The Art of War

Children’s drawings illustrate Darfur atrocities.

Click here to see a slide show of Darfur children’s drawings.

In February 2005, we traveled to camps along the Chad-Sudan border that are home to more than 200,000 refugees from the genocidal conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. During interviews with refugees, we gave paper and crayons to children, so they could draw whatever they wished while we talked with their parents and caretakers.

The first drawing

The first child, a 12-year-old shepherd, had never held a crayon or pencil before, so he gave the paper to his brothers, who drew, without any instruction, pictures of mounted Janjaweed shooting civilians, Antonov planes dropping bombs on civilians and their homes, and a tank firing on fleeing villagers.

Over the following weeks, these violent scenes were repeated in hundreds of drawings we collected from children aged 8 to 17 who had fled from many areas across Darfur. Children drew Janjaweed assaults on villages and Sudanese forces attacking from Antonov planes, MiG planes, military helicopters, and tanks. They also pictured the attacks as they had seen them in action: huts and villages burning; the shooting of men, women, and children; and the rape of women and girls.

The children’s drawings construct a compelling case against the government of Sudan as the architects of the Darfur crisis and explicitly show violations of the laws of war. To hear and read the testimony of victims of atrocities is very powerful; it is even more horrifying to see such mayhem through the eyes of children, uncoached and often uneducated but clearly exposed to brutal ethnic cleansing. Click here to see a slide show of Darfur children’s drawings.