Two more years of leprosy please…

Africa, Documentary, Leprosy

I’m now back in West Africa and the moment I stepped off the plane and I felt that hot humidity set around my skin, I relaxed and felt at home. I’d had a strange feeling of apprehension as I set off on the plane (I don’t think the numbing, icy AC helped either); I wasn’t getting that tingling of excitement I usually got when heading back to my favourite part of the world. Now I’m here however, there is an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction of just being, well, IN Africa. The noises, the temperature, the faces, the shouting in the street, the colourful clothes, the goats standing on top of buses, naked toddlers crying by the road, a family of five on a motorbike, the urinal cakes in the sink (ok that’s a new one), the, well…. the Africanness. I think I’ll just call it that.

So that Africanness has wiped away my apprehension, and is letting me focus on what I’m here to do, the probable source of my apprehension in the first place.

Family in a leprosy community. Kwara state, Nigeria 2009

Since 2009 I’ve been (on and off) photographing leprosy. It’s all part of a project called Leprosy Eliminated?, which is intended to record the story and stories of leprosy in the world today. As well as being interesting, it will hopefully raise awareness and bring about understanding as to the nature of this disease.

Woman who’s just been told she has leprosy. Kwara state, Nigeria 2009

One mans determination to be included in his muslim community is evident outside of the Mosque. He leaves his prosthetic on the doorstep. Koloware, Togo 2010

American Leprosy Missions have kindly offered to help me complete this project over the next two years. Apart from a short stint in the USA where I gathered a bit more information and visited the ALM headquarters, this is the start of those two years.

I suppose the apprehension stemmed from this daunting task ahead of me. After all, people from around the world are letting me into their lives. I never make any promises, but nevertheless by just being there, I have, and feel, a responsibility towards those I’m photographing and the actions I’m taking. But like I say, simply having this Africanness around me has eased me. Though the task ahead is still of paramount importance, I’m welcoming the challenge from my comfort zone.

So I’ve arrived in Ghana. And I bloody love it. Until the end of July I’m going to be searching out and photographing leprosy in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia. At some point the stories from all the countries I visit will go up on a brand new website. Meanwhile, you’ll have to stay tuned to this blog to follow me on this adventure…

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5 thoughts on “Two more years of leprosy please…

  1. Dear friend, in reading this “two more years of leprosy…please” it is clear to me that you have been revealed what is like to walk around in someone else’s shoes. And, you are changing, something that needs changing, a thought or feeling or attitude.I see that some of the light from the lives of people affected whom you have met and photographed has spilled over into you. I am so proud of you, Tom! Will I see you in Nepal or DR Congo? Which should I take?

  2. Awesome, Tom! 🙂 So excited about your work the next couple of years! I miss your face… and am just as excited as you to return to “Africanness”. 🙂 Take care, my friend!

  3. You should come here to Nepal in the Eastern Terai. New leprosy cases every week. We work in locating and treating them too.

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