Darfur situation.
Darfur has been called "the largest and most complex humanitarian problem on the globe" by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The attacks by the Sudanese government have led to the deaths of about 400,000 people and caused more than 2 million people to flee their homeland.
Joseph Stalin said, "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic." The exhibit and the play, which uses the words of actual Darfur refugees Hama, Fatima, Hawa and Khadija, attempt to give face and voice to that man, rather than the millions.