Life after suicide
Photographer Patricia Esteve opened an exhibition about suicide in Nairobi, Kenya, where it’s considered a crime
Out of This Life is a conceptual and very personal photo-project about suicide. Catalan photographer Patricia Esteve is exhibiting this work at The Kenya Cultural Centre in Nairobi, in a country where suicide is forbidden. According to the Kenyan Penal Code, “any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour,” punishable up to two years in prison! On top of that, there is also the social stigma for those who tried or their relatives, normally mistreated and disgraced by the community. Many people think suicidal tendencies are contagious.
Patricia’s courage is not only for exhibiting such taboo in Kenya and inviting the society to openly “talk about suicide”. It’s also brave to develop visuals out of such a difficult topic. As many characters prefer to keep concealed and some others are no longer alive, conceptual and creative shots help to show Patricia’s perspective (and sensitivity) on this matter: a starry sky, a set of newspapers clippings, a tree, farewell notes, a paper boat. A collection of beautiful images that adds some hope and poetry, such the loneliness of the gay activist George Barassa, laying on the mattress of a safe house. Brilliant shot!
The land of abandoned wonders
Liberia shows a range of abandoned buildings and ships with historical legacy and tourist potential
More than six years ago, on my first and only trip to Doha, Qatar, I experienced negative impressions of a city with huge skyscrapers, brand new buildings without any personality. And that’s what I remember now that I’m about to leave Liberia, where I have good feelings for being a country with fantastic hidden places and surprises. And among them, the hundreds of monumental elements that, due to the civil war or the slow path of development, have been abandoned. Hotels, ships, factories and many houses are deteriorating, deforming and blackening while time passes. Each one has its story: tragic, curious or even funny. They are part of the Liberian landscape. Some of them are inhabited by squatters. In others, some people get profits after charging fees to tourists. And all are public and visible, joining the slow rebirth of a punished country, hoping that one day the government or a private companies will rebuild or collapse forever. But meanwhile, probably for a long time, they will continue to give us an attractive visual.
Knowing nothing about nobody
International operations in Africa often show the lack of mutual understanding.
Joseph (fictional name) lives at the former UN base in Tubmanburg, in Liberia. This is a small town that the peacekeeping mission (UNMIL) left a year ago, as part of its withdrawal. Joseph and his family work as security guards of this camp, which does not seem to have any particular use since it belongs to the local government.
One day, a convoy of peacekeepers arrives and stops to rest in this old base. After doing an inspection, the peacekeepers find an orchard and decide to harvest some vegetables and eat them. But they did not know that they belonged to Joseph and his family. Very angry, the old man goes to the peacekeepers and explain them, with some language barriers, that these were his.
– You have not even asked for permission! -exclaims.
Shortly after, the peacekeepers come back with olive oil, juice, medicines… everything for him. They apologize and leave ashamed. And when the troops finally leave the compound, Joseph gets upset again.
– Very good. You gave me back what you took from me. But now you are leaving without giving me anything for real?
Too late. The convoy is already departing and the peacekeepers look at him from their vehicles with disconcerted faces. Joseph has no more words and waves to them without understanding anything.
The situation is a good representation of what happens when the international community operates in territories where most of the people know nothing about nobody. And neither side seems to make any effort.
Liberia opens a new political era, far from the fratricidal war of 15 years ago
After two years covering the nonsense of war and hunger in South Sudan, where there is little room for optimism and a discouraging repetition of humanitarian misfortunes, I landed a month ago in Liberia where the context is completely different and, although not ideal, it seems a real breath of fresh air. George Weah, known as a former soccer star, is now the president of his country. For the first time, the inauguration ceremony on the 22nd was hold in the largest stadium in Monrovia. A gesture for more than 30,000 people who could witness, and mostly celebrate, the beginning of a new political stage. In a country where corruption and inequalities are still constant, I find that hope and the desire to move forward change the way to look at Africa. I really needed it.
Lessons given by children in South Sudan always put things in their place.
Charged batteries, empty memory cards, clean camera and lenses, notebook and pen, bottle of water, a hat… All ready for a new day in South Sudan. Today I’m working for UNICEF, the UN agency that protects children rights around the world. We are going to report on hunger and malnutrition that many families suffer in this country, so that the international community becomes more aware and helps with more money. The cause is legitimate enough to allow me to work with some pride. We arrive in a house where women and children smile. Photographs come out easily because there is honesty and sincerity in that house. Children express their feelings openly. Like the smile of one of the girls who comes to me with open arms. I feel beloved. “Nice!”, I think when I understand that the girl, in her own way, comes to thank me for the work I’ve been doing for years. I interpret the girl honours photography as a tool for awareness. The girl reaches my legs, grabs the pants and, keeping her smile, looks up to me and literally says: “White man, you came to bring us food, right?”.