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Photography highlights stories of Burundian refugee children

Photography highlights stories of Burundian refugee children

Tanzania

When Burundi’s political crisis broke out last year, over 250,000 people were forced to flee into neighbouring countries.

The crisis started when president Pierre Nkurunziza attempted and later won a third term bid, a move his opponents said violated the constitution and a peace deal that ended a long time civil war in the country.

Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania is one of the largest refugee camps in the world, is home to some 80,000 Burundians; over half of them are children.

The art project is exactly the same as in Lebanon, where basically working, listening to their stories, to their fears and hopes for the future and turning this in reality, and having them act their own stories on the sets that we're building.

Many of the children have been left vulnerable to abuse, violence, exploitation and separated from their families.

Most of them can’t bear to talk about what they witnessed or experienced.

To highlight child refugees’ experiences, British NGO, Save the Children partnered with French photographer Patrick Willocq to create a series of photographs that tell the stories of children living in refugee camps in Tanzania and Lebanon.

Willocq’s images aim to show the hopes, fears and everyday challenges faced by Burundians seeking refuge in Tanzania.

Rather than photographing his subjects in refugee camps, he got the child refugees to act out their life stories.

“It’s been five days that we are here. We are now in Nyarugusu refugee camp working with the Burundian refugee community. The art project is exactly the same as in Lebanon, where basically working, listening to their stories, to their fears and hopes for the future and turning this in reality, and having them act their own stories on the sets that we’re building,” Willocq said.

The refugee children and carpenters helped to build the large decorative sets, using materials found within the camp.

Willocq spent several months collaborating with communities, co-creating visual representations of stories and testimony told to him through workshops at ‘Save the Children’ programmes.

“The idea was to play with children within the camps. I think we’ve had about 50-80 children involved in the process of this image, by having each one of them symbolically put their painted hand print on the set behind me. So it’s been quite a fun process and I think the kids were really happy doing that,” he added.

The children said the project has helped them communicate through art.

“I have been painting, I would paint on the screen and they would take my picture,” said 15-year-old refugee, Esperanse.

The project is also part of a Save The Children campaign at the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit currently underway in Istanbul, Turkey.

The UN summit aims at developing a better response to what has been the worst humanitarian crisis since world war two.

Photo credit: Save The Children @save_children