In our own Words: Soldiers share their thoughts on war in Afghanistan at Imperial War Museum

By Nick Owen | 26 September 2011
Soldiers sharing their thoughts
Troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade share their thoughts on comment cards© Derek Eland
Exhibition: In Our Own Words: Soldiers' Thoughts from Afghanistan, Imperial War Museum North, Manchester, October 1 2011 - June 24 2012

“My abiding memory of Afghanistan? It will be a humble local farmer who one day took me by surprise by asking after my family. ‘You are far from home. You must miss your family very much. We are very grateful.’”

Taken from Derek Eland’s new installation at Imperial War Museum North, this is one of the many quotes that the paratrooper turned artist risked life and limb to collate in Afghanistan this year.

The exhibition, In our own Words, presents the honest and personal thoughts of soldiers from 16 Air Assault Brigade recorded on small pieces of card while on tour.

Artist Derek Eland with troops in Afghanistan
Soldier turned artist Derek Eland with troops in Afghanistan
© Derek Eland
“It is essentially a unique self-portrait of this modern conflict, written at the time by soldiers in their own words”, says Eland.

“It was an enormous privilege to spend time with these soldiers at the front line and to help create this extraordinary piece of artwork”.

In our own Words is part of the Imperial War Museum’s Reactions series, where artists are invited to display work exploring how war shapes lives.

While in Afghanistan, Eland created a "diary room" experience for the troops, providing them with blank cards and offering them the opportunity to record their thoughts.

From the remarkable to the mundane, the extraordinary to the everyday, the ruminations displayed are at times brutally simplistic. Others are movingly eloquent.

Images captured by Eland are also on show alongside the weather-stained cards, and visitors also have the opportunity to respond by leaving their own thoughts.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the start of the war, the Museum is also holding an exhibition examining the world of war reportage.

War Correspondent holds the burqa that John Simpson wore while reporting undercover in Afghanistan in 2001, as well as a Soviet grenade launcher captured from the Taliban.

  • Open 10am-5pm. Admission free.

Comment cards from the exhibition:

One of the cards on display
© Derek Eland
One of the cards on display
© Derek Eland
One of the cards on display
© Derek Eland
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