Dominic Nahr: Fractured State

  • Dominic Nahr - South Sudan
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  • Dominic Nahr - Fractured State
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July 2 – Sept. 25, 2016 | Dominic Nahr | Fractured State

An exhibition of the Swiss Foundation for Photography in collaboration with The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for Documentary Photography & Film

Curators: Peter Pfrunder and Dominic Nahr, in collaboration with Nicolas Havette

Associated Program of Les Rencontres d’Arles 2016

Gaining independence on July 9, 2011, the world’s youngest nation was born. Welcoming South Sudan as the 193rd member to the community of nations, Secretary-General to the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, said, “I am confident that South Sudan will contribute to promote the objectives of security, peace, prosperity, friendship and cooperation between peoples.” Five years later the UN reported on the desperate situation in South Sudan: 2.5 million people uprooted in fighting that started with a political impasse in mid-December 2013 between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar. More than 50,000 people killed, and nearly 100,000 civilians sought shelter in camps ran by the UN across the country. War, violence, famine, and disease have driven the East African nation into a humanitarian catastrophe.

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Swiss photographer Dominic Nahr followed these developments since 2010 on several extensive trips to South Sudan and experienced the dramatic change from hope and joy to horror and despair. “We don’t understand South Sudan – nor do we try. If anything, the terrible war of brutality that followed the nation’s birth demands we accept this truth, and try again,” Nahr concludes.

He looked behind the facades of the political conflict and focused on the people who are struggling to survive between the warring parties and the rivaling militia groups. His powerful images show mothers and children fleeing into swamps and savannas, moving from island to island trying to hide from militias torching their villages, and hoping to return home one day. By tracing the paths of families as they crisscrossed the country in search of safety, and by spending time with men inflicting this suffering, Nahr points at the dissonance between the original concept of a peaceful, united country and the reality its people are facing.

Fractured State: Dominic Nahr - Sudan2

His photographs convey the feeling of solidarity, “If South Sudan as a nation is failing, the South Sudanese as people are not. Even as violence drives neighbors apart, people are driven closer together. Social support structures – as the family, the clan, the church – are now stronger than ever.”

Fractured State: Dominic Nahr - Sudan1

The exhibition of the Swiss Foundation for Photography is the first major presentation of this long term project. The photographs document crucial stages in the short history of South Sudan: Pre-independence in the disputed region Abyei; the celebration of the new state in the capital Juba; the people of the Nuba Mountains in the north of the country as they were left to fend for themselves; the brief invasion into neighboring Sudan; and the humanitarian disaster following the civil war that started in late 2013. Displayed in a multifaceted installation, the photographs bring together the subjective view of the photographer and the hard facts of the unsolved conflict.

Dominic Nahr
Dominic Nahr
Dominic Nahr (Switzerland, 1983) is a contract photographer for TIME Magazine. He was raised in Hong Kong and graduated with a BFA from Ryerson University’s photography programme. He is based out of Nairobi, Kenya. Since 2008 Dominic has documented stories across the African continent, from Somalia to Senegal, Mali to South Africa. He is witness to the Arab Spring in Egypt, famine in Somalia, border conflict between the governments of Khartoum and Juba, political unrest and terrorist attacks in Kenya, and war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2009 Dominic was the first recipient of the Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award. He also won in categories at the Sony World Photography Awards. He was recognised for his work covering events in Sudan by World Press Photo in 2013 and in Egypt, Somalia and Sudan by Pictures of the Year Awards in 2012 and 2013. In January 2015 Swiss Dominic was named Photographer of the Year at Photo15 in Zurich. Dominic is currently producing a publication that takes a critical but empathetic look at the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear fallout in Fukushima.


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