Aronowitsch & Heilborn

Slaves

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CountrySweden
Date2008
Medium/DimensionsVideo animation, 15’
CreditsCourtesy of the artists
VenueCCA

Based on an interview conducted in 2003, Slaves is an animated documentary about possibly the most disturbing economic subject to be encountered in ECONOMY: the child slave of the 21st century. In Slaves two children narrate their harrowing experiences as subhuman underage workers. The actual voices of the children tell a story illustrated with unreal images. Animation, popular with children, is here a separating screen, a form of showing without revealing. Indeed, the artists’ turn to the aesthetics of animation is not unrelated to concerns about liberated children’s safety. But it is also a response to the question of how to unblur what remains hidden, impossible to capture on camera and yet real.

Slaves’ protagonists are Abuk, nine, and Machiek, fifteen years old. Their testimonies speak of the devastating fate of thousands of children abducted by the government-sponsored militia in Sudan to be used as slave labour. Some children were eventually liberated by CEAWC (Committee for the Eradication of Abduction of Women and Children). The children tell a story where all barriers commonly associated with a shared regime of ethics break down: torture and exhaustion beyond measure is what defines the children’s world of unpaid work.