Artist's Statement

Frederic de Woelmont

These photographs were realized between July 2016 and June 2018 in Kiryandongo, Uganda. During that period, I was holding the position of Head of Office of the organization responsible for the overall management of the refugee settlement, together with the government body in charge of refugees in Uganda. In parallel, I was also photographing on a weekly basis. This position gave me the opportunity to make a unique and original portrait of the daily life diversity of refugees in a refugee settlement environment.

The Kiryandongo series of images is an astonishing work of insight into a refugee life world made accessible by my involvement, by my proximity with the refugees, by my thorough knowledge of the issues the refugees are confronted to, by the way I captured the variety of individual life, and where the bare circumstances of women, men, children forced to negotiate a war torn life that still abide in Kiryandongo are described in a dignified manner.

Kiryandongo refugee settlement is located in the mid-western part of Uganda, at about 220 Km from Kampala, the capital city. The settlement was originally established in 1990 and was re-opened in 2014 during a south sudanese emergency. It faced another influx of south sudanese refugees from July 2016 onwards and as of 2018 hosts almost 60,000 refugees. The vast majority of refugees are from South Sudan, with a smaller number from Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other neighboring countries.

The refugees in Kiryandongo belong to diverse ethnic groups mainly from South Sudan: Dinka, Nuer, Acholi, Kuku, Kakwa, Madi, Siluk, Luos, etc…

The refugee settlement covers a surface of 27 square miles and provides shelter, land as well as education, health, food, livelihood, peace building, and water/sanitation services support to refugees. The settlement is well established, with land divided into plots on which people have built mud and brick houses and have cultivated crops on a small scale.