Kireka-Kampala township-Uganda-East Africa-February 26th-2013
Following on the footsteps of great many people before her, Jennyfer Ayat made a daring and courageous decision to escape the controls of sexual enslavement or perhaps even death, from the followers of warlord Joseph Kony by braving the long march of Gulu Walk. It seems ironic when in essence Jennyfer Ayat is escaping one form of brutal slavery for another.
Over the past twenty years the echoes of pain injected by the Kony terror, have caused women like Jennyfer Ayat, of Uganda to make hard and testing choices to either live in constant fear of death for themselves, their children and loved ones, or harvest bravery from the fountain sitting deep within to escape and live in another form of fear. One where the desperation of making an exodus of living in poverty and in slavery has become invisible to corporations, employing workers at the lowest, most discriminatory wages, robbing them of their human rights and the fundamental freedom to choose, let alone their voiceless whisper vindicating their right of a just deserved human dignity.
It is shocking to observe that children born in this state of bondage; continue to live a life journey of captivity and slave labor, long after their parents’ escape from the Kony violations against humanity. A young 36 year old Jennyfer Ayat carrying a hammer on her shoulder, as if this chunk of iron embellished with a long, heavy pole made of rough wood has become Jennyfer’s best play mate and soul companion. The unimaginable strength of Jennyfer Ayat’s body bears resemblance to a rare piece of priceless sculpture: but this is not the romanticism of African life, this is an image evoking a story of human survival and absolute determination; the cruel reality of working for virtually naught, for each jerry-can loaded with crushed stones and carried airborne by the strong in the quarry, is worth a mere 100 Ugandan shillings. Considering there are some 2250 Ugandan shillings to a dollar in conversion, and many hours of hardship labor to a filled jerry-can, how many more veins must bleed dry for every dignified being to continue living under a dollar a day, while corporations rip offensive benefits through such human abuse and exploitation?
Jennyfer Ayat is seen on many occasions with hammer in hand pounding the rock, her frame is small but her strength is heroic. There are no traces of hatred in her expression, but a breed of devotion that is disturbing to the more fortunate audience, exuding an acceptance of life as it is, and as it will always be. But, it is in Jennyfer’s strength of spirit and will to survive that has kept her and her family breathing their harsh journey. Each frame illustrates the Inferno of an ongoing documentary project called “BUKEDDE”, a word in Luganda, the main local language of Uganda, which means “ONE MORE DAY” to identify that “it is morning again”. It captures the core of Jennyfer’s character and high moral fiber, her moments of tenderness with her little adopted baby, Ivonne whose aura radiates a Madonna like semblance. She cradles the child gently inside their humble home, illuminated by soft candle light in the cold African nightfall. The compositions also encapsulate the private moments of prayer with her son, both clutching their only rosary, recorded through the faint light radiating from a set of azure candles. These are intimate moments she shared; giving every one of us the only thing she has left to give, her self existence.
This moving photographic journey introduces us to Jennyfer, a strong African woman; showing glimpses of her daily life, her hopes and dreams, the reverence and aspirations for her precious children. The moments captured, display the altruism of unconditional love, the importance of small details in life, the sharing of work scented with nobility, and the intimate exchange of profound glances in prayer. The daily trivia of Jennyfer’s life in Kireka are but a brief preview into the depths of her soul captured through the eyes and the lenses, amidst a rollercoaster of emotions as witness of such narrative. They speak of hardship, fear and faith and highlight the coldhearted blindness of governments, institutions and corporations.
This is “BUKEDDE”, it is morning again…
The pictures shows Jennyfer Ayat family at the stone quarry.