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shackled in south sudan

October 25, 2013


Harrowing Photos of the Mentally Ill in Sub-Saharan Africa

Robin Hammond—Panos
Severely mentally disabled men and women are shackled and locked away in Juba Central Prison for years on end. The new nation of South Sudan faces a tremendous challenge to build a modern country capable of caring for all of its citizens. Juba, Sudan. January 2011.

At its most elemental, photojournalism documents conflict — conflict between individuals, between nations, between ideologies, between humanity and nature. Literally and figuratively, photographers capture conflagrations large and small. Some burn strong and fast; others — often the more frightening, and more destructive — burn more slowly. They smolder.

Tonight, Robin Hammond, a New Zealand-born photojournalist, received the $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his attention to one of the sub-Saharan Africa’s slowly burning fires: the plight of the mentally ill.

“Where there is war, famine, displacement, it is always the most vulnerable who suffer the greatest” says Hammond. The mentally ill, he notes, are a “voiceless minority condemned to lives of quiet misery.”

Based in South Africa, Hammond traveled for two years to regions of severe crisis — eastern Congo, Mogadishu, northern Uganda, Liberia and South Sudan — photographing in stark detail the barbaric conditions endured by tens of thousands of Africa’s mentally ill. Broken, largely forgotten, the mentally ill suffer abominable degradations, literally chained and caged throughout their days.

Time and time again while working on his project, Hammond found himself at a loss for words in the face of the unspeakable.

“I discovered a entire section of communities abandoned by their governments, forgotten by the aid community, neglected and abused by entire societies,” he said. “This is not just a document of what shouldn’t be. This work is my protest.”

Hammond will use the $30,000 grant to finish the project. A book of the winning work, titled Condemned, is now available through FotoEvidence.

Javier Arcenillas, a Spanish photographer and clinical psychologist, received a $5000 runner-up award from the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund for his project, Red Note: Violence in Latin America. Documenting some of Latin America’s most violent communities — cities like Mexico City, San Salvador and San Pedro Sula — Arcenillas photographed the perpetrators of violence and their victims.

 LightBox previously featured the work of 2012 winner Peter van Agtmael and 2011 winner Krisanne Johnson.

Robin Hammond is a photojournalist based in South Africa. TIME previously featured Hammond’s work documenting Zimbabwe under Mugabe.

Vaughn Wallace is the producer of LightBox. Follow him on Twitter @vaughnwallace.

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14 people listening
heyrachaelk 7 days ago

My parents grew up in Uganda and the majority of my family lives there, including my mentally ill aunt Sarah. I can say that treatment facilities for mentally ill people are terrible. My grandparents took Sarah to one for a week when she was young and never made that mistake again. She came back bruised, scarred, and starved. This topic needs more attention.

GraceCassar 7 days ago

its horryfing that people like this be forgotten or negleted ,they need so much care .really barbaric way to treat other human being 

Vincenzo De Luca
Vincenzo De Luca from Facebook7 days ago

There are those of you who don’t belief in the Lord. I know this too well; I used to be an atheist. And there are those who will claim that images like these are proof that the Lord isn’t real. It’s an easy conclusion to draw from seeing these photo’s or any images of suffering. But it’s a mistake, and it is just a failure to see that the Lord is there especially when we are suffering. This probably sounds like some sort of sermon from a nut-case to all of you who don’t believe in God. Well, I would have agreed with you only 2 1/2 years ago. Now I know that He is real and He is always there. I’m 48 years old, I guess I was a very stubborn case, but He never gives up on anyone. Especially those who are suffering.

Vincenzo De Luca
Vincenzo De Luca from Facebook7 days ago

Having experienced my own mental health issues for many years, this image just makes me cry. It is simply unimaginable for people to suffer in conditions like that. One thing is for people to comprehend that the situation and environment is terrible; but the true nightmare in this image is hard to know if you’ve never suffered mental health issues. This is such a shocking image to those of us who have been fortunate enough to be treated in 1st world hospitals, and have had the luxury of well trained doctors and nurses.

E Eyitayo Owa
E Eyitayo Owa from Facebook7 days ago

Their voicelessness is being taken for granted while we pretend their humanity’s not in any way replicated in us all. Isnt citizenship supposed to be inclusive of them? Leaving behind our ‘insane’ men and women is no sane way to advance our world. Thanks for the fair awards.

Catherine Bolton
Catherine Bolton from Facebook8 days ago

Got most of the way thru but it was too painful to finish. Yes that is the work of photo journalism. Extraordinary photos of the truly forgotten. Thanks to him for lifting the veil of invisibility.

Niala Terrell-Mason
Niala Terrell-Mason from Facebook8 days ago

I’m glad this subject is being brought to light. The award was well-deserved. It’s so hard to look at the photographs and imagine the lives of these poor people. No effective treatment, no hope, no understanding.

GeoffWalker 8 days ago

I do hope that fellow kiwi Robin is using his images and income from them to benefit the subjects, they could use help not just publicity.

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