Witchcraft and human rights: from horror to hope

18 September 2018 15:36
Two little boys victims of a witchcraft-related attack in which their arms have been cut off © Under the Same Sun, a Canadian NGO that promotes the wellbeing of people with albinism through education and advocacy.

A moving and powerful photographic exhibition, funded by Lancaster University, will herald a two-day ‘roundtable’ on albinism and human rights at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva.

The exhibition, which features 20 poignant images, is being held at the Palais des Nations to coincide with the 39th session of the Human Rights Council at the UN this month.

The UN Independent Expert on Albinism, the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network and Lancaster University have organised the exhibition, entitled ‘Witchcraft and human rights: from horror to hope’, to build upon the first-ever international workshop on the issue of witchcraft and human rights held last year.

The aim is to further highlight the grave human rights abuses that are taking place around the world due to beliefs in witchcraft.

Lancaster University academic Dr Charlotte Baker, who has published widely on albinism in Africa and Lancaster University honorary graduate and human rights advocate Gary Foxcroft have worked with UN Independent Expert on Albinism Ikponwosa Ero to bring the exhibition together.

In numerous countries, witchcraft-related beliefs have resulted in serious violations of human rights including, beatings, banishment, the cutting of body parts, and amputation of limbs, torture and murder.

Women, children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities particularly persons with albinism, are particularly vulnerable. Despite the seriousness of these human rights abuses, there is often no robust state-led response.

By bringing together four of the world’s most well-respected photographers working in the field of Human Rights with images gathered by the NGO ‘Under the Same Sun’, this exhibition, which opens on September 19 for six weeks, will further shine a light on some of the 21st century’s most horrific human rights abuses, so that solutions may be identified to prevent further cases being recorded.

The exhibition will capture the global scale of the human rights abuses that take place due to beliefs in witchcraft.

Across three continents the images, map stories of horror and hope, and explore the multiple nuances of the different beliefs in witchcraft in India, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania.

The experiences of children, women, the elderly, and those living with disabilities such as albinism will be highlighted to give some of the world’s most marginalised people a voice in the UN Human Rights Council.

Speaking about the exhibition Dr Baker says: “The photographic exhibition brings together the work of some of the world’s leading photographers to highlight the consequences of the harmful beliefs associated with beliefs in witchcraft. We are working to draw attention to this important human rights issue that has, by and large, slipped under the radar of governments, NGOs and academics.”

Gary Foxcroft, the Executive Director of the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network, says: “This is the first time that an exhibition has been curated on these issues and highlights the true global scale in the crisis in human rights that has been brought about by beliefs in witchcraft.

“Whilst the horror of these abuses is apparent in the images used, the exhibition also highlights the amazing work being carried out by families, activists, policy makers and academics to fight such harmful practices and provides hope that, one day soon, solutions will be found to put a stop to further abuses.” 

The photographic exhibition includes 20 images by:

·        Christo Geoghegan, an award-winning documentary photographer, filmmaker, on-screen correspondent and journalist based in London.

·        Robin Hammond, an award-winning photographer who has dedicated his career to documenting human rights and development issues around the world through long-term photographic projects.

·        Vlad Sokhin, a documentary photographer, videographer and multimedia producer. He covers social, cultural, environmental, health and human rights issues around the world, including post-conflict and natural disaster zones.

·        Joe Wood, a documentary photographer who is passionate about people and their stories, particularly stories of the underrepresented and different approaches to well-known subjects. Environmental issues, money and community are central themes in his work.

·        Under the Same Sun, a Canadian NGO that promotes the wellbeing of people with albinism through education and advocacy.

Six-year-old Baraka Cosmas Rusambo (pictured above left) lost his right hand in a witchcraft-related attack in western Tanzania. His mother also sustained serious machete injuries to her head. 17 people were arrested. Ten-year-old Mwigulu Matonange (pictured above right) was attacked and his left arm chopped off above the elbow in western Tanzania. Three men were arrested. Both boys have albinism.

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