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Nigerian girls abducted by Boko Haram honored in exhibition

Clay heads inspired by portraits of 108 missing Chibok girls.   -  
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The faces of the 108 Chibok girls who are still missing eight years after their abduction by Islamist insurgents have been sculpted in clay in a collaboration between french artist Prune Nourry, university students, professional potters and the families of the victims.

The 108 still missing Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria in 2014 are remembered in a new exhibition of sculptures in Lagos.

Inspired by ancient Nigerian Ife terracotta heads and titled "Statues Also Breathe," the sculptures recreate faces, facial expressions and hair patterns of the victims.

The mass abduction initially prompted worldwide outrage, with the slogan #BringBackOurGirls trending on social media as prominent figures including former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama pressing for their return.

Since then, about 160 of the girls have been released, some after years of captivity, but the story has long faded from the headlines.

"It's a permanent reminder that happened, we had a period in our history in Nigeria where women, boys, men, children were taken away, some were recovered, some are still displaced till today, some are still in captivity," stated Bring Back Our Girls Lagos Coordinator, Habibat Balogun.

The French artist Prune Nourry, behind the project, collaborated with 108 students from the Obafemi Awolowo University. Families of the missing girls also participated by lending photos of their daughters for the portraits.

"People who will see the show I hope will remember is for the importance of girls' education then the fact that sculpture can personify someone and catch the breathing life and the symbol of someone, of life. Then it's also about the collaboration, how together we can make more and maybe the fact that it will travel around Africa but also around the world and how we can keep bringing the light on something that might be forgotten and shouldn't be because it will always be a priority," explained Prune Nourry.

Nourry hopes her work will remind the world of this largely forgotten tragedy.

The sculptures exhibited at an art gallery in Lagos, Nigeria, are set to go on a world tour in the near future.

"I hope it moves beyond the four walls of this exhibition space, it moves beyond Nigeria to like globally and again it just sort of like amplifies or shows the world like the times we live in because this isn't just Nigeria, I mean this is almost, can also be related to what is going on in Iran," reveals Tony Agbapuonwu, art curator.

A year after the girls were kidnapped, President Muhammadu Buhari rode a wave of goodwill to power after promising to rescue them.

In early December, the nation's national security adviser, Babagana Monguno, said the military remains committed to the cause but addes that it involves an "intelligence-driven process, which means it is going to be, unfortunately, painstaking," though its been eight years since the kidnapping of these girls. 

Many parents, however, are beginning to question the government's commitment to the girls' freedom.

The Chibok community continues to suffer attacks from Boko Haram and its breakaway faction which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

This year, about a dozen of the missing girls returned amid news that some have died in custody.

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