Archive for February, 2014

A day against child soldiers

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

 

Today is the International Day against the use of Child Soldiers, a United Nations sponsored campaign which aims at the universal ratification of the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.

I spent a couple of years in the late 1990’s looking at the mental landscape of war amongst former child fighters in Africa in a series called The Lord of the Flies

Here are some images.

 

Liberia - Monrovia - Two former boy fighters from Charles Taylor's militia on the streets of Monrovia argue with and threaten another boy.

Liberia – Monrovia – Two former boy fighters from Charles Taylor’s militia on the streets of Monrovia argue with and threaten another boy.

 

Uganda - Gulu - 'Andrew', 17. A former kidnapped fighter with the Lords Resistance Army, he remembers killing at least twelve. "...but only two with a machete...". Gulu, Uganda, "We are the miracles that God made to taste the bitter fruits of Time..." Ben Okri from 'An African Elegy'

Uganda – Gulu – ‘Andrew’, 17. A former kidnapped fighter with the Lords Resistance Army, he remembers killing at least twelve. “…but only two with a machete…”.  “We are the miracles that God made to taste the bitter fruits of Time…” Ben Okri from ‘An African Elegy’

 

Uganda - Gulu - 'Edward', 16 sits alone at the World Vision Centre for child abductees in Gulu Northern Uganda. Forced to fight, he is deeply traumatised by his activities with the Lords Resistance Army that he is unable to mix with other children. At night like many of his contemporaries, he wets the bed and recounts his experiences as he sleeps. Gulu, Uganda

Uganda – Gulu – ‘Edward’, 16 sits alone at the World Vision Centre for child abductees in Gulu Northern Uganda. Forced to fight, he is deeply traumatised by his activities with the Lords Resistance Army and is unable to mix with other children. At night like many of his contemporaries, he wets the bed and recounts his experiences as he sleeps.

Martyr’s Day in São Tomé and Príncipe

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

 

Yesterday was Martyr’s Day in São Tomé and Príncipe, the island nation that I visited last year on assignment for Conde Nast Traveller Magazine. I’ve posted quite a few favourite images from that assignment before (here, here, here and here) but I thought I’d show a little set of images that didn’t make the magazine cut – but that I liked …

Sao Tome - Sao Tome - Boys sit on the wall of the Avenue Marginal 12 Julho

Sao Tome – Sao Tome – Boys sit on the wall of the Avenue Marginal 12 Julho

 

Sao Tome and Principe - Principe - A man poses with his child and his bike, having just ridden out of the jungle

Sao Tome and Principe – Principe – A man poses with his child and his bike, having just ridden out of the jungle

 

Sao Tome - Sao Tome - Young men swim towards the Isla Sebastao at dusk

Sao Tome – Sao Tome – Young men swim towards the Isla Sebastao at dusk

 

There’s a bigger selection on my website here

 

 

 

 

Kathputli Colony’s last stand

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

 

I’ve written several times over the last few years about Delhi’s Kathputli Colony (or as I knew it, Shadipur Depot) – that Dickensian maze of street performers and magicians that somehow floats on the imagination of the city. This time however, it looks like the city will finally swallow the place. According to Tehelka Magazine, residents of the ‘illegal’ slum – some 3500 families that have been there for forty years – may have to move soon to a re-development far to the North. The site at Shadipur where the land was once worthless is now, as the city grows, worth a fortune. It was sold by the the Delhi Development Authority in 2009 to the Mumbai-beased Raheja Builders however, at what Tehelka suggests was seriously undervalued price to make way for a high rise developments. These would, it was promised, include social housing for the performers families. It seems though that even on paper, the proposed number of dwellings for the artists is far short of the actual number needed. Perhaps with some good reason, the artists families don’t believe that the authorities will make good on their promises to allow them back to the area when it is developed. The project is now stuck in limbo as the Delhi Urban Arts Commission has objected to it. The traditional performers are caught. If they move, they lose their homes and their livelihoods. If they stay, they are likely to be evicted and from previous scenarios that may well be violent. They know however that they are simply powerless actors in a city’s development, caught as they are between tradition and a very cruel version of modernity. Since I made a story in Shadipur nearly a dozen years ago, quite a few photographers have worked here and a film was even made of the struggles of the residents. In some senses it was an easy story; a fairy tale in a bleak metropolis. Most people’s recent treatment of it completely ignored the fact that as Delhi grows and divides even more sharply between those that produce it’s wealth and those that exploit it, the story is no longer about a quaint tinsel-town slum. It is about how Delhi will look in the future. It is about what kind of society India wants for its cities and its people.

In 2010 I wrote about the city’s sweeping of street vendors off the pavements before the Commonwealth Games and I mentioned the excellent book, Trickster City, a collection of writings by those at the sharp end of the slum clearances. As I wrote then

The irony is that many countries celebrate their street culture … and make them a tourist attraction: one has only to think of Singapore and Vietnam. Delhi’s depressing desire to imitate a corporate driven monoculture is certain to lead to a lessening of the city’s heritage.

As I’ve said many times here, I have no sentimental attachment to poverty and no Raj-tinted spectacles through which I view Delhi. I both hate and love the city but the scales are now tipped so far against certain sections of its people that I find it difficult sometimes to walk it’s streets and look some people in the eye.

You can see my original set from Shadipur here

I’ve decided to show some less well known images from the set – some that I have rediscovered. I hope you like them.

 

India - New Delhi - Reenu, 15 and her brother practice their contortions. Reenu and her family are trained by her mother, herself a former acrobat. The children, when babies, were stretched and contorted to make their bones pliable for the act. Shadipur Depot, New Delhi, India.The Kathiputli Colony in the Shadipur Depot slum is home to hundreds of (originally Rajasthani) performers. The artistes who live here - from magicians, acrobats, musicians, dancers and puppeteers are often international renowed by always return to the Shadipur slum.

India – New Delhi – Reenu, 15 and her brother practice their contortions. Reenu and her family are trained by her mother, herself a former acrobat. The children, when babies, were stretched and contorted to make their bones pliable for the act. The Kathiputli Colony in the Shadipur Depot slum is home to hundreds of (originally Rajasthani) performers. The artistes who live here – from magicians, acrobats, musicians, dancers and puppeteers are often international renowed but always return to the Shadipur slum.

 

India - New Delhi - A performers son in a gold shirt, Shadipur Depot,

India – New Delhi – A performers son in a gold shirt, Shadipur Depot,

 

Indian - New Delhi - A man and his performing monkeys. The Kathiputli Colony in the Shadipur Depot

Indian – New Delhi – A man and his performing monkeys. The Kathiputli Colony in Shadipur Depot

 

India - New Delhi - Chand Pasha, a magician produces a bird from his sleeve

India – New Delhi – Chand Pasha, a magician produces a bird from his sleeve

 

India - New Delhi - A boy on his way to perform his magic act at a wedding waits for a lift by the side of the road

India – New Delhi – A boy on his way to perform his magic act at a wedding waits for a lift by the side of the road, Shadipur Depot