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.
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.
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.
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.
Time to Act: Rohingya Voices runs in the Level 6 Expressions gallery from June 16, 2019 to September 1, 2020.
We are grateful for the support of Air Canada for this exhibition.