As a part of our Genocide Commemoration Event on April 10, Past and Present: Commemorating Women Affected By Genocide, the Armenian Museum is hosting three special exhibitions made by and for women who have been affected by the destruction of genocide. This visual essay by Sandy Smith-Garcés incorporates first-person testimony, interviews and kindling gathered by local mothers. The exhibition was inspired by the severe conditions faced by Darfuri women in the refugee camps of Eastern Chad.
Traditionally, home is the center of the family, the hearth is the hearth is the heart of the home, a place where families come together for comfort and warmth. The kindling in these drawings echo this ancient ideal of comfort and security, just as the fragile and unsteady pile of wood echo the vulnerable position of women struggling to sustain their families in the most severe conditions imaginable. These drawings of kindling gathered by individual local mothers, and accompanied by their own quotes obtained in interviews, reveal how universal are the needs of families, just as it made clear how precarious and out of reach these most basic of needs are for hundreds of thousands of mothers, fathers, and their children, worldwide.
For Darfuri women, driven from their homes in the Darfur region of Sudan, into refugee camps in eastern Chad, basic needs are as scarce, as they are plentiful for the artist's own children. Since 2003, persecution has driven over two million people, the majority of them women and children, into crowded camps that are scattered in areas with scarce wood for fire. Venturing outside the camps in search of wood to cook their meals often ends in rape and other forms of violence. The search for firewood takes on new meaning, as essential for survival as the quest for fire, food, and shelter from the elements since time immemorial.