Nigeria: A Collective Suffering

 

The almost weekly killings and atrocities in Nigeria rarely hit the news anymore. The earlier news coverage of the Chibok schoolgirls’ kidnapping by Boko Haram has cooled and few have yet heard of the current terroristic activities of the Fulani herdsmen. Yet, in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria, where southern-majority Christian farmers and northern-majority Muslim nomadic herders mix and often collide, the Fulani herdsmen are wreaking havoc in village after village, killing over 1,300 people in the first six months of 2018.

This is the story CT Magazine sent writer Jeremy Weber and me to cover. Jeremy writes, “Weary of attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen, Christians in Nigeria ask how long they’re supposed to ‘count it all joy’” and turn the other cheek. It is a complicated story to cover, fraught with fear, danger, suspicion, threats, and violence.

We went from village to village in five states of Nigeria, hearing story after story of carnage and survivors fearing new attacks by the Fulani. During our time there, we did not come into any direct conflict. But, a day after we left the country, over 200 people were killed in some of the areas we had just visited.

I shot portraits of survivors of attacks and daily life in the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps, traveling light, with just two bodies and four lenses. Even though it was hard for the survivors to recount their stories of horror and hardships, they all wanted their stories shared with a world audience. I have a notebook that lists the name and age of each portrait subject’s relatives killed by either Boko Haram or the Fulani. “Isaiah was killed…in her presence.” “Esther lost her daughter as a result of sickness while being held captive for four months.” “Rachel gave birth to her son while being held captive before her escape.” Everywhere we went they told us, “Please tell our story…of our suffering people.” 

The collective misery of these people is heart-wrenching, but the power of photography and story-telling can and does move people to action against injustice. My hope is that the words and photos in this piece will bring needed attention to raise awareness and effect change. 

 

To see the full story, click HERE.

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