Enduring Exile uses storytelling and visual imagery to explore the logics through which South Sudanese refugees endure exile.
We aim to present an alternative visual narrative to the commonplace representation of refugees as “victims” while attempting to restore the local experience of refugee life that is silenced by an explanatory industry based on statistics.
Since the outbreak of war in South Sudan in 2013 – and the intensification of conflict in 2016 – millions of South Sudanese have been forced to flee over the border into northern Uganda.
The United Nations estimates that more than 1.2 million South Sudanese citizens now reside in northern Uganda. Reconciliation and peace at home remains illusive.
While many have been forced to seek refuge in settlements across the West Nile region, others have opted to live in Ugandan cities. One such city is Arua, where Enduring Exile is based.
Owing to its location near to the border of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Arua, Uganda has long been an economic and social hub. Over prolonged periods of civil war, South Sudanese have periodically sought refuge within these city limits. Some have developed long-standing links with communities in West Nile and for some, activating these networks is once again crucial for their survival.
Living in this urban setting does have benefits. For those who can afford school fees, educating children provides an essential investment for the future of families. However, as conflict continues and the value of the South Sudanese pound deteriorates, the costs of rent, schooling and daily life become increasingly difficult. Recently, some residents have had no option but to seek assistance at refugee settlements.
In Arua, South Sudanese live beyond the gaze of international humanitarian interveners. Fearing authorities, most also avoid interacting with the arms of the Ugandan State. Beyond the family, which is often stretched across space, the different denominations of the Christian church are sometimes the only institution offering support for individuals subject to growing financial pressures and sometimes social isolation.
This visual project was made possible by generous support from the Haycock Grant. This Grant is administered by the British Institute in Eastern Africa and supports academic research across South Sudan and Sudan.