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Report from Sierra Leone, May 2010

During the last couple of months I took the initiative to further examine the challenges Amputees faced in Sierra Leone.  I hope to carry out further research that will lead to the humanitarian efforts of making the issues and plight of amputees of Sierra Leone known to the world.  I intend to work on future tools like the development of video documentaries that follows the lives of amputee victims who are involved in varied art forms such as wood carving, sculpture, painting, music as a way to reclaim their lives and engage meaningfully in society.  This video documentary, I am hopeful will be a testimony to the creative ways that amputee victims are using their talents to survive.

By joining oral history and real life stories that will explore the personal and cultural history of individuals whose bodies have been
altered by Sierra Leone’s Civil war, I hope that the research will further raise questions about the Blood Diamond and how far reaching
it is to not just raise awareness about this victims, but to also provide a concern.  In the tradition of documentary art such as
photography and film, I intend to involve B-Gifted staff in the development of the documentary of the arts (using video techniques) as
a vehicle to examine the social, personal, and historical issues surrounding the lives of amputees resulting from war and conflict.

This research will hopefully culminate into a project will continue to raise human rights and humanitarian awareness through the eyes of
amputee artists.  As you may well know, one of the consequences of Sierra Leone’s decade long civil war that occurred between 1991 and 2002 was the mass amputation of limbs, particularly the hands and arms, of thousands of individuals.  These amputations, done brutally and crudely by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) were used as a means of terror, punishment and humiliation.  The RUF spared no one in their brutal attacks, amputating the limbs of civilians, including children.  Sierra Leone is still recovering from this conflict.  Amputation victims are still waiting for reparations and aid in order to help them survive in an unstable economic climate and to adjust physically and mentally.  But many are involved in varied arts as a means not just to survive but to explore their talents and as a form of redress.

This research project, interdisciplinary in nature, will consist of a series of video documentaries and photography techniques that exposed the artistic works of Amputees as they use their remaining limbs to carry out artistic work and interviews of audio oral histories.  The research project's objective is to locate and shoot videos and photographs of amputee victims in their numbers and screen their work for the public.  In this way we encourage ordinary people with talents impacted by the war to showcase their works of arts and how they are doing extra ordinary things to better their lives and those around them.  Using arts as a means of recovery thereof and hope, the amputees will be working together in fulfillment of their dreams to better their lives and not feel totaling despairing about their plight.  The B-Gifted envisions that the artistic video and photographic pieces of the amputees will reveal oral histories and the artistic works of those amputees documented to be in dialogue with each other to create a sympathetic, intimate, and cohesive
understanding of the people, their personal history, and the larger context under which their disfigurement occurred.  By an large they
will also learn in the workshop reconciliation, forgiveness and tolerance that is needed to consolidate the peace process in
post-conflict Sierra Leone.

peace,

Andrew

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