They say a picture paints a thousand words. For the unseen, or those forced to live in the shadows, bringing their stories to light can make all the difference.
In conjunction with World Refugee Day (June 20), the faces and perilous journeys the displaced have endured, and are still going through daily due to violence, discrimination, war and famine, etc., is now brought to the fore once more with Exodus-Déjà Vu.
The acclaimed photography exhibition, first launched in Kuala Lumpur in 2016 by cultural organisation Visioncy Agency with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and more, has also shown in Ankara, Istanbul, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and was due to be shown in New York before it was cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Displaying the works of 12 photographers and photojournalists this time – namely Coskun Aral, Guillermo Arias, Jean Chung, Greg Constatine, Fabiola Ferrero, Suthep Kritsanavarin, Yalda Moayeri, Roland Neveu, Atilgan Ozdil, Sergey Ponomarev, Rahman Roslan and Issa Touma – the showcase captures evocative moments that not only convey the situation of some 70.8 million refugees around the world today, but also the silent desperation of humanity on a whole.
“We should not have to talk about it anymore, but here we are, we still have to,” Patrice Vallette tells Options emphatetically. The founder of Visioncy Agency and curator of the exhibition points out, “Yes, there is a pandemic and chaos around the world that has the world’s attention right now, but all the more we should not forget that many more are living unbearable lives, waiting.”
It is an emergency, he says unequivocally, adding that governments and peoples can tell themselves there are more urgent issues to deal with, like the economy, but “how can we survive collectively, if we continue to ignore the weakest?”
Despite the cancellation of its original showing in New York as well as a planned European tour, Vallette is excited about launching the first “3D virtual” edition of the exhibition online, allowing the general public to not only see the exhibition, but also to hear from the photographers themselves about their work in a series of online interviews held between June 20 and 27.
The curator expresses, “We are all talking about making the world a better place for everyone now. That’s why this cause is not just the responsibility of the NGOs or institutions, it’s also a global responsibility.”
Exodus-Déjà Vu can make for uncomfortable viewing, as it confronts us with a reality that many think do not exist, this writer included. But perhaps it is something we can no longer look away from, or walk away without reflection at least, that we are all vulnerable.
Catch the online exhibition on June 20, 7pm (Malaysian time) here.