Supporting the People of Sudan's Blue Nile through Recent Crises
Professor Wendy James’ ethnographic research on the fortunes of war-displaced communities from the Blue Nile region of northern Sudan generated unique insights that have been crucial in providing a long-term contribution to the work of the United Nations, and to humanitarian agencies assisting Blue Nile refugees. James’ research has had considerable impact for many years working with the UNHCR and Ethiopian authorities. Having played a role in their 1993 decision to move the Uduk refugees from their transit camp to a formal refugee scheme at Bonga further inside Ethiopia, James prepared an official Progress Report for this scheme in 1994. In 2003, she was appointed by the UK government to act as a Resource Person for the BN in the Sudan peace negotiations in Kenya.
In 2010, with a small number of other scholars, James was invited to present aspects of recent research to a meeting in Juba, southern Sudan, with officials of the UN Mission in Sudan; here she spoke specifically on security issues still facing the BN in the aftermath of the 2005 peace settlement.
James’ research has helped sustain cultural continuity among BN refugees in the diaspora. Her multimedia archive project “Voices from the Blue Nile” opens up rich research-based materials, including video, audio, photographic and cartographic material, to BN refugee communities, and to institutions concerned with their welfare. The website materials already online, mainly documenting life in the Bonga refugee camp, have been effective in promoting cultural continuity and historical awareness. For example, Uduk communities in North America invited James in 2012 to a Salt Lake City (SLC) Fourth of July reunion of Uduk families from across the continent, primarily to talk to the rising generation about their history and culture.
It is planned to deposit the original audio and visual materials from James’ research in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, as a contribution to their growing Sudan collections. These will be shared, facilitating engagement, with the source community.
A mentor for the expatriate Uduk and Maban community associated with a prominent SLC church writes:
Your Power-Point presentations of the history of the Uduk peoples and their village culture were the first view of that era that any here had ever seen. We digitally preserved copies of that presentation so that their children and their children's children shall never be deprived of that knowledge… When you… sent me one of the two known original Uduk/Twampa dictionaries, original language primers from 1956, and .WAV files of recordings of language and music from the 1960s... those are priceless!… All of this is being written to DVDs so that each refugee family may have copies of this history… Wendy, I had never appreciated what could be done with anthropology!...”
All photographs are the property of Wendy James; used with permission.