As part of a project titled Seers as War Makers, Peace Makers, and Leaders within the Karamoja Cluster, Feinstein International Center researchers Khristopher Carlson and Darlington Akabwai have brought a mobile photography exhibit to the Karamoja region.
The exhibit, which includes photographs taken on field trips to Uganda and Southern Sudan, features the work of traditional seers in these pastoral communities. It is is being shown in outdoor public spaces (such as market places and trading centers) in an effort to spark community dialogue.
Carlson recently sent a report from exhibition showings in Matany and Lorengdwat:
We had another good turn out today… There were in total about 200 people who went in and out of the exhibit.
[People] seem very intrigued by the akidamidam (women dancing) photo and the men with their spears as this no longer happens for any of the Pian, Bokora and Matheniko (and assume it’s not going on among the Jie or Dodoth, either).
Most of the people I have talked to are very thankful to have the photos for viewing and want them shown in their manyatas [settlements]. Others want to buy them. People’s responses are most often to talk about the necessity of peace in order to, as one person called it (after looking at the akidamidam photos), “live a spirited life that we have not had for so long.”
The Toposa photos seem to have the greatest effect. Most of the people, of course, have never had any contact with the Toposa and when I tell them that the photos they are looking at are from Sudan and the Toposa, they seemed a bit shocked to see what they look like, to identify the similarities and take note of the obvious differences.
As far as their reactions to the research part of what we’re doing, it is great for us to get this kind of feedback from community people – something we didn’t collect this much of before. The consensus is that the seers are indeed extremely important and it is widely understood that they are an essential part in bringing peace to Karamoja. They see this research as promoting that idea and so they are very pleased to see someone “outside” speaking on behalf of the community people about the seers’ roles.
For more background on the Karamoja Cluster and our work in the region, please see a recent Tufts Journal article on Carlson and Akabwai’s research.