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By Niki Singleton
These pages from the 126 page graphic novel, Echoes of the Lost Boys of Sudan, cover the survival stories of four Sudanese boy refugees from the second civil war in Sudan who are now living in Dallas, Texas. The four boys ran from their different villages in Southern Sudan when they were ransacked in 1983 by the Northern army. Their stories of extreme individual struggle converged finally in Kakuma camp in Kenya, now the largest refugee camp in Africa, where they spent 10 years together before being granted refugee status in the U.S. The stories were taken from interviews with the young men after their arrival in the U.S.
On hearing these stories, I wanted to help tell them with strong emotional imagery that would seduce the reader and at the same time convey the intense feelings of the boys in their desperate situations. Although I'd been to East Africa previously, I'd never been to Sudan, so this book was done remotely and across continents. While in discussion with the boys through an organization in Texas, I researched Sudanese objects online: huts, trees, tools, facial features, etc., to work from. FreeDimensional arranged residency space for me in France and the Netherlands in order to complete what was to become a year-long virtual excursion into the cultural and political horrors in Sudan. In the making of the novel, I felt as if I were experiencing, in some way, the corruption, fear, and starvation of the boys. This is also a local story in an international suit.
The book is being used in inner city school classrooms in Dallas, Texas in their genocide curriculum. The Lost Boy heros in the novel visit the classrooms to give first hand accounts of what happened to them and to discuss the events in the story. There is also a text insert in the book of their discussions with a psychologist after arriving in Texas from Kakuma.
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Niki Singleton is a Brooklyn-based artist working in painting, drawing, digital and graphic arts, installation experiences, video, and performance.