The exhibition of seventy stunning photographs of contemporary Sudan are drawn from the recent book Sudan: The Land and the People, written by US Ambassador Timothy Carney—the last US ambassador to Sudan—and his wife and collaborator, journalist Victoria Butler.
Award-winning photographer Michael Freeman spent more than two years compiling the extraordinary images that make up the exhibition, bringing the rich ethnic, cultural, and geographical diversity of Africa’s largest country into view.
Sudan sprawls over one million square miles, covering an area about one-third the size of the United States. For millennia, immigrants and invaders from the Mediterranean and the Middle East have come together and blended with African ethnic groups to produce peoples of great beauty who share a turbulent past and rich cultural heritage. Sudan includes numerous ethnic groups divided into clans and sub-clans that speak several hundred languages and dialects. The majority of the country’s thirty-eight million people are Muslim, but most of the southern peoples follow traditional religions, and many have converted to Christianity over the last century.
Bordered by nine nations, Sudan holds the key to regional stability and prosperity. It has long had the potential to be the engine of economic development for the whole of northeastern Africa. Sudan’s wealth lies not only in its plentiful natural resources, but in its ethnic and cultural heritage.
The exhibition is divided into sections that give a glimpse into some of these aspects of Sudan—the land, people, economy, history, and religion. The country’s diversity is strikingly evident in the beautiful photographs.
The last section, Contemporary Troubles, touches on the subjects most often in current news about Sudan. Armed conflict, drought, and famine have plagued Sudan since its independence in 1956. A peace agreement in January 2005 ended the nearly fifty-year-old bloody civil war between the largely Arab north and the African south, putting people in both regions on a challenging journey to create a nation in which all Sudanese can live and prosper. This journey will play out in July 2011 with plans to create two separate, independent countries.
At the same time, the death toll from the conflict in Darfur (western Sudan), a separate struggle from the north-south civil war, continues to climb. More than two million people have been displaced in Darfur, and rebel groups and the Sudanese government are in negotiations.
Sudan: The Land and the People is organized and traveled by Meridian International Center, Washington, DC. Here at the McClung Museum, it is sponsored by the UT Ready for the World Initiative and the McClung Museum Support Fund.