Nem Bilong Mi: Women of Papua New Guinea, 2017

This body of work was produced during an assignment in Papua New Guinea, documenting medical-relief actions of an International NGO during August- September 2017.  “NEM BILONG MI” meaning “my name is” in Tok Pisin, the local language- is a personal project I carried during this time, as I was drawn to learn about the women of the land. Women in PNG are dealing with high-rates of gendered violence (It is estimated that 67% of women in PNG have suffered domestic abuse and over 50% of women have been raped (Lytton, 2015)), limited access to education, restricted access to health-services and social welfare services, witch hunts and sorcery (black magic). Cases of violence against women in PNG are under reported, and the voices of the women are silenced. 

I captured portraits of the women of Oro Bay and listened to their stories.

When we got to the village, the girl in the photo, 14 years old, had a severe injury in her hand. She basically had a missed finger, all wraped with improvised bandages. She was in that condition for 2 weeks, not able to go to school or to work. It was so close to be deadly infected, and we got there on time to give her the right medical assistance she needed. The story goes like this. Two weeks before this photo was taken, she was working in the field, like she normally did. Suddendly, out of no where a man with a macheta came and started to attack her. He wanted to rape her. She started to scream and fight back. Her brother, the boy in the photo heard her screaming and came to check on her. He saw the man and immediately fled to call for help. In the meantime, the girl kept fighting. When the assistance arrived, just after few long minutes, the man took his macheta, and waved at the girl. She put her hands up to protect her face and her finger was cut because of that. The man ran away, and the villagers couldn't find him anywhere. The girl was carried to the village, to her grandfather's treatment. He is the man in the photo. She was traumatized. In order to get to the hospital, she needed to get into a cannoo and sail for 15 days or pay alot of money for a boat with a motor. It was impossible to get her to the hospital, because of lack of access to mainlands in rural areas. The whole day we were there, I spent it with her- telling her how brave and strong she is. I was grieving about her trauma and about all the women who ever suffered from sexual abuses and attacks.

The husband of this woman was murdered due to sorcery, over a conflict on a solar panel. Solar panels are popular utilities in the villages, as they are the only way to charge mobile phones. Stealings are often, and lead to severe conflicts among the villagers, enhancing black magic.  Sorcery is believed to operate through a person who can wield a supernatural power to perform mostly malevolet and harmful acts on other people.  This woman’s husband was accused in stealing a solar panel and he mysteriously drowned in the ocean only few days later. Since her husband’s death she is struggling to survive.

This woman is barren, andwas  unable to find a husband due to that reason. The local priest made her a “favor”, and took her as his second wife. She works in the church, and organizes women gathering in the village. She is taking care of the priests’ children- from other women.