Mrs. Sinou: “I refuse to do it to my children. This will stay on my face only.”
Mr. Boudo: “It is not easy to hit on girls with that. Especially, the Ivorians. I think it is not very attractive.”
Mr. Konabé: “Our parents did this not to get lost in life. When you went somewhere, you could not get lost.”
In the large Ivory Coast city of Abidjan it was once common to see Hââbré, the ancient custom of scarification. Today only the older people wear scarifications and when Joana Choumali decided to photograph them for her series “Haabre, The Last Generation 2013-2014″ she had a hard time finding people to pose for her.
“Scarification is the practice of performing a superficial incision in the human skin. This practice is disappearing due to the pressure of religious and state authorities, urban practices and the introduction of clothing in tribes.”
Choumali photographed the participants against a neutral backdrop in the attempt to remove any stigma or judgment from the images. On her website she pairs two images for each portrait—one from behind and one from the front or side, showing the scars. This is an interesting choice which seems to reinforce the idea that the scarification serves as an identity card of sorts. Where people are interchangeable from the back, they are marked and classified and unmistakable from the front. The images are also accompanied by quotes.
“Opinions (sometimes conflicting) of our witnesses illustrate the complexity of African identity today in a contemporary Africa torn between its past and its future. This “last generation” of people bearing the imprint of the past on their faces, went from being the norm and having a high social value to being somewhat ‘excluded.’”
It’s intriguing to note that while Hââbré is becoming extinct in Africa, it is gaining popularity as “body modification” in other areas of the world. According to National Geographic “over the last seven or eight years scarification has become remarkably widespread in the U.S. and Australia and across Europe, from London to Prague.” Is it cultural appropriation or appreciation? Will these scars start as emblems of individuality and end up, as in Africa, visual reminders of regret? (via feature shoot)
Shocking photographs of acid attack victims shine light on Bangladesh’s cruel reality of frequent mutilation acts. The project called “Survivors” was made by an award-winning photographer Ken Hermann and video journalist Tai Klan. The duo visited Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh, aspiring to document the heartbreaking stories of people disfigured by acid attacks.
Rejection to have an affair, refusing to get married, land or marital disputes are the most common reasons for attacks often performed by close relatives, neighbors or a spouse. Majority of such violence acts are directed against young women and children who then are scarred for the rest of their lives. Medical treatments and surgeries are a mere utopia.
But there is an unbelievably inspiring side even to this tragedy: people captured in Hermann’s photographs refuse to see themselves as victims. Their portraits radiate extreme resilience and profoundness. According to the photographer, his goal was to portray these people by emphasizing their beauty and strength rather than displaying them as freaks.
“I have nothing to hide. I look at myself and love myself for who I have become in spite of what I have suffered”,—says Umma Aysha Siddike Nila, who was 15 years old when her husband burnt all of her face and parts of her upper arms with acid.
Many people whose lives were affected by acid attacks have devoted themselves to fight against the rooted custom. Thanks to people like Nila and bigger organizations such as Acid Survivor Foundation, there has been an 85% decline in recorded acid attack cases.