Texts by Eduardo López Moreno®
URBAN REFUGEES, THE MOST KEPT SECRET
Integrated into the fabric of the city, without papers and without being enclosed by the barbed wire of the refugee camp, urban refugees are anonymous people. They are defined for what they are not: inhabitants without citizenship; men and women without face and home; children without their own space and privacy. Despite the fact that they represent half of the nearly 11 million refugees in the world, they are one of the most kept secret in many cities around the world.
Urban refugees inhabit the centre of strange spaces. Something that belongs to them becomes nothing and themselves that are somebody become nobody. They often live in unsafe and risky places that paradoxically are safer than their homes. They arise more suspicions than certainties and more doubts than trust. Cities where they live remind them constantly that they are strangers in the place. Borders are continuously erected where they are and where they go. Still, with patience, they try to open a future in these walls and find their way in the street labyrinths they walk.
This photographic project aims to give life to people who are often spectral identities that live without dialogue, with few questions and no answers. Their lives are realities that are not ephemeral but tirelessly repeated acts, which end up creating a constant that we do not see and we do not hear.
Large contingents of urban refugees are found in cities. The images presented here were taken to the Somalis urban refugees in Nairobi, Kenya. These pictures find difficult to recreate vanished homelands, defaulting memories and ocean waves that do not return. As deprived of words, as these pictures are, they still talk. They murmur sounds of hope like the shells from the sea. They tell us of the efforts from nobody to become again somebody. We need to bring the ear closer to listen what they say.
LAST TRAIN TO MOMBASA
This train from the British colonial period departs from Nairobi to Mombasa, leaving at 5 pm it reaches the port in the Indian Ocean at 12 in the morning; a 17 hours journey for 500 km.
It is going to be substituted in 2 months (August 2017) by a Chinese made train that will make the same journey in 3.3 hrs .
It is a picturesque train, almost unreal, passing at 5 in the morning for Tsavo East National Park where it is possible to see wild animals.
A strong Swahili culture wanders along the wagons, until the train arrives to port, expecting not to have 5 to 10 hours delay.
OPEN CLASSROOMS CLOSE THE DOOR TO TERRORISM
148 students were killed and several injured in an attack claimed by a terrorist group executed in cold blood on the night of 2nd April 2015 in the Kenyan Town of Garissa, close to the Somali boarder.
Classrooms, dormitories and refectories were tinted in red and sadness by this terrorist group. Two years after the attack, still remain too many empty chairs and empty hearts in this college; still too many empty lockers and missing students’ footsteps. However, there are also clear signs of hope and change.
Despair and sorrow have been transformed by the vocabulary of hope and self-respect. Although the absent ones are still present in cell phones, memories and half-spoken words, the University has recovered the reds, yellows and purples of daily life that characterize the students’ clothes.
Normality has taken over again. Students, teachers, blackboards, notebooks, halls and corridors are all writing in different forms a new chapter of a University that remained closed for way too long after the attacks. Education, culture and the possibility to socialize and exchange are the best antidotes to the ideology of extremism. Open classrooms close the door to terrorism.
The photos presented in the exhibition held in the United Nations show how by working, socializing and staying together it is possible to create a unit of defense. Symbolically the only imposition is the force of the image that conveys a message of resilience, hope and change.
A history of hope and change
A Photo Exhibition –as a visual documentary–, has been prepared to illustrate how a history of hope and change is taking place. The Principal of the University, teachers, students and workers have all opened the doors and hearts to let the world know how Garissa University operates now.
After presenting a limited number of images that evoke that terrible day of 2nd April 2015, the exhibition displays black and white photos that represent a slow transition for a better life. A third segment of images in color depicts faces, smiles, women talking, students walking, professors teaching and young men preparing for an exam. A final part illustrates life around the teaching place, showing students interacting in the canteen and the dormitory, as well as secretaries and administrative staff in the office areas.
This is a visual attempt to present the optimism that can take the form of a pen in the hand of a young woman, a desk full of books, a group looking through the window frames, a crowded place where old persons learn about peace in the amphitheater, and very clean classrooms where desks are not properly aligned.