Notes from Susan: The Power of Rohingya Art

By Susan MacLaury

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to travel to Kenya and Uganda with a non-profit called AMREF (now AMREF Health Africa) as part of the filming of War/Dance. One of our stops was in a Masai village in the heart of the savannah.

 In that village, women assumed the roles of health educators who taught how to reduce the likelihood of trypanosomosis (“sleeping sickness”), often carried by tsetse flies traveling on cattle, by encouraging villagers to keep them in pens on the outskirts of their settlement rather than its center. Because they were largely illiterate, they did this through song and dance, using a colorful banner with drawings to make their point. At one point one of the dancers pulled me to my feet to join them. I still remember my daughter falling backward off the log she was sitting on because she was laughing so hard at my efforts to imitate them.

 But I digress.

 I was reminded of that day over the weekend after reading a moving article about a Rohingya artist and refugee, Mohammed Mur, who along with hundreds of thousands of others from the Rakhine State in Myanmar were forced to flee to avoid being murdered for being stateless Muslims. One can only imagine the trauma they experienced at what they endured. 

 Most ended up in camps in Bangladesh, where they’ve been living under dangerous,  overcrowded conditions. Mohammed lives in the Balukhali Camp, site of the Artolution arts program. He is one of several refugees who have found a way to confront and share their traumatic experiences through art. Equally helpful, Artolution artists also have learned to use their talents to convey public health messages, much like the Masai women.

 The power of art to express hope is undeniable. We at Shine Global are so grateful to have the opportunity to bring the Rohingya crisis to the forefront of global consciousness through our support of “Hossain,” the feature length documentary directed by Taimi Arvidson and produced by Brette Ragland. Shine Global will do all it can to ensure that this film becomes one more way the Rohingya can educate world leaders and create positive solutions for the pressing need to resettle more than 700,000 of them safely.

Take care,

Susan MacLaury
Executive Director and Co-Founder of Shine Global