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After the wave

About the authors
Annie Dare is a freelance journalist and travel writer, the author of the Footprint Handbooks to India, South India and Goa, and a freelance facilitator for the award-winning non-profit organisation PhotoVoice.
PhotoVoice is an award-winning international non-profit organisation, based in London UK. Working alongside both international organisations and local partners, PhotoVoice provides in-field photojournalism workshops for those living on the fringes of society. Internationally it provides the platform for these groups to exhibit and market their work.
Tim A Hetherington was born in Liverpool, UK, in 1970. He started photography in 1996, and was a member of Network Photographers from 2000-2004. His interest lies in creating diverse forms of photographic communication from long-term projects, and his experiments have ranged from digital projections at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, to fly-poster exhibitions in Lagos. Recent projects include "Healing Sport" (1999-2002), "Blind Link Project" (2000-), and "Liberia" (2003-). He is a recipient of numerous awards including a Fellowship from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (2001), a Hasselblad grant (2002), and two World Press Photo prizes (1999 + 2001). In 2003, he worked as a cameraman, and was involved in making five films for UK and US TV. He received an award from International Documentary Association (IDA) for his work on "Liberia: An Uncivil War" (2004), and the film was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam (IDFA). For the last five years, he has worked consistently in West Africa, where he also teaches for the British Council.
tsunami
© Krishna/Save the Children/ PhotoVoice            © Tim A. Hetherington/Panos Pictures

Click on images to view the two slideshows.

Tim Hetherington: I arrived in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on the 10th January 2005, two weeks after the tsunami had hit. The following August I visited Sri Lanka and India. The destruction in Banda Aceh was mind-boggling. It was much more complete than anything I had seen before. There were parts of the city that were still relatively normal but when you entered the areas of destruction it was like crossing a line into somewhere that had simply disappeared.

I didn’t have that same impression of complete destruction in India and Sri Lanka. There were some areas that bore comparable scars of destruction, such as the town of Nagapattinam in India and Telwatta, near Galle in Sri Lanka where a train was swept off the tracks and over a 1000 people died.

every time I see the sea…life after the tsunami, an exhibition produced by Christian Aid and featuring the work of photographers Tim Hetherington, Jonathan Perugia, and ceramic artist Emma Summers is on show at the Dray Walk Gallery, the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London EC1 until 3 January 2006 and will be touring the UK and Ireland in 2006. For more details click here

Natural disasters reveal complexities that people in the west find difficult to comprehend. We struggle to relate to people in developing countries. There’s a guilt that emerges and we want to package aid and disaster. When people suffer a natural disaster we feel sorry for them. They gain our pity, we give them money and we expect them to get better straightaway.

The political subtleties involved were revealed to me by a situation in Sri Lanka. There’s a coastal road that runs around the island. Due to its proximity to the sea the houses built alongside it suffered a significant level of destruction. After the tsunami the government tried to move people’s dwellings more than 100 metres back from the sea. But they relented in the case of businesses because the truth of the matter is that they rely on the road for their trade. Until that road is moved inland people will continue to camp on the area of destruction where the government isn’t allowing them to rebuild.

The train disaster in Sri Lanka illustrates some of the complexities involved in trauma. The government took away the wreckage of the train but some time later the villagers asked for it to be brought back as a memorial. Four carriages were put back on the tracks and were turned into a strange memorial-cum-tourist shrine. Coachloads of Sri Lankan tourists come to visit it. A villager will be on hand to show you photo albums of the dead bodies. In return the villagers are given money. It’s a bizarre situation because on the one hand it’s a real memorial that inspires awe but at the same time there is something very voyeuristic about it. I’m not criticising that but I think it demonstrates the contradictions involved in disasters and trauma. Often people don’t get over them but there is a drive to find neat solutions to situations that don’t necessarily have one. But taking part in the debate is in itself the right thing to do.

Tim Hetherington was speaking to Charlie Devereux.

Annie Dare: It would be interesting to know what Sri Lanka looked like before every member of its population learnt the word tsunami. It’s almost impossible to imagine that country now.

But next to the ubiquitous rubble underfoot, and despite the Sri Lankan government’s unhelpful enforcing of the 100-metre ‘exclusion zone’, scaffolding is going up, concrete being poured, tiles laid. New starts being made.

Making Waves, an exhibition produced by Save the Children in collaboration with PhotoVoice is showing at The Save the Children Rendezvous, 1 St Johns Lane EC1 from 20th-22nd December and from 3rd-13th January. For more information please contact PhotoVoice on 0207 033 3878

PhotoVoice, an award-winning non-profit organisation was funded by Save the Children to send a photographer and a journalist to Sri Lanka to teach tsunami-affected children photography and writing as a tool of therapy, advocacy, self-expression and play. Alongside photojournalist David Gill, I was in-country for nearly three months with two groups of children, exploring what they saw and felt about life in the aftermath of the wave. We came back with an exhibition of photographs that show what the children who survived feel about how life has changed, how life moves on.

In this part of Sri Lanka life has little structure. Boredom is the constant. Kids play marbles. The older boys in knock-off Versace jeans hung low on their hips go to a meeting on hotel management opportunities. As dusk falls and the younger kids start to dance and sing, the elders pull their plastic chairs out onto the one communal area, a tarpaulin sheet that spans the camp’s central alleyway, and read the paper. Others run lice combs through their daughters’ hair.

For fun, there’s the TV room, a bare hall built of the same blue corrugated iron as the rest of the camp, only this one’s the size of four of the other units knocked together. It has four lightbulb fixtures. Two of them have bulbs. The TV is enormous.

Save the Children has been running a child-friendly programme in the camp for under-12s from the immediate aftermath of the waves which hit in late December 2004. In July they noticed that the camps’ teens were being overlooked in the social rehabilitation process, so they began to ask what they wanted from the future. The teens are a gritty group. 50 Cent, and intense body-building, are big here. Positive role models, strong community leaders, and good parenting, aren’t.

For four weeks from November five of the camp’s youth have crammed into the corrugated room 17-year-old Krishna Kanthi shares with her sister Damayanthi to learn how to talk about their situation and how to tell their stories through digital photography and writing.

Champika seethes at this ‘home’ every chance she gets, and is even angrier on behalf of those who missed out on getting even one of these sardine-tin shacks; on behalf of those who live instead in shanties tacked up over the foundations of their old homes.

Krishna, meanwhile, finds some pretext to visit the two-storey home being built for her and her family daily, like a woman armed with a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Saman, whose volleyball court the camp was built over, never wants to live anywhere blue again, but what he reserves his anger for is the injustice of the elders’ staying here still. We’re young, he says, we can get out. The older people’s world has shrunk to just this one small, relentlessly blue space.

Dinesh wisecracks endlessly, a kid brother earning his keep with humour, but there’s anxiety there too. He uses his photographs of his ‘brothers’ buffing their bodies at the local gym as the platform to talk about high unemployment and low opportunity. I wish I could go back to my childhood, he says. Life seemed easier then.

Anoja cannot think about or photograph anything apart from the faces of her family, a family unable to come to terms with the loss of her 13-year-old sister Suddhi.

Each of the child photographers, and everyone else we spoke to besides said they just wanted homes to get on with their lives. They are being told they may have to wait three years. The tsunami casts a long shadow.

Annie Dare was in Sri Lanka as a facilitator for the participatory photography agency PhotoVoice where, alongside photographer David Gill, she taught tsunami-affected children the skills of photography and writing as a tool of advocacy and self-expression.


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