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April 18, 2016 10:47 PM

The Art Of Preserving History

Sioux Falls, SD

You may have heard the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words". Well, a series of paintings are proving to be worth much more to some.

Creating a colorful canvas full of life is effortless for artist Deejay McCullough.

"You know art is not that hard, it's basically just silhouettes of paintings and different splashes of color,” McCullough said.

He just takes in what he thinks his subject's feeling, then let's his paint brush tell their story.
 
"When you see a painting, it creates some type of happiness, or some type of feeling of emotion where you can feel, you know you can feel it," McCullough said.
 
That's the reaction he's hoping to get when people lay eyes on his "Gilo River" piece. This is his second painting depicting some of the lost boys of Sudan's worst struggles. 

"The history about the lost boys is so touching," McCullough said.
 
"When you imagine the pain that they've been through, for them to cross a Gilo River infested with Crocodiles, like you can see that or you can imagine that, and you can just imagine the pain that they go through," McCullough said.
 
McCullough wants others to identify with the lost boys' painful past. He's partnering with Mission Hope South Sudan coordinator Lisa Marie Johnson to make sure his pieces make an impact. 

 "So this art series, it's a story book, and each piece of art is going to be another chapter if you will, in the lost boys' life," Johnson said.
 
The artwork is priced up to $5,000. Proceeds will go towards building a $250,000 Ajoung library in South Sudan to give young children better education opportunities.
 
"There's no school supplies to speak of, there's no books, so this library is going to be the actual library for the primary schools," Johnson said.
 
Three "lost boys" who are now grown men, are grateful McCullough and Johnson are helping give back to people living in their native country. For them, it seems like it was just yesterday that they were fleeing their villages to escape war in South Sudan.

""Hyenas, lions, and we actually survived with the leaf of the tree because we wouldn't have no food," Atem Juowei said.
 
Just a little more than 30 years ago, they were among 20 thousand people traveling thousands of miles by foot to find safety in neighboring countries. While thousands died, they lived and today, they're resettled in Sioux Falls.

Though the past is behind them, McCullough’s paintings bring back vivid memories.

"The first time I stepped in here and looked at it, I felt so bad for what happened in the past," Lual Agutdau said.

At the same time, the works of art mean a lot to them. They're hoping the pieces help buyers understand their past, so it won't ever happen again.

"This painting… we would like to let people know that this is the life that we've been through," Atem said.
 
"If there is any way the people look in to it, and understand what the life is like, you know I think that will be helpful," Samuel Bior said, "The history of the lost boys has been heard."
 
For McCullough, he's just trying to save a life, one paint brush stroke at a time.
 
"We're just creating something that's really beneficial for Sudan, for the people of Sudan, and for the pain and the suffering that they've been through," he said.

McCullough and Johnson want everyone to be able to have a piece of the lost boys' history hanging on their wall, so they're planning to make smaller copies that are more affordable.

If you'd like to buy one, they'll soon be available on the Mission Hope South Sudan web page.
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