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An Open Lens: The Lost Boys of Sudan

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A photographic journey of catastrophe, desolation, loneliness and hope.

By Jacqui Devaney

More than 20,000 boys were orphaned or displaced during the Second Sudanese Civil War and were given the name “The Lost Boys of Sudan” by aid workers at refugee camps in Africa. The phrase has since been revived to cloak the boys who have fled the post-independence turmoil that has infected South Sudan and Sudan. The boys, who had narrowly escaped persecution in their home villages, wandered for years through the equatorial wilderness between Sudan and Ethiopia on foot, enduring dehydration, starvation, disease and attacks. With some as young as 8 years old, they were exposed to extreme anguish and perilous malnourishment. The boys were plagued with resounding feelings of remorse and loss for their friends and families who didn’t make it out in time. Some have grown up, but, as the strife in Sudan continues, there are many still out there.

Eli Reed, Magnum photographer and clinical professor of journalism at the University of Texas, presents his exhibition of photographs Eli Reed: The Lost Boys of Sudan. His project documents the lives of the more than 20,000 lost boys who were forced to flee after their families were massacred or enslaved. Reed’s journey begins by following the journey of the survivors, who had taken refuge in Kenya as they awaited resettlement through a United Nations partnership with the U.S. State Department. He documents their immersion in to the United States, which was viewed as formidable and opportune, in equal parts. Their struggle to grasp the cryptic American rituals and ideas is paramount to their undertaking in to society.

The exhibition contains a dozen photographs and will run from Oct. 22 to Dec. 8 in the North atrium of the Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at the University of Texas.


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