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This is a video project about South Sudanese artists that survived refugee camps abroad and some that have since been repatriated.

ABOUT THE GOOD HANDS FILM INITIATIVE:

Good Hands film project intends to document the stories of artists of South Sudan as well as their fellow artists in refugee camps in Kenya.  Many South Sudanese artists have quickly tried to take the responsibility to help build their new nation by using art as a tool for peace, unity, economic growth, as well as individual and community empowerment. 

Good Hands will emphasize the importance of art; it explores the significance of visual communication for South Sudan, a country where the illiteracy rate is extremely high.  My goal is to help shed light on the people of South Sudan through self-expression, communication, exploration, imagination, and cultural and historical understanding.

My name is Awer Bul and I was born in a Dinka village in the Twic East district of Sudan in 1983. When I was 7 years old, I was forced to escape the violence of the Second Sudanese Civil War. Not having any other known alternative means for survival, I fled by myself. I lived in the wild for at least six years as a "Lost Boy."  I survived and I am an artist now.  I want to facilitate the means for fellow refugees and artists to have a voice like I have had the opportunity to have.

BACKGROUND & GOALS:

In 2007 I was awarded a $5000 art undergraduate research grant from Virginia Commonwealth University.  A fellow student and I went to research the lives of refugee artists in Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya, a place that I had actually lived for some time as a child.  I stayed in my old home for two weeks and filmed what came to be my first documentary, Blood is the Same (for a clip, see above).  For those two weeks, I was yet again one of those 88,000 refugees.  I filmed the poor living conditions of refugees in Kenya and quickly found myself continuously running into displaced artists.  The film was screened at the Virginia Holocaust Museum in February 2009 and the Byrd Theatre in September 2010 in Richmond, Virginia.

In July 2011, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation and Africa’s 54th country. Many of the artists I have talked to during my filming of Blood is the Same have since been repatriated back to their new country and are showing a strong desire to help build South Sudan by helping support the nation’s capital of Juba.

In December 2011, I returned to Sudan to build a well in the Twic East District of South Sudan with United Families for Sudan, a non-profit organization that I helped found.  I had the opportunity to visit Juba and ended up learning that some of the artists that I had interviewed in Kakuma had actually returned to South Sudan!  My video I have provided on this page has some tentative interviews I had with these artists, though my time with them was quite limited since my priority in Sudan during this period was to make sure a well was constructed.  With the 1 year anniversary of the birth of South Sudan growing closer, I want now, more than ever, to return to my homeland to better document these artists.

In Good Hands, I hope to continue tracing the lives of at least three artists, James Aguer, Roven Riak, and Elias Elma, all of whom I interviewed in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Blood is the Same.  Aguer and Riak have recently moved from Kakuma to Juba to start life anew.  Aguer and Riak are trying to contribute to their new found nation while also trying to make ends meet via their lifelong passions for art.  Elias Elma is a fellow refugee and artist and still lives in Kakuma; he is not Sudanese himself, he is Ethiopian.  Elma was a cartoonist that was displaced by Ethiopian political instability in the early 1990s and was chased out of Ethiopia based upon his political cartoons.  To put it simply, I want to explore how their worlds were altered by the birth of South Sudan.

I want to accurately narrate the lives of artists in post-independence South Sudan, to understand the artistic mindset of these artists, and to research how the government is utilizing visual communication and art for nation-state building.

THE BUDGET & LOGISTICS

I hope to return to South Sudan and Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya (from Richmond, Virginia) for between 30 to 45 days to work on this documentary and I would like to bring along two fellow activist filmmakers.  Besides travel cost, the raised budget will be used for production expenses, lodging, food, internal transportation, donation prizes, and whatever other incidental that may be necessary for the completion of this film.

Please support our film so that we may better serve the artists in South Sudan and thank you!

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