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Raising Awareness of the Nuba Plight through Video
For UK-based photographer and videographer Richard Budd it all started with a single photograph. The image of a young boy from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan's South Kordofan State, questioning the closure of his school. The secondary school, one of only an handful in existence after a 21-year civil war, had just lost its funding from the Sudanese community in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
The Nuba Mountains are in South Kordofan State which borders the newly formed country of South Sudan. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 was supposed to end 21 years of civil war between north and south - and also led to the creation of the new country of South Sudan in July 2011. Under the terms of the agreement South Kordofan and its neighbouring Blue Nile state would remain under the rule of the northern Sudanese government, but with a degree of autonomy.
But in June 2011, one month before the succession of South Sudan, the Sudanese government of Omar al-Bashir carried out a massacre on South Kordofan's capital Kadugli and began a bombing campaign across the state - that is still ongoing in 2013. Attacks began on Blue Nile State in September 2011 and hundreds of thousands of people have fled both states.
Many Nuba are still in Sudan, running into the mountain caves when they hear the planes. Planting has been bombed for two seasons so there is no food. Medicines and vaccinations have been depleted and there is only one surgeon in the whole of South Kordofan State to deal with the hundreds of terrible injuries caused by the bombs. Despite agreements Sudan has not allowed any humanitarian aid into the area since the attacks began.
Around 70,000 Nuba have fled to the Yida refugee camp in neighbouring South Sudan's Unity State - where supplies are limited by the UN who want the Nuba to move to another area. Some die on the long walk to relative safety. Some return to the mountains looking for help after finding no surgeons working in the camp.
Amongst the Nuba’s multiple tribes and one million plus numbers they share a strong commonality – the tolerance of others. This tolerance has fostered a harmony that allows for 50 different spoken languages, along with Christianity, Islam and animist beliefs - there are often Christians and Muslims within the same family.
Having raised funds to build a new and successful secondary school in the Nuba Mountains Richard is now involved in raising awareness of the plight of the Nuba people as it becomes increasingly clear that a genocide is taking place. Nuba Now works to educate the public, inform the media and petition members of parliament about the plight of the Nuba.
Amongst the various basic needs of the many refugees at Yida is ongoing education for the children, with only 2% of the population being educated to an elementary school level. Unfortunately the UN only classify the Unity State camps as transitional due to their proximity to the dangerous border, and so cannot supply anything but the most basic support. Instead the Nuba have established their own schools, with volunteer teachers instructing classes of more than 150 students sitting on logs and very little in the way of educational materials.
A successful commercial photographer in the UK, Richard recognised that his visual storytelling skills could greatly assist the cause. Having already visited Sudan a number of times, in late 2012 he visited the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan in order to document the plight of these extraordinary people. Equipped with his DSLR and a RØDE VideoMic Pro, he collected a series of interviews and documented the culture of the Nuba – a culture that is in serious danger of being wiped from existence.
The touching micro-documentary - edited by Richard and his wife Claire (a former BBC television journalist) shows the humanity of the Nuba and the reality of their deathly struggle to prevent the disappearance of their culture. In the interview, Bishop Andudu talks about the terrors experienced by the Nuba people, and the challenges that they now face without their homeland, their crops or any basic humanitarian aid.
“Every visit to Sudan has been tough, but hugely uplifting at the same time.” Richard explains. “This time was the hardest, knowing what I know about the horror visited upon these people over the past two years, knowing the wonderful nature of them and how they are the least deserving of such treatment. There are things I have seen that I will never forget. Heartbreaking stories, some too painful to tell. Sometimes I hide my eyes behind the lens and cry. The people I meet are too brave to cry and seem to radiate hope despite what must be terrible mental anguish. So many women I talk to have lost children. I can’t begin to understand their heartache.”
Nuba Now aims to raise international awareness of the violent attacks on the Nuba, in order to reach two key objectives. Firstly is the establishment of a no-fly zone over South Kordofan to prevent the government’s regular bombings of the innocent communities. Secondly it is also striving to lift the ban on humanitarian aid into the Nuba mountains where there are thousands of Nuba dying of starvation, due to the bombing of their primary agricultural food source.