A Dancing Devil in Nepal

Asia, General comment, Myanmar, Nepal

My first day after landing in Nepal last year was Saturday, a rest day. I was woken up to the sound of drumming and decided to wander down into the valley. In the small village of Tikabhairab I came across two dancing devils, dancing in an energetic and antagonising manner around people until they coughed up some rupees. It was part of some festival, and we encountered a few more over the next week… stopping traffic until drivers gave a small donation. I’ve no idea where the money goes…

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Dancing Devil in the streets of Tikabhairab, Lalitpur Valley. Nepal, 2013

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A man-powered Burmese Ferris Wheel

Asia, Burma, General comment, Myanmar, travel

A year ago I visited a night market in the suburbs of Yangon. It was a sprawl of food stalls and fairground games. I was photographing a couple of elderly balloon sellers (leprosy-affected of course), who were standing in the green glare of a rather rickety ferris wheel. It took me a while to notice that the wheel was powered by young men climbing up the wooden beams and using their body weight to pull the it around. Naturally I had to have a ride.

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A Nepalese witch doctor at work

Asia, Documentary, General comment, Nepal, Shaimanism, travel

While I was photographing my leprosy project in rural Nepal last year I came across an intriguing scene just across from my hotel (a tidy £2 per night). A frail old man was laying down coloured powder into patterns outside a two story mud-and-wood house. There was a group of mainly middle-aged men gathered and with help from one of the leprosy field workers I was with found out that the old man, a Jhankri (the Nepalese equivalent of a witch doctor or Shaiman), was about to perform an exorcism on a young child who had been ill.

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I watched as the Jhankri hung up a crab outside the door (covered in red powder, above) and began banging a saucepan covering his head. I watched the ceremony unfurl across two hours, with the patterned powder eventually getting swept away and the crab being trapped under a heated metal dish. Family and neighbours sat around chatting, occasionally observing when the Jhankri did something new.

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My understanding is that going to the Jhankri before trying the clinic is still quite common in many of the more rural areas of Nepal.

A Gaunt Chitwan Elephant

Asia, General comment, Nepal, travel

I had the briefest of visits to Chitwan National park in Nepal last year – I was photographing my leprosy project in the town of Chitwan and the two social workers I was with wondered if I’d like to do an elephant back ride. We went along to the entrance where they do them from.

I must say, this is quite a sensationalist image – the elephant looks particularly gaunt. Having said that, many of the elephants did look gaunt, and many of them were carrying 6 or 7 people. I hadn’t read much before about how cruel it is for elephants and what weight limits are ok for them, but as a result of what I saw, I didn’t feel compelled to ride on one and ultimately opted out.

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Having said that, I’m well aware of the importance tourism has on maintaining National parks like Chitwan and the general economy of very poor countries like Nepal.

Congolese Mourning in Kingangi

Africa, Documentary, General comment, travel

I stayed in the remote village of Kingangi (in Kasai-Orientale province) in March this year, while photographing part of my Leprosy Eliminated? project. I woke up on the second morning to the sound of singing. The singing itself was uplifting, raw and organic. I went to see what it was all about. Sadly, it turned out that young child of 18 or so months had died unexpectedly the previous evening.

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A small crowd of women was gathered, looking inwards, all singing and dancing. But there were no smiles and no laughter. The men sat sombrely to the side. The young father, who was maybe my age came up to me. I asked if it would be ok to photograph. He had said it was no problem. I crouched down and squeezed gently through the crowd of women. The child, less than 12 hours dead was lying on the table.

The dances of the women were rocking up and down, almost like a theatrical wailing. Some of them were crying. The mother sat, clearly numb with disbelief. I took a few photos and put the camera down. I suppose it is tradition of some sort, though I never found out the details as I had a long trek that morning. The cause of the baby’s death was unknown.

A Puppy in Myanmar

Asia, Documentary, General comment, Leprosy, Myanmar, portrait

Last year a doctor specialising in leprosy told me that one aspect of the disease that people don’t necessarily think about is not the pain you can’t feel (as a result of paralysed nerves – which can lead to the damage, such as this woman has on her hands), but the pleasing touches you can no longer feel.

When this woman picked up this puppy it made think of what that doctor told me, and I wondered if she could feel the softness of the puppies hair, or it’s paws scratching her hands.

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Woman with puppy, Ma Yan Chaung Leprosy Resettlement Village. Myanmar 2013

Strife Blog

Africa, Asia, Documentary, General comment, Leprosy

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My long-term project Leprosy Eliminated? and other stories was recently featured on Strife Blog. Alister Wedderburn gives an interesting insight into the project, citing Emmanuel Levinas’ views on the foundation of the ethical relation. Check it out here:

The face of ‘the Other’: A visual reflection on moral obligation in the 21st century.

Aylburton Carnival

General comment, street photography

I overheard a conversation in the pub where one local guy had been offered tickets to go and see the Rolling Stones. He readily accepted until he saw the date and then declined saying, “Can’t do that, it’s the Aylburton Carnival”.

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Cracking.

Please vote

Africa, General comment

Hi all,

I’m entering a competition and there’s a people’s choice award…

http://tombradley.see.me/exposure2013

Just click on the link and then click on vote. It will prompt you to sign up but it’s just a quick name and email. Would really appreciate – there are some serious prizes up for grabs. You can see the series of photos I’ve entered on the link.

VOTING ENDS TONIGHT (midnight EST)!!

Thanks all!

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www.isleprosyeliminated.com

Documentary, General comment, Leprosy

It’s been a while since my last blog post. I’ve been busy – though perhaps that’s no excuse. The product of this busyness is however something I can show. You may have guessed it by the title.

www.isleprosyeliminated.com

The official project name is now Leprosy Eliminated? and other stories. Though the Leprosy Eliminated? part/question of the title is an overriding theme (and in fact quite an expansive one), I’m not looking for a singular story. Part of the idea of this project is for record and that means it should encompass anything that’s interesting. Obviously that’s subjective – so it in fact encompasses anything I find interesting. Hopefully you will share my interest on at least some of the stories.

World Leprosy Map

You may ask why I’m doing this. Good question. There are a lot of reasons. You can find out more in the About section of the website.

Meanwhile here’s one of the reasons that I decided to pursue this documentary through to the end. It’s a note I received early on, having attended a church service at a leprosy colony in Nigeria. I was overwhelmed, slightly embarrassed and ultimately humbled to receive praise like this that I was not expecting and didn’t deserve. But the way that it referred to “us, the rejected”, made me realise just how important it can be to highlight the lives of some – even if it’s just a few.

I’m hoping to engage people in the project – educate about leprosy, show photographs, videos, stories of those who are and have been affected, those who have spent a lifetime committed to fighting the disease, and the various whys, hows and ways that leprosy can affect individuals and communities.

Please sign up to occasional updates on the project here. And meanwhile – explore the website.

www.isleprosyeliminated.com