(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)
Small children's bodies are wrapped in thin blood-red and neon yellow fabrics that adhere and reveal every last detail. The bodies still echo life-threatening play, but the way the faces are covered warns the state of death. The evergreen grass where the children lie is so lush and wet that the moisture is felt by the sight alone. The beauty and tactility of this photo story about ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in Myanmar (Burma) is as disturbing as they are throughout.
Visual brilliance in raw depiction of bestiality and distress is difficult. The seductive qualities in the images are so overwhelming that they sometimes distanced the spectator from the acute situation the Rohingya find themselves in. Homo sapiens. They quickly lead to astonishment in form, color and narrative excellence.
The snapshots in the book are as if drawn from a lavish Hollywood production: drama, strong emotions and a captivating exotic color palette. The sky is as epic dark as the fate of the over a million people affected by the genocide and the ensuing refugee disaster.
Some have to survive in order to spread horror stories further.
Australian photographer Patrick Brown draws heavily on his background as a theater photographer with a special in dance. He captures and freezes the movement in the second it tells the most. At the same time, his color use creates a sensory banquet. The phrase "one's death, another's bread" goes like an echo in my head. But Brown admits in an interview with WorldPress that he can barely live off of photojournalism, although he has now been awarded both for his previous work on the illegal trade in endangered animals and the documentation of the Rohingya tragedy.
A desperate refugee woman in a dangerously dense crowd disgusts her naked infant. Praying glances for help meet a dismissive hand that dominates much of the image area. The book's 95 gripping documentary photographs are accompanied by interviews with surviving Rohingya and background texts by Jason Motlagh and Jason Smith. The two authors provide insight into the historical escalation of the abuses against the Rohingya population, but also elaborate with very detailed and heartbreaking single destinies:
A mother says she was forced to watch as they killed her seven children, two brothers and her husband. Unfortunately, this testimony is representative. Survival stories put together with photo portraits of those who share their story, create a close relationship with the people photographed in the book.
There is also an almost Old Testament darkness in the unspeakable atrocities that the book boldly describes in detail.
The synergy effect of photography and text shakes far more than the individual components and makes a huge impression. During close reading of pictures and testimonies, it strikes me how similar the implementation of this ethnic cleansing is to others. The text points to the long-term planning. I recognize the brutality, sadism, and not least the psychological strategy of the Srebrenica massacre that Maria Fuglevaag Warsinski and I documented for the Human Rights Tribunal in The Hague.
Some have to survive in order to spread horror stories further. This way, huge population groups leave everything they own and have in a short time. The children's drawings in the book are terrifying: Helicopters cause it to rain bombs and gunshots. Entire Rohingya villages are burning, and people are in pools of blood everywhere. At the same time, drawings show villages where the Buddhist section right next to the slaughter areas remained untouched. Photographs dwell on a series of simple agricultural tools. Before the genocide, these were systematically deprived of the Rohingya, leaving the people group defenseless against the coming violence. The same sharp weapons were then used against them. The interviews that talk about the violence, mutilation and death caused by the aforementioned weapons are nauseatingly outrageous.
The worst thing about the book is not what we see. It is the nightmares that live on in the survivors who have taken over to Bangladesh. But it is not only the slaughter that threatens life when there is nothing but jerry pots, bamboo and random sticks between the refugee and the deadly wet element. With their eyes on survival, straight-backed men sit close together. They have used the slim craft for a long time to make. Then they have been waiting for the border river Naf to calm down, so that they would have a hope of maybe getting along. Of the 80 passengers on a temporary fleet, only 17 did not drown.
The river is so violent that even though a boat is stranded about 200 meters from shore, many lose their lives. One of the women who reproduces in detail the massacre of her family was lucky herself and got a boat kiss over. With one arm partially cut off after the rape, she still escaped from a burnt house. Deadly violence, and then the fire is a pervasive finale to all the rape stories in the book. Well across the river in Bangladesh, the woman meets a sister who takes care of her. In the camp, there are more queues to support her, but she recognizes that no one can replace her husband, who was so good to her and the children she also lost. History gives double hope. It tells of great consideration among the Rohingya, but also among those they meet in Bangladesh. It tells about the will and integrity of life. The woman is part of a longer portrait series that helps us get to know the people behind the testimonies.
Violence, water and man-made evil. In the large landscape images of refugees – or overview images of the camp – there is constantly rain, mud and large bodies of water. Flooding makes the refugees more vulnerable to cholera and other things. The book's texts confirm the mortality. The irony of having come out alive from hell on earth, and then perishing in safety due to lack of clean water is cruel. The book is capable of providing associations to a biblical scale for migration and abuse. Black silhouettes in endless rows along what looks like rice fields. An old man is carried in a deck chair which is hung on a cane.
There is also an almost Old Testament darkness in the unspeakable atrocities that the book boldly describes in detail. The outrageousness is such that even a tiny part is suffocating to reproduce: Infants are torn from the mother's breast and roasted alive on the fire. No, the rest will tell the book. Perhaps the overly beautiful and flattering photography is necessary for us to be able to take on some of this monstrous man-made evil.