Emeke Obanor, Nigeria

Emeke Obanor, Nigeria

Emeke Obanor is a self taught documentary photographer, a social activist and an advocate based in Nigeria. He uses photography as a medium to raise awareness around social justice issues, shining light on injustices facing people in his environment as well as across borders.

Emeke Obanor’s aesthetic visual language, the result of his experience in theatre and art, has earned him recognition far beyond the borders of his country, various international awards. And a reputation for being „intuitive“ and „fresh“. But whatever the minimalist beauty and the novelty of his visualizations: He is firmly rooted in what he considers his „commitment“ to make his pictures testify to „empathy with the oppressed“.

They had been kidnapped by the Nigerian terror troupe Boko Haram. Had been brainwashed. Should abandon any desire for schooling for girls. They were freed in an action of the Nigerian military. Or were able to flee when they were sent out with bomb belts on suicide missions.

Now they are free at least. And back at school. Back in a place where they are allowed to learn and get smarter. Where they are allowed to read, write and operate with figures. Where there is no ban on images. Where a globe shows what the world looks like. They are allowed to learn English and biology, history too. They can look at comics and use pencils. They may own notebooks. They are allowed to be young people eager to find things out. Everything that an Islamist terror philosophy considers Western and debauched – an especially inimical to the rights of a woman, who is not to be permitted to think for herself.

They are back from the war and in peace. Traumatized certainly. Maybe even stigmatized. But some of them have retained the strength to hold on to their dreams. They are 16 or 17 years old. They want to become nurses or teachers. Some of them were 13 when they were abducted. Some of them were not permitted to attend school, by their parents, even before their abduction. Now they want to even more fervently.

Nigerian photographer Emeke Obanor has put the girls in a protective space. He does not show their faces. He knows about their fear and their collapsed trust, even if they are courageous. He knows about the fragility of any peace in a country like Nigeria. And anyway, he sees himself as a photographer who wants more than just picture what he found, instead he strives for artistic concentration in order to document what can be read in and behind the stories.

Discover more: Shortlist 2020, Winners 2020