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UConn Art Show Focuses on China's Uighur People

Courtesy: UConn Muslim Student Association
"Closer to God Shouldn't Mean Closer to Death," a color drawing by UConn sophomore Morgan Moliengo

The University of Connecticut’s Muslim Student Association is hosting a virtual art show and contest Thursday evening to raise awareness about the plight of China’s Uighur population.

A recent report from the publication Foreign Policy found that over 1.5 million Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority, have been forced into so-called “re-education” camps in Northern China. The Chinese government is accused of subjecting interred Uighurs to forced sterilization, forced abortion and other atrocities. The report concluded that the humanitarian crisis meets the United Nations definition of genocide.

“They are being tortured quite gruesomely, women are being raped,” said Khaleel Rahman, a biological sciences major at UConn and one of the organizers of the event. “Children are being separated from their families. So, it’s this surreal, dystopian, modern-day holocaust. Millions of people are being stripped of their religion. The goal of this is to erase the Uighur identity.”

UConn’s Muslim Student Association wanted to make the campus more aware of the dire situation facing China’s Uighurs, but with so many students studying remotely, they had to get creative. Bullhorn speeches, large signs and campus protests simply would not reach the UConn community this semester like it normally would.

So they decided to invite students from UConn, as well as college students from around the world, to submit their own art, with the hope that an art show might just elicit the kind of attention this humanitarian crisis deserves.

“They had the idea to try and have the students showcase their own creativity, and really personalize this crisis,” said Rahman. “It’s hard to fathom -- a million people being put in concentration camps -- you can’t imagine that kind of suffering. But depict one person’s struggle or one aspect I think is a lot more powerful and hopefully will resonate with the UConn community and anyone who attends the art show.”

Rahman said the 18 works of art presented in the show are eclectic and bring home what the Uighur people are facing in China.

“We’ve had drawings, we’ve had multimedia entries, musical compositions, video, using all of these different mediums to really personalize this crisis,” said Rahman. “That emotional connection that can only happen through art is so powerful, and we hope that is what’s going to resonate with people and get people to take action.”

Tonight’s virtual event also features opening remarks by UConn President Thomas Katsouleas, and a talk by Uighur activist and former political prisoner Tahir Imin. The show gets underway at 7 p.m. at instagram.com/uconnmsa.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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