Archive for the ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Category

Other   Leave a comment

Worldwide the identities of women, children and men are constructed around lies associated with being “Other.” These lies call into question their humanity and eliminates the identity of the individual.

I grew up as Other in the United States and since my departure, in February 2009, I have felt far freer in foreign lands than I ever felt at home. Specifically, in East and Central Africa, I’m recognized as Other based on my country of origin as opposed to my dark skin. Hence, there are no adjectives associated with my existence when people view me; I’m a man as opposed to a black man. Before Africa, my journey took me to various countries in South America where the dynamics of being black can be problematic. However being American provided a measure of protection against being looked down upon.

In childhood my orientation as Other began when I was questioned and searched by two overzealous white cops in my hometown, Harlem, New York – it was an unpleasant and senseless experience; I was ten-years old but looked younger because I was very skinny. Little did I know then that as an adult I would be racially profiled while driving in every city I worked: New York, New Jersey, New Orleans and Los Angeles. On one such stop a white police officer, in response to my voice, asked with an incredulous tone, “did you go to college or something?”

As a pedestrian, on a couple of occasions, my presence caused drivers to lock their doors and roll-up windows, and white women to clutch their handbags. I looked at them and shook my head while marveling at the ability of such Americans to ignore a fact: historically it has been blacks who have had to fear whites – innocent blacks have suffered physical and psychological harm by white Americans and are brutally overpoliced.

In an era when political discourse is increasingly characterized by xenophobic policies and woeful ignorance, people whose humanity is challenged based on such otherness labels as refugee, immigrant, Muslim, transgender, black, Latino – nonwhite – are at odds to find acceptance. And why? Well, it has much to do with a failure of white people to police their fears. However, the true problem isn’t fearful and malicious conservatives, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Thus, it cannot be overstated that to be silent in the face of how Others are demonized is to contribute to a lie.

The last eight-plus years have taught me how to comfortably embrace my otherness – the difference that I represent – and move beyond documenting stories that give credence to unchallenged mainstream opinions. The novelist Chimamanda Adichie gave a Ted Talk in which she warned, “if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.” Indeed, no people (or country) are one thing. It’s important to note, there’s a beauty to being Other when we appreciate differences and strive to be conscious of life’s complexities, and the situations Others are born into.

The following photographs are simple moments that characterize the daily lives of women, children and men who are often narrowly defined. These are wonderful individuals who permitted me to share in their lives:


Mutonya Village (Butiiti Parish – Kyenjojo District), Uganda – Kabahuma Esther, 18, plays with her son, Kazora Titaus, 8-months.



Nyakahama Village (Katoosa Parish), Uganda – Rose Mbabazi, 20, right, and her niece, Revecart Kengonzi, 12, peel cassava grown in their garden.



Adjumani district (Ayilo Resettlement Camp), Uganda – Three South Sudanese children stop along a road which runs parallel to a field of maize grown by their parents.



Debeka Village, Ethiopia – Gumi Ayantu, 45, brews freshly roasted Ethiopian coffee beans in a Jabena (a boiling pot made of pottery). On the right her grandchild is entertained by a family member.



Katooke Town Council (Kyenjojo District), Uganda – Imelda Gafabusa, 70, exhausted from working in her field, falls asleep near her front door while waiting for heavy rains to end.



Tocana, Bolivia – Juana Vasquez, 71, heads home after picking coca leaves in the lush hills of the Yungas Valley; a tiny community made up mostly of Afro-Bolivians.



Bagua province (north Amazon), Peru – Gilmer Ugkaju Intakea Edad, 20, bottom, an Awajun, ferries passengers across the Chiriaco river.



Langata (a suburb of Nairobi), Kenya – A rainbow paints the sky.



Ayachucho, Peru – Children enjoy lunch.



Adjumani district (Ayilo Resettlement Camp), Uganda – South Sudanese children play a game called “Father or Mother,” which involves hopping around a grid.



Adjumani district (Ayilo Resettlement Camp), Uganda – Helen Agok Ageri, 5, candidly strikes a pose bringing her family to laughter.



Adjumani district (Ayilo Resettlement Camp), Uganda – A group of South Sudanese girls play a game called “Sikadibaba,” that revolves around chasing and tagging.



Mutonya Village (Butiiti Parish – Kyenjojo District), Uganda – Angela Kabahenda, 21, prepares two of her children, Marian Nabbumba (six-years), right, and Junior Mayalla (four-years), left, for school.


A Child Labors for Gold

La Toma, Colombia – Margie Cecilia, 11-years old, labors for gold with family members at an open-pit mine.



Nyanza district, Rwanda – After an extended peroid of walking and standing Gasaza Siliveri, 97, sits and rests before going out for a scheduled trip.



