An art work created by University of Minnesota associate professor David Feinberg with a group of genocide survivors has been chosen for display at the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
It’s scheduled to hang there through the fall of 2013.
The work, “Life Is Struggle,” a collage in acrylic, wood, found objects and plexiglas, was made through Feinberg’s “Voice to Vision” collaborative studio project, which takes the stories of genocide survivors from different parts of the world and transforms their experiences into art.
The completed work “addresses the voices and voicelessness of victims of genocide, rape, AIDS, homelessness, poverty and discrimination.”
University officials said “Life Is Struggle” began with survivors painting two symbols on a background of a woodwork structure and a random design of yellow stripes. Their symbols were then tied together.
More about the meaning of the symbols used by the survivors in the work:
- Fred, from Hanover, Germany, chose the letter “A,” painted in black in the top left corner. “A” stood for the first letter of the name of his only cousin, Aaltje. When Fred and his family fled to America to escape the Nazi regime, baby Aaltje and her family remained behind in Holland. They all were ultimately exterminated at Auschwitz. Fred also chose the model of an old man, in the bottom right corner, which reminded him of an “old wise man.” The figure, which was broken, was fitting with the story Fred told: it was the destiny of so many elderly people to be murdered in the Holocaust.
- Ting, from Sudan, chose the symbol “LIS,” painted in white in the center of the piece, which stood for “life is struggle,” and he chose the transparent airplane, which is enlarged in a photocopy on the bottom of the piece. The airplane reminded Ting of a “foreign structure” — something man-made that was interfering with his culture and his people.
- Bunkhean, from Cambodia, chose the broken wagon wheel, which reminded him of an ox-cart he was forced to drive in Cambodia and a representation of his broken country. He also chose the symbol of the skull and crossbones, painted in yellow below the wheel, to illustrate death.
- Bunkhean’s wife, Bounna, told her own story, passionately and tearfully. Bounna painted just one symbol, the pink star in the top right corner, which represented “love.”
- Christine, a Native American, chose a filmstrip, which symbolized the pornographic films she was forced to participate in as a child, and she chose the railroad crossing sign. Christine said that she has a “certain level of loathing and anxiety” when she sees trains, a feeling she couldn’t verbalize.
- Alice, from Rwanda, chose the cow because cows are important animals in Rwanda and are symbols of status. Alice also painted a blue tree at the bottom of the piece, representing a tree outside of her house that was cut down. She painted the tree blue because when she was living in a refugee center, there was a man who would come in and randomly choose which people would live and which people would die. When this man told people, “You, I want you,” the people who were going to die became so frightened their skin turned blue.