“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
President Trump in a January 22nd interview with CNBC.

“One afternoon he walks past a man selling cobras on the sidewalk. The snakes look as if they’re dead, exhausted by the demands of a hectic life and wishing to return to that other, safer jungle.

On the opposite side of the street, children gather around a blind man who sells colourful balloons.

Around the lake the homeless sleep on stone benches. Autumn leaves fall and make a soft carpet on the grass. The city is crowded, but sad. One day he set out to go to an office to work, but when he got to the street he turned round and went back, going upstairs and closing the door behind him.

Picture postcards from his writing life.”

From The Sorrow of War by Bảo Ninh.

The Bind Man's Colorful Balloons is an exploration of Northern Vietnam using Bảo Ninh’s beautiful and influential novel as the guiding text.
“On bad nights he would lose control altogether and break down, sobbing into his pillow. Yet he knew that if she returned to him both of them would suffer again.”
“Nothing lasted forever in this world, he knew that. Even love and sorrow inside an aging man would finally dissipate under the realization that his suffering, his tortured thoughts, were small and meaningless in the overall scheme of things. Like wispy smoke spiraling into the sky, glimpsed for a moment, then gone.”
“But war was a world with no home, no roof, no comforts. A miserable journey, of endless drifting. War was a world without real men, without real women, without feeling.”
“The sorrow of war inside a soldier’s heart was in a strange way similar to the sorrow of love. It was a kind of nostalgia, like the immense sadness of a world at dusk. It was a sadness, a missing, a pain which could send one soaring back into the past. The sorrow of the battlefield could not normally be pinpointed to one particular event, or even one person. If you focused on any one event it would soon become a tearing pain.”
“On bad nights he would lose control altogether and break down, sobbing into his pillow. Yet he knew that if she returned to him both of them would suffer again.”

“He saw his life as a river with himself standing unsteadily at the peak of a tall hill, silently watching his life ebb from him, saying farewell to himself. The flow of his life focused and refocused and each moment of that stream was recalled, each event, each memory was a drop of water in his nameless, ageless river.”

Sinjar to Lincoln is a combined web and text message story. To begin the experience, please text "go" to 720-903-1671.
The Yazidis are an ancient religious group based around Mt. Sinjar in Northern Iraq. Long persecuted, they first began coming to America during Sadam Hussein’s purges in the 1990’s, and a community of Yazidis was established in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Many Yazidis worked for the coalition forces as interpreters during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which led to threats and attempts on their lives. A category of Special Immigrant Visas was created to allow interpreters and their families to come to the U.S., many of whom continued to come to Lincoln, growing the community from 1,200 to 2,500 immigrants by mid 2014

Parker received a phone call from his twin brother on the evening of August 2nd, telling him that ISIS was attacking Yazidi towns and moving towards their family farm. His brother and many others went to the state capitol to protest, continuing on to Washington DC, resulting in US led airstrikes against ISIS forces and drops of humanitarian supplies.

Oras’s wedding, like the rest in the Yazidi community, was called off, and celebrations of all kinds were stopped for 2 years as an act of mourning. Yazidis who had experienced the genocide are moving to Lincoln in large numbers, with those already there helping the newcomers settle and grieve. Manjay and Jameel’s wedding, in November, 2016, was one of the first to be held as the community, which has more than doubled since 2014, begins to normalize.

Wedding guests.

Faisal’s father, who is still in Iraq, is one of the most famous Yazidi singers. Singers pass on the community’s oral history, traditions and religious beliefs. Singers, typically paired with a tunbur player, are the center point of every Yazidi celebration. There are few Yazidi singers in the US, so Faisal is training to follow in his father’s footsteps.

When a Yazidi dies, the body is washed, water or clay from Lalish is put into the mouth, and then the body is immediately buried on Mt Sinjar with the head pointed east and the face turned to the North Star. When ISIS attacked, however, they destroyed shrines and burial sites. That, combined with the continuing insecurity in the region, makes the possibility of returning to the old way of burial unlikely. The cemetery in Lincoln is a final step in shifting their futures from the returning to the mountains of Northern Iraq to the plains of eastern Nebraska.