Nyakahama Village (Katoosa Parish), Uganda – Rose Mbabazi, 20, surveys her garden while picking carrots and sweet potatoes.



Tocana, Bolivia – An Afro-Bolivian girl washes her hair.


May 26, 2009 - Tocana, Bolivia - An Afro-Bolivian hunter returns home at dusk.

Tocana, Bolivia – An Afro-Bolivian man returns home from hunting.



El Carmen, Peru – Peruvians participate in a procession honoring Our Lord of Miracles (Senor de los Milagros). It’s a widely attended religious event.


Mother's Day - Peru

Lima, Peru – Peruvians place flowers and clean their mother’s hard-to-reach burial sites, at The Angel Cemetery, on Mother’s Day.



Nairobi (Kilimani), Kenya – Muslims pray at a mosque.


Nairobi's Mathare Slums

Nairobi, Kenya – A Kenyan woman carries basins and buckets to collect water in the community of Mathare.


Dilemma of Education

Obira Village (Nwoya District), Uganda – Timo, 9, (he has no last name because he has not been baptized yet) helps his mother, Joyce Pacoryema, 42, cover their family’s maize with a tarp; it’s about to start raining.



Yapatara, Peru – In the northern section of the country several Afro-Peruvian men play cards.



El Carmen, Peru – Neighbors relax in their communty.




The Conflict (El Conflicto)   3 comments

One month (July 2009) after a bloody clash between indigenous natives (Awajun), local migrants and the Peruvian National Police, life outside the provincial city of Bagua, in Peru’s north Amazon jungle, returned to normal.

On June 5, 2009 the Peruvian National Police, using tanks, helicopters, tear gas and firearms, attacked a roadblock approximately 450 miles north of the capital, Lima. Protestors had been blocking roads for two months to demonstrate their opposition to laws that gave logging, mining and oil companies access to their ancestral grounds – the Amazon.

According to Amnesty International more than 30 indigenous citizens and 22 police were killed. Some reports indicate 50 people were injured. The numbers are disputable depending upon who is questioned. Shortly after the mayhem, Peru’s Congress repealed two key pieces of legislation that contributed to the protest.

The indigenous community commonly refer to the attack and the events that led up to it as El Conflicto (The Conflict). This photo story (additional images can be viewed at is a portrait of the Awajun community and the way of life they sought to protect from outside commercial interests.

Golden Slum   4 comments

La Rinconada, Peru – Extreme poverty is a way of life in La Rinconada, a shantytown 17,000 feet above sea-level in the high Andes of Peru. It has been said, Peru is a beggar seated on a throne of gold. In the case of this mining community the throne is one of gold and human waste.

Its citizens endure life in what is probably the dirtiest shanty community at the highest altitude in the world. It has no running water, no sewage system and its grounds are contaminated by mercury used to separate rock from gold. While coca leaves or altitude sickness pills may help one survive the high elevation, there’s nothing to provide relief from the horrible smell; the horrendous sanitary conditions result from the unregulated disposal of garbage and human waste. Unpaved streets provide transit for stench-filled mud and garbage litters its grounds. Life expectancy in La Rinconada is the lowest in Peru. Criminals on the run from the law are attracted to the area because there is no police presence. It’s no small wonder you won’t find any vacationing foreigners in La Rinconada.

Many of the 30,000 residents who call La Rinconada home lack basic educational skills. Most are employed under an ancient lottery system – and verbal contract – called cachorreo, in which they work for 30 days without pay. On the 31st day they receive payment in the form of a sack of ore, which may or may not contain gold; they’re permitted to enter a mine and collect what they hope will amount to a payment. It’s a cruel lottery that can lead to indentured servitude.

Martin Luque Vargas, 40, is a miner who insists he makes money under the system because he always finds gold. “I make enough to live each month but not save,” Vargas says. Nevertheless the system is cruel and unforgiving to others. Vargas is a former traffic controller from the nearby district of Quilcapuncu. He was fired because of the worldwide economic crisis. A widower he moved with his mother and three children to La Rinconada in July 2008 to become a miner. He responds “si mucho” (yes, very much) enthusiastically when asked if he enjoys working as a miner. “I think life in both mining and La Rinconada could improve in the future,” he states. However he acknowledged that the work is very dangerous and has no security. “I want to work as a miner for five more years and move.”

The likelihood of death, for miners, is echoed in a local saying, “off to work I go, I don’t know if I’ll make it back.” The area’s population growth, fueled by the unemployed, indicates there are many willing to tolerate the abuses of La Rinconada ensuring the ancient lottery will continue to be played.

Photos from Golden Slum can be viewed at

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: