The Sierra Leone civil war was from 1991-2002 and these paintings and drawings tell gruesome narratives that many of the artists themselves witnessed. Both art and music have become powerful media of social commentary, inspiring responses to the war. What the world now knows of the horrific war in Sierra Leone is that thousands of people lost limbs, loved ones and their lives. In fact, 40-50,000 Sierra Leoneans died. Thousands were driven out of the country as refugees. Many of them went to the U.S.
In spite of the CNN specials and graphic reporting in the major newspapers, the international community was not able to make as impact on these senseless brutalities. The international population did not understand the crisis until the people of Sierra Leone had been heard. The exhibition allowed Sierra Leonean artists to tell their stories and the American people to express their compassion.
What happened in Sierra Leone could happen anywhere. The pages of history are littered with gruesome atrocities of war. In recent history, we can point to the Holocaust, the civil war against slavery, the Spanish civil war, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Angola, Chechnya, Palestine, Israel, Rwanda, South Africa, Mozambique, Ethiopia and 9/11 in America.
Representations of Violence provided education about the particulars of the Sierra Leone crisis so concern could be shared for the future of the survivors of the violence.
It also provided a lens through which the complexities and intricacies of war could be viewed. This contributed to a growing global cry to establish a culture of peace.
Finally, the exhibit was an opportunity for Americans to express their compassion and recognise the experiences of the people of Sierra Leone.
Representations of Violence was funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin ; by the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Madison Community Foundation and the Overture Foundation.