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Land mines in focus

By LÉO CHARBONNEAU | DEC 03 2007

Touched by a chance encounter on an earlier trip to Cambodia, Toronto-based photographer V. Tony Hauser returned to that country in May 2006 to photograph Cambodian children who had survived land-mine accidents. The 14 children live in Siem Reap in the Cambodia Land Mines Museum, which offers a dormitory, schooling and a medical clinic.

Not quite sure where best to exhibit the life-sized portraits, Mr. Hauser approached the University of Winnipeg in early 2007 because of President Lloyd Axworthy’s leadership in implementing a treaty to ban land mines.

Dr. Axworthy eagerly accepted to host the exhibition, not least because he was planning a symposium to be held at the end of November to mark the 10th anniversary of the land mine treaty. Mr. Hauser’s photos served as a fitting backdrop to the proceedings.

But even prior to the Winnipeg event, the show had taken on a life of its own, says Mr. Hauser. There are actually two complete sets of the exhibit’s photos and they were scheduled to travel to eight Canadian universities before the end of 2007. In several instances, like at the University of Winnipeg, organizers combined the exhibit with a guest lecture, panel discussion or other teaching opportunity.

Mr. Hauser says his main objective with the exhibit is to sensitize students to the continuing scourge of land mines “and maybe get some of them to become activists.” In Cambodia alone, he says, three people a day on average are killed or injured by land mines.

The exhibit is scheduled to travel to Queen’s, St. Francis Xavier and St. Thomas universities in January and to the universities of Cape Breton, British Columbia and Victoria in February. Mr. Hauser says he’s open to further dates if other universities are interested.

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