Sinjar to Lincoln is a colaboration between Benjamin Rasmussen and Mike Shum.

“We were sleeping in our house when the water invaded the street.”
Jhonie Rose

“The last wave I saw was as high as the coconut trees you can see outside.”
Albina Consultado

“I saw a man floating near our backyard, so I broke our window threw out a rope to him.”
Dondi Tome

We lost hope that we would live.
Krishia Kaezzie Marie Ecap

My 12-year-old son was found dead in the mangrove trees, but my 17-year-old daughter was never found. Forty days after the storm we found a body, but couldn’t identify it. We buried it in our backyard hoping that it is her.
Apolinario Bagman

I lived with my son and his house was destroyed by the waves. We fled to this cave during the storm and I stayed. I have nowhere else to go.
Fortunato Quilbio

There were 53 of us who evacuated to that house and three died. My mother was among those eaten by the big waves.
Jennifer Codillo

I was so sad looking at those ruins. Our house was completely destroyed. But I wasn’t able to cry, I was just sad.
Tryon Antofina

Before the big waves splashed the house and before my parents died, I saw them praying the rosary. They were pulled out by the big waves while holding hands and repeating “My God.”
Editha Barcial Agao

I am a fisherman, but after the typhoon there was nothing left. Of the 70 boats in town, only 3 survived.
Silvano Barcial

We were in the day care center and my cousin was trapped in the other room. I could hear her voice as she begged for help, but I couldn’t reach her. Her body was found the next day.
Clemencia Gura

And that is when I was told that my father had died.

Edsam Gura

“I planted an olive tree here so we could feel like we were in Syria. If Bashar goes away we would go to Syria, sit by the olive trees and we would sleep and eat and drink there.”
Abdul Rahman Mounir Al-Zalem

“I defected from the military and joined the FSA because of the killing, the crimes and the destruction. A protest would start and the regime would start firing and arresting people.”
Mohammad Mounir Al-Zamel

“I will give birth this week and I think that by the time my unborn son is able to return to Syria, he will be aware of the world and at least 4 or 5 years old. I will name him Mohamed after my brother, who was martyred while fighting with the FSA.”

“My daughters are frightened because of all that they have witnessed. They feel scared at night. When they hear an airplane over our house, they tell me “Dad, they are going to hit us with bombs!” When they hear fireworks from a wedding, they ask, ‘Is that the army, are they coming here?’”
Abu Feras

“They took off my shoes and socks and beat my feat with a metal rod until they were both broken. At first I made no noise, but finally I screamed.”

“I am very tired, very, very tired, because I am without documents, as are my son and the son of my son. They say that I am no longer Jordanian because I have Palestinian roots.”
Muhmoud Ali Abo

“I was one of the first people to enter into Za'atari When we first came here, not only was there nothing, there wasn’t even life itself. There weren't flies, there weren't ants. There was no life here, not even ghosts.”
Abu Hussein

We lived in a tornado. At one point we thought that Assad may be gone in a month or two and now this is the third year and he has yet to go.
Zidan Abdullah Zidan

We hope that things will calm down and go home. We don't want to live in Jordan. There's nothing like home.

The Syrian civil war, now in its seventh year, began when a group of young people spray painted anti-regime graffiti on the walls of their school. Their arrest, detention and torture let to protests and a violent crackdown by the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The series of actions and reactions has led to the deaths of an estimated 115,000 Syrians and caused two million more to flee the country. More than 500,000 of these refugees have headed south to neighboring Jordan. Most Jordan-bound refugees pass through the Zaatari camp, whose current population of 113,000 makes it the second largest refugee camp in the world. The rest have spread throughout Jordan, settling in for what they believe to be a long separation from their homes and communities as they wait out a war with no end in sight.

By The Olive Trees was produced as a newsprint publication in collaboration with Michael Friberg and distributed widely through exhibitions, artist’s talks and partners.

Ben@benjaminrasmussenphoto.com · 720.514.1267