Paintings by Vietnamese refugees interned at Hong Kong’s Whitehead Detention Center went on display this week at UC Irvine.
The exhibit, sponsored by the UCI student action group Project Ngoc, graphically portrays the lives of 23,000 Vietnamese refugees now living under guard in camps ringed by barbed wire. The art will be on display in the Student Center through Dec. 16.
“These paintings depict the kind of suffering and sacrifice that the boat people have to go through to find freedom,” said Anh Hong Do, who with her four brothers and sisters escaped Vietnam aboard a 24-foot boat full of refugees and landed in Malaysia after 12 days at sea. She is now a UCI senior majoring in political science.
“They show the terrible conditions these refugees have to live in every day and the psychological impact of camp life--not only on adults but also on children,” said Do, 21, a member of Project Ngoc, also known as Project Pearl. “Children sometimes live five years or more in these camps and grow up with no other images than of barbed wire and armed guards.”
The 30 paintings now on display are part of 50 collected by Project Ngoc volunteers who worked at the Whitehead camps. The entire collection was displayed for the first time last year in a two-day exhibit that raised $2,000, which the organization used to sponsor relief efforts undertaken by Do and others last summer in Hong Kong.
Do said her group is negotiating with universities across the country to send the remaining 20 paintings on a road tour next year.
“If only the outside world can see the conditions and the violations of human rights that these refugees are put under,” Do said. “It is a gross social injustice that I would like to fight.”
The paintings may be viewed free of charge in the lower level of the Student Center from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends.