Geneva (ICRC) – In Quechua, suyay means “to wait”. It has been 18 years since the end of the armed conflict in Peru, but 20,000 families are still waiting for news of their missing loved ones. The work of photographer Laia Abril, exhibited at the Centre de la Photographie Genève from 7 to 25 November, explores and bears witness to the burden they carry, the ordeal of searching for so long, and the way life stops when a loved one disappears without trace.
“For these families, absence is a suffocating presence – some have been living with it for twenty or thirty years,” says photographer Laia Abril.
Through her work, Laia Abril makes their pain visible, exploring their memories, resilience and creativity. Thousands of people in Peru are in limbo, waiting for news of their missing loved ones. They are suspended between life and death: not able to mourn or move forward.
"Today the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is searching for 100,000 missing people, our highest case-load in 15 years," says the ICRC vice-president Gilles Carbonnier. “Each case represents a family searching for a missing loved one – a wife searching for her husband for decades, or a son yearning to grow up with a missing father. These images, taken with a great deal of humanity and sensitivity, thrust us into the heart of these individual tragedies.”
It is impossible to know exactly how many people are missing today as a result of armed conflicts, migration or natural disasters. But their fate, and the impact on their families, communities and society as a whole, is a pressing humanitarian issue that must not be ignored. We must seek answers. For more than 100 years, the ICRC has been defending families’ right to know. Finding out what happened to their missing loved ones, today or in ten years, is a humanitarian act and a legal right.
Laia Abril, born in Barcelona in 1986, is a multidisciplinary artist working with photography, text, video and sound. Her work has been recognized by the Tim Hetherington Trust Visionary Award 2018 and the Madame Figaro Photo Award 2016, and she has been nominated for the Prix Elysée.
Note for editors:
The Suyay exhibition, organized in partnership with the ICRC, took place at the Centre de la Photographie Genève from 7 to 25 November. A preview event was held on 6 November 2018 at 6pm, in the presence of Laia Abril, Adelina García (former president of the Peruvian National Association of Families of the Kidnapped, Detained and Missing), Gilles Carbonnier (ICRC vice-president) and Joerg Bader (director of the Centre de la Photographie Genève).