• Heather Black, Judy Jones and Fay Haskins

    Heather Black, Judy Jones and Fay Haskins

  • Louisa Macphillamy and David De Garis

    Louisa Macphillamy and David De Garis

  • Senator Michaelia Cash and National Director of Australia for UNHCR Naomi Steer

    Senator Michaelia Cash and National Director of Australia for UNHCR Naomi Steer

  • Aminata Conteh-Biger, Yarrie Bangura and Yordi Haile

    Aminata Conteh-Biger, Yarrie Bangura and Yordi Haile

  • James Batley and Lizzie Cleaves

    James Batley and Lizzie Cleaves

  • Raj Mahaja and David Caffery

    Raj Mahaja and David Caffery

  • Rachelle Saad, Sarah Hately and Hale Yildiz

    Rachelle Saad, Sarah Hately and Hale Yildiz

  • Alex Lamb and Tom Shepherd

    Alex Lamb and Tom Shepherd

  • Professor Diane Bell, Marie Coleman and Captain Jenni Wittwer

    Professor Diane Bell, Marie Coleman and Captain Jenni Wittwer

  • Gwendy Omijeh, Stephanie Mbombo and Jacqueline Zwambila

    Gwendy Omijeh, Stephanie Mbombo and Jacqueline Zwambila

  • Photographer Thomas Mukoya

    Photographer Thomas Mukoya

  • David and Lynette Rogers

    David and Lynette Rogers

  • Charles Koker

    Charles Koker

  • Shannon Miskelly and High CommissioneR of Kenya Saiya Kabira

    Shannon Miskelly and High CommissioneR of Kenya Saiya Kabira

Australia for UNHCR Photographic Exhibition

2 October 2014

The Australia for UNHCR Photographic Exhibition at the Nishi Gallery was opened on the International Day of Non Violence by Senator Michaelia Cash. The exhibition of photographs from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are the work of Kenyan photographer Thomas Mukoya, who has worked with the Australian missions into that country, and is an insight into the ongoing suffering and soul destroying hopelessness of the country the UN describes as “the most dangerous place on earth to be a woman”. And that for us in this comfortable city where the news of the day is about the wearing of a burqa into our Parliament House, the girding of loins for an air war in Iraq as well as the fluff and frivolity of celebrity, is where we should cut to the chase and do something about it.

The exhibition is called Women Together, Conflict, Courage and Hope, with images that are poignant, disturbing and frustrating. It is the image of an Africa that slips off the broadsheet and tabloid pages and disappears into oblivion unless those that can, do bring them to our attention. For Thomas Mukoya it was not a case of being in the right place at the right time but of careful collaboration with his UNHCR minders and a keen eye for the faces and their expressions. While CEO of Australia for UNHCR, Justine Curtis kept writing the stories in her notebooks to later become the stories to accompany the pictures. And for this exhibition the pictures might tell a thousand words but the real story is only realized with so many more.

That was noticed by Senator Cash in a photo of Mama Bernadette Macaline with her perfect loaves of bread made at Sister Angelique’s Boulangerie where she earns $1.50 a day to feed her seven children and one disabled grandchild. In another picture the young girl sitting outside among the detritus of a camp sewing with an old sewing machine probably has a glimmer of hope for her uncertain future.

Reminding us of the horrors they left behind were three of the four performers from the play “The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe” about to go into rehearsal for a season at the Opera House and the international performances in the pipeline, their simple and courageous telling of their own experiences of rape and violence was confronting. 

See the exhibition at the Nishi Gallery until 5 October and maybe you too will be moved to help in some small way and somehow we will get our priorities right and find a way to end the scourge of sexual violence in war and conflict, and keep the dreams alive for the women of DRC.