reed magazine logowinter2006
uganda imageSeeing the World in More Than Black and White

Ethan Rafal ’07 faced down Ugandan army interrogators and tropical disease
to photograph former child-soldiers.

By Mitchell Hartman

There’s a haunting image mid-way through Ethan Rafal’s stream-of-consciousness essay about the time he spent in northern Uganda on a Reed arts scholarship last summer. Rafal describes sitting in a bar in the town of Gulu, near a squalid refugee camp called Pabbo, which is home to thousands of formerly abducted child-soldiers.

Rafal notices a group of children peeking in to watch international satellite news on the TV above the bar. The top story: An 18-year-old Alabama girl has disappeared in Aruba. A massive search has been launched. Many of these children have seen their families massacred; they’ve survived abduction, rape, mutilation, and forced conscription into war-criminal Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. Now, they watch with rapt attention as the Western media obsesses over a single missing American teenager.

Welcome to the politically charged world of Ethan Rafal, one of four recipients of a 2005 Locher Summer Creative Scholarship.

“Ethan’s one of those students who you don’t educate, because he has his own agenda,” says Associate Professor Gerri Ondrizek, Rafal’s adviser in the art department. “He’s very independent, with an intense work ethic. There’s an element of risk and danger that’s necessary to him. There’s a bit of romanticizing, too.”

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