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~Wellesley Professor to Explore Suffering, Responsibility and the Causes of Civil War~

For immediate release:
Feb. 26, 2003

Arlie Corday,

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- As part of the Davis Museum Fazal Sheikh photo exhibit, which depicts refugee communities from Somalia and Afghanistan, Lidwien Kapteijns, history professor at Wellesley College, will present a lecture, "The Somali Civil War and the Responsibilities of Witnessing," Tuesday, March 4, at 7:30 pm in Collins Cinema at Wellesley College, in which she will look at the causes of civil war.

"Looking at portraits of Somali refugee women and children makes me realize: 'This is my world. How can we live our lives, how should we live our lives, knowing about this suffering'" she asks. "And how should we, as an educational community, respond to the horrors of the world we live in? How do we bear witness"

Kapteijns will discuss what caused the civil war that drove these women and children away from their homes. But that is not all. "Sheikh's images show the fortitude and dignity of these refugees in circumstances of great violence and sorrow," she said. "Where does that dignity and fortitude come from?" Part of that answer lies in the photographs themselves, she believes. "I think that you will find yourself trying to articulate an answer to that question when you look at these photographs. Drawing on our common humanity, I believe that each of us can find some answers in the images Sheikh has created."

Kapteijns will also talk about cultural resources Somali men and women can draw on in times of hardship and sorrow: "For many Somalis this exhibit is extremely painful. Somalis are the perpetrators and the victims of the violence to which these photographs bear witness. But Somalis are also the heroes and heroines.For every act of violence, there was an act of sanity and kindness."

Kapteijns also will discuss how educational institutions such as Wellesley can live up to the responsibilities that knowing about the disasters and injustices of our times brings with it.

"Here I do not have special expertise," she said. "I hope that the poets and philosophers on campus, the artists and activists, economists and scientists--all those in our community who can free up an hour for this in their schedules--will come and share their thoughts."

Founded in 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in liberal arts and the education of women for more than 125 years. The College's 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students.


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