Time to Act: Rohingya Voices (Level 6 - Expressions)

June 16, 2019 to March 28, 2021

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Rohingya women, children and men wade through waist-high muddy river water. Some carry young children, while others carry bags of possessions, including household items.

Photograph by Kevin Frayer, courtesy of Kevin Frayer and Getty Images

Exhibition details

The Rohingya people of Myanmar are in the midst of a massive displacement of families and communities to refugee camps in Bangladesh. After decades of violent persecution, they suffered the genocide of their people by Myanmar military forces, followed by an ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Time to Act: Rohingya Voices compassionately portrays the plight of the Rohingya people. It also captures their call to the world to recognize Myanmar’s effort to dehumanize and eradicate them. People and communities worldwide are compelled to consider what action to take.

A culture under siege

The Rohingya people are an ethnic population, largely Muslim, from Myanmar (formerly Burma), a majority Buddhist country. They have a distinct language and culture, with deep roots in Rakhine State, also called Arakan.

For decades, Myanmar’s government has denied Rohingya their rights and citizenship. Military forces perpetrate massacres against them and destroy their communities.

A soldier with a rifle on his back blocks a group of Rohingya before they cross a makeshift bridge. His left hand is raised, gesturing for them to stop.

A soldier blocking a group of Rohingya trying to cross into Bangladesh, 2017. Refugees were often threatened or turned away at checkpoints en route to refugee camps.

Photograph by Kevin Frayer, courtesy of Kevin Frayer and Getty Images

Declaration of genocide

Violence escalated in 2017 when a small group of Rohingya rebels attacked local police bases. The military retaliated by burning entire villages and committing atrocities against civilians. Close to one million Rohingya fled to refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

In September 2018, the Government of Canada and the United Nations condemned the atrocities and declared the actions of the Myanmar military an act of genocide. Displaced Rohingya around the world are calling out for awareness and action.

Hundreds of Rohingya children, most of them crouched or sitting down, wait in long lines for food. The line-ups are separated by long rows of bamboo poles.

Refugee Rohingya children lining up for food, Bangladesh, 2017. Aid agencies at the massive camps struggle to provide vital resources for hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Photograph by Kevin Frayer, courtesy of Kevin Frayer and Getty Images

Documenting a crisis

Time to Act: Rohingya Voices was developed by the Museum in collaboration with photojournalist Kevin Frayer and a group of Rohingya and Burmese community members who live in Canada.

Frayer’s photographs appear in this exhibition as part of a larger body of his work from 2017 called Desperate Journey: The Rohingya Exodus. The photographs document the flight of Rohingya refugees from deadly violence in Myanmar and the physical hardships of life in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Members of the Rohingya community who live in Canada contributed video footage, photographs, artifacts and interviews to the exhibition. These elements not only document the humanitarian and refugee crisis in Bangladesh, but also community life in Canada.

Some community members are also participants in a voice‐driven interactive experience. When you visit the exhibition, you can get to know them and their life experiences through a personal exchange of questions and answers.

Several people looking at a display of colour digital photographs in a museum.
Photo: CMHR, Aaron Cohen

About Kevin Frayer

Kevin Frayer is an award‐winning Canadian photojournalist. A three‐time Pulitzer Prize finalist, he has been recognized by organizations including the Overseas Press Club of America and World Press Photo. Frayer’s photographs of the Rohingya exodus have earned international attention and are part of the permanent collection at London’s prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum.

You always feel like you never photograph enough. Or see enough. Or hear enough. If the pictures – no matter how fleeting – can cause people to be moved to care in some way, then it is worth it.

Kevin Frayer

Time to Act: Rohingya Voices runs in the Level 6 Expressions gallery from June 16, 2019 to March 28, 2021.

We are grateful for the support of Air Canada for this exhibition.

Dive deeper

Rohingya women call for justice

By Paula Kelly

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A group of Rohingya women and men carry young children and belongings as they walk in a line over an earthen dike over a stretch of water.

Rohingya

We invite you to explore this guide as a starting point in learning more about the Rohingya people.

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A museum gallery featuring photographs projected onto large screens with seating in the middle of the room.