Pretoria - Some of the most heartbreaking, emotional and positive moments of refugees ever captured on camera are on show at the University of Pretoria.
The exhibition, titled Finding Home, Portraits Of Refugees, Displaced and Stateless People in Southern Africa, is being hosted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
It opened last week and will continue until June 30.
It comprises 47 images from nine photographers and UN High Commissioner for Refugees aid workers in the Southern Africa region. Among them is Hélène Caux, an aid worker and photographer based in Pretoria.
She said the exhibition bore witness to the ordeals forcing millions to flee their homes.
Caux said no one wanted to leave their homes like that, as they had left families and jobs behind.
“Through these photographs, we tried to open a window to educate and shed light on some of Southern Africa’s major human displacements.
“These include those of Ituri and North Kivu in the DRC and in Cabo Delado, Mozambique, which often never make the news headlines.
“The forcibly displaced and stateless people all long for one thing: finding home. A place to overcome the trauma of exile and persecution – the opportunity to begin life anew.
“We share here with you our admiration for their strength to survive, their tenacious passion in fulfilling their dreams, their will to succeed and like everyone, live lives in safety and dignity.”
Caux said people could be forcibly displaced due to a number of reasons. These include climate change, natural disasters and war.
Caux spoke about the story behind a photo of a woman, who had to leave her home with her children after being rejected by her husband.
“I was the first person she told her story to and I didn’t want to show her face when taking the picture.
“She was working with her husband in the field when two armed rebels came and tied her husband to a tree and sexually assaulted her.
“The saddest thing is that she was rejected by her husband after the incident.
“She had to leave home with her five children and became displaced.”
Caux said one the messages she would like to convey was that anyone could become a refugee.
“Things happen so quickly; look what happened with Covid-19. For two years we had restrictions.
“You can be a refugee depending on your country’s economic situation, environmental issues. It shows the need for solidarity to help vulnerable people.”
Other photographers whose works are on display are Alexis Huguet, a freelance photographer based in Kinshasa; Antoine Tardy from Geneva, Switzerland; Guerchom Ndebo of Goma; Gwenn Dubourthoumieu from Paris; and John Wessels of Senegal.
Aid workers Martim Empis Gray Pereira, of Pemba, Mozambique; Rumbani Msiska, based in Lilongwe, Malawi; and, Sonia Gonzalez Suarez, who works from Harare, Zimbabwe, also have their pictures on show.
Caux said the photographs also feature positive moments in the lives of the forcibly displaced.
“We wanted to strike a balance of what it’s like to be a refugee and the positive sides of it. How they can rebuild their lives in new places.
“The ones of resilience to build a future through livelihood projects; of tenacity to start studying again, like the refugee students in Malawi or Zambia; of determination to integrate in a new country and contribute to society, feeling protected and safe, like the young refugee judokas in South Africa,” said Caux.