1983 was the start of the second civil war in South Sudan. This historical moment led to a mass exodus of young children fleeing on foot from the country in hopes of refuge and safety. The children were informed about refugee camps in Ethiopia and walked over a thousand miles in hopes of better living conditions. The destitute and extreme conditions cost the travelers everything; many didn’t make it, and most got sick along the way. Since 1992, UNICEF efforts have reunited almost 1,200 boys of the estimated 20,000 children that fled, with their families. As fourteen-year-old Simon Majok said, “We were suffering because of war. Some have been killed. Some have died because of hunger and disease. We children of Sudan, we were not lucky.”
Although these young people went through inexplicable danger, grief, and uncertainty during their voyage from Sudan to safety, the purposes of this exhibition is to explore the label these boys were given. “Lost Boys” is a term that clinical workers first attributed to the Sudanese Refugees. They did so first because most of the children were boys, and second as a direct reference to the “Lost Boys” from the story of Peter Pan. They were orphaned, without a home, and without any family. This term is something that has stuck with these boys and has come to define a whole generation.
The goal of this exhibition is to question the use and application of the term, “Lost Boys.” Are these refugees still lost? Do they refer to themselves as “lost”? Are they considered boys still, even though now they are grown men (some having families and new lives)? Considered as one of the “most successful refugee resettlements in U.S. history,” it is worth asking that if these refugees were once a lost boy are they always a lost boy?
Photo Credit: UNHCR/B.Press and http://www.lostboysfilm.com/hi-res/UNBoyw-Bag.jpg
Photo Caption: A young Dinka boy arriving in Kenya in 1992. Determined to get an education, many of the "Lost Boys" carried books with them across hundreds of miles of desert.