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IMAGE AND SOUND / Rohingya Genocide: the forgotten women painted by Hannah Rose Thomas
Date of publication at Tlaxcala: 03/06/2018

Rohingya Genocide: the forgotten women painted by Hannah Rose Thomas

Milena Rampoldi ميلينا رامبولدي میلنا رامپلدی Милена Рампольди


In the following a second interview with the artist Hannah Rose Thomas I already talked to about her project with Yezidi women. In this second interview I asked her questions about the Rohingya women she met and painted in Bangladesh.


Tell us about your first impression of Rohingya women when you met them?

Conditions in the camp are hard; overcrowding, insufficient rations or water, stifling heat and no electricity. However, in spite of the hardship, many of the women I speak to express thankfulness to be here. Here they can sleep in peace, without fear. Here their children have the right to an education. Here they can attend prayers freely, without fear of attack. Here they can live a life of dignity.

How can your art contribute NOT to forget this forgotten people?

The Yezidi and Rohingya communities are among the most persecuted religious minority groups in the world. It is my hope that these portraits will be an expression of the ​sacred value of each human being, regardless of religious, racial or gender differences.

How can your art contribute NOT to forget this forgotten people?

Art can be used as a powerful tool for advocacy and for giving a voice to the voiceless. Through showing these paintings in places such as Parliament and the UN, these portraits are a poignant reminder of the human stories behind the statistics.

How can art help refugees who are in the situation of the Rohingya Muslims?

The child friendly spaces in the camps are a ​safe haven where the Rohingya​ children ​have freedom to play and to express themselves through art. 
​I spent ​​a couple of mornings painting with the children there. The children all want to paint colourful flowers, trees and their homes. Looking around the camp you can understand why – there is not a tree in sight!
​Nine months ago, before the most recent influx, this area in Bangladesh was a forest populated by wild elephants​.​
There are now over one million Rohingya refugees.

Tell us about the story of the women you met.

My heart is full of the stories of suffering I’ve heard here in the camp. Each shelter, every family holds memories of grief and terror.  
​When the military came to their villages​ it was like hell​; they began shooting and burning ​the houses. Everyone was running in terror from their homes​; loved ones
​were killed or ​scattered in the jungle. Those who survived spent ​days ​walking through the jungle ​without food or water, until exhausted they arrive at the border. 

What do Rohingya expect from your as artist and from the world?

​The Rohingya women I spoke to were moved to hear that I hoped  to paint their portraits to ensure that their voices were heard. They were convinced that with the support of the international community, they would have the protection necessary to ensure their security in Myanmar, if they were to return.

How to struggle against genocide with art?

​Listen​ing the stories of the Yezidi and Rohingya ​women, it is evident how dehumanisation - when one group denies the humanity of another - is a primary instrument used to legitimise ge​nocidal violence. Through painting the portraits of Yezidi and Rohingya women, I hope to emphasise our shared humanity and that we have more in common than what divides us. These paintings of Rohingya  and Yezidi women ​are a way to emotionally engage the viewer and inspire compassion. 
​They are also​ meditations on grief and loss​.
In these portraits we see a glimpse of the Yezidi and ​Rohingya women’s unspeakable grief​,​​ however it is also a reminder that we all face grief and sorrow at different times in life. We are not so different; we are inextricably connected to one another.


Courtesy of ProMosaik
Publication date of original article: 03/06/2018
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Tags: Rohingya WomenSolidarity paintingHannah Rose ThomasMyanmar/BurmaGenocide

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