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Strangers in a Familiar Land

by Archives January 27, 2009

Few people know what the abbreviation IDP refers to. Even fewer know about Acholiland.
Matthew Hood and Devin Wells are not among the majority. After spending eight weeks in Uganda last summer, the pair will be showcasing a photo essay documenting the lives of Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) in the country’s northern region.
The Concordia photography students hosted a vernissage of their exhibition, LIMBO, last night in conjunction with the Concordia Volunteer Abroad Program (CVAP) in the Library Building.
Hood and Wells seek to shed light on issues they feel go unnoticed, especially the struggle faced by the people of Acholiland, who live as refugees in their own country.
“There are, give or take, 145 camps in northern Uganda housing internally displaced refugees,” said Hood. “We used this one project and the few characters we photographed from our camp to represent everyone in all the different camps.”
They spent the first few days in the capital, Kampala, before heading to the Unyama IDP camp to photograph residents. Hood explained CVAP also provided them with a cultural exchange while traveling to Uganda, allowing both him and Hood to immerse themselves in the local culture. This trip was also Hood’s third time in Uganda, giving him a greater understanding of his surroundings.
Hood and Wells chose LIMBO as their exhibition’s title to depict the halfway point in the country’s history, which was embroiled in civil war from 1981 to 1986.
Hood said the people living in the IDP camps feel as if they are in limbo. “They’re stuck in between two periods of time: conflict and peace,” he explained. “Foreign aid is slow, there are rumours the LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group] is coming back, so people are reluctant to return to their home villages.”
According to Hood, most of the refugees were open to being photographed.
“The characters we’ve photographed include a caption with context of their history,” said Hood. “For example, here’s someone we photographed who had been attacked by rebel groups,” pointing to a woman with a mutilated nose.
Hood and Wells contributed close to 20 photos each to the exhibition. “My photos are a bit more journalistic,” said Hood. “And Devin’s aesthetic is more artistic and documentary-like. It can be split half-half, this way we provide different perspectives.”

LIMBO will continue to take place in the Library Building atrium all week until Feb. 1.

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