Flowers for South Sudan
Flowers for South Sudan is a series of drawings created in response to the outbreak of fighting in Juba in July 2016. In acknowledgment of the loss and pain that this has caused the nation.
Some flowers are for people I know, some are for people I have never met. But they are each dedicated to the friends or family members who have lost loved ones in this most recent conflict.
As we have seen many times before in South Sudan, mass graves were quickly dug to bury the dead. Hundreds of people (mainly men), had lost their lives in just a few days of fighting in Juba. This means that families have not been able to see, let alone burry the bodies of their loved ones. It also means they will probably never know where or how their loved one was killed. How then do families fully grieve and mourn? And, if people are not able to grieve and mourn properly, then how do individuals, families, communities and indeed the entire nation that has lost so many lives, begin to heal?
And then how does an unhealed nation find peace?
The flowers were created in attempt to not only mark individual losses but to also help people grieve their losses by both personally and publicly acknowledging their pain and hurt. Away from Juba and unable to be with people in person, the project was a way to offer my condolences and let people know I was thinking of them from afar. In addition, as the fighting escalated across the city, the phone networks were cut, meaning the only way to communicate with people in Juba was online. Thus the project was delivered through Facebook.
When I read about someone's loss, I drew a flower for them. The text that appears with each flower is exactly the words that they used to share news of their loss. However an individual publicly spoke of or announced their loss on social media, I copied their words and put it next to the flower; thus acknowledging -without interpreting- their thoughts and feelings and reflecting that back to them. If I read a story about a loss through an article, or saw a picture of someone witnessing the death of others, then I would draw a flower for them and capture the words directly from the article or accompanying the image. This way the story and words remain theirs.
I would then share their flower with them on Facebook by sending them a picture of the drawing. Sometimes privately. Sometimes to their wall. Sometimes to my wall -if I knew that many of my friends were grieving the same loss.
They are quick sketches, done in direct response to a story or experience of personal loss that passed through my newsfeed. They are not intended to be great works; only a gesture, a symbolic act. I was unsure how the concept would translate across cultures, but from the comments I received back, it seems to have done so successfully. Add some quotes? The drawings are not precious in themselves, only in their intention. The pictures I sent back were just snap shots taken on my mobile phone, unedited.
The originals remain with me so that when I return to Juba, they can be given to those they are dedicated to.
The total number of losses in the July violence will never be fully known. The individual stories of these losses, their names and their faces will also never be known. This is one tiny attempt to record and mark a few of the losses from just one of many incidents. Remembering The Ones We Lost is a much larger attempt to collect and honour the names of all those who have been killed or gone missing during conflict in South Sudan since August 1955. You can find out more about the initiative here: