Humanizing Humanity: More Than Just a Number

teya Sepinuck

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

On Feburary 24, Teya Sepinuck, founder of Theater of Witness, spoke in LPAC Cinema for the opening event of the photo exhibition “Humanizing Humanity: A Day in the Life of a Refugee.” Sepinuck was the opening speaker for the display of photos of refugees from countries such as Greece, Rwanda, and Sudan by photographers Jon Warren, Laura Reinhardt, and Rachel Elkind.

Sepinuck has been creating theater projects with refugees, immigrants, and survivors and perpetrators of abuse in order to provide a creative and artistic outlet for them to come to terms with their own experience as well as create a more relatable media form for the audience.

In her talk, Sepinuck showed clips of past projects she worked on, such as a performance by refugees in Vietnam and a man from Northern Ireland who was in a car bomb when he was eight. Their stories were told through the media of theater, song, dance, and spoken word. Sepinuck recounted a performance in Northern Ireland when former British soldiers had come to watch. After the performance, these two former enemies, some of who could not even bear to be in the same room together, came together, hugged and cried.

“We are afraid of greiving … sometimes we have to let it come out. Knowing people are there and listening is extraordinary,” she said.

One of the main aims of the exhibition was to bring a more human element to the refugee crisis around the world. “We hope you are able to recognize and connect to these stories that demonstrate resilience,” said organizer Eriko Shrestha ‘19 in her opening speech.

The photographs of the exhibition, the main attraction of the event, consisted of pictures of refugees from around the world. While many of them reflect the pain and suffering of refugees, many also show their strength.

“I hope these pictures will make you admire how much we humans can suffer, but also endure,” said Shrestha.

Rachel Elkind, one of the photographers, focused on the refugee crisis in Greece. She went to the island of Lesvos to volunteer at the registration camp where thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other countries arrived daily. While assisting these refugees, she documented their daily life: refugees arriving on boats, waiting in long lines, sleeping in tents and sitting by fires to warm themselves. Elkind developed personal connections with many of the refugees through spending time with them and listening to their journeys. Despite their strenuous experience, she was able to hear their hopes for their future.

“There is joy happening, and I do not want that to go away,” Elkind said, pointing to a photograph of smiling children with face paint.

Featured image by Vishnu Gupta ’18/The Daily Gazette.

Lisa Kato

Went to school in Japan from the age of 10 to 18. I play the violin, love to read and watch movies. I am interested in politics and economics and often write for the opinions section and news section.

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