'How to escape fate, to hide by showing oneself, and to achieve redemption through posture.‘
ANOTHER ME. TRANSFORMATION FROM PAIN TO POWER
In a unique project supported by the Terre des Hommes Foundation, the documentary photographer Achinto Bhadra and counsellor Harleen Walia guided 126 girls and women through a healing journey of psychological transformation.
Achinto’s portraits record trafficking survivors’ imaginative visions of themselves as human, animistic and divine beings of power, love, revenge and freedom.
The girls and women in the photographs, from eight to twenty-five years old, are survivors of trafficking, rape or abandonment, or are the children of sex workers. They have been in the care of Sanlaap, a nongovernmental organisation based in Kolkata, India. The photography sessions were conducted at Sanlaap’s Sneha Girls Shelter.
Through the months of the project, the girls and women were assisted by the counsellor to narrate their personal histories, the stories that they wanted to tell the world – powerful stories of disappointed childhood, abuse, betrayal, abduction and, finally, slavery in the brothels.
Following this, they were guided by the counsellor and the photographer to identify an imaginary being into which they most wanted to transform, an empowered physical expression of their sorrow, anger and hope.
The costumes and make-up were created by the girls and women with the artistic guidance of the photographer. The photography sessions were conducted in ritualistic silence. As each girl and woman stood before the camera in the silent studio, she transformed into ‘another me’. The aggressive ones quieted down, the depressed raised their heads, tears of release flowed. For a moment, each felt the power within herself. And today, many months later, that brief transformation remains an inner source of confidence and strength for the girls and women in Sanlaap’s care.
Counseling and case studies: Harleen Walia
Costume and makeup: Ayesha Sinha and the girls and women
Text: John Frederick
Terre des Hommes Foundation (Lausanne, Switzerland) has supported this project through its office in Kathmandu, Nepal. Throughout the world, Terre des hommes supports community based activities in maternal and child health, children’s rights, child protection and antitrafficking.
Sanlaap works against the trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation. The organisation operates four shelter homes, a child protection programme for the children of the red-light areas of Kolkata and a trafficking prevention programme in nine districts of West Bengal.
Executive producer: Le Tambour qui parle.
Exhibition created with the support of the French Embassy in India.