Monthly Archives: June 2012

Daniella’s story

“Imagine having to run for your life, to share shelter with savage wild animals, having your home destroyed, and not being able to save your treasures from being stolen.

Imagine just for a second, witnessing the death of your family and loved ones. For most this is just a nightmare, but to many it is a horribly true and terrifying reality due to the 10 year Civil war in Sierra Leone.

My name is Daniella; I was born in West Africa, Sierra Leone. I migrated to Australia in February 2011. My family was among the thousands of people who were forced to become refugees during the Civil war in Sierra Leone.

I was born into a world full of tragedy and suffering, like many others of my generation. To fully understand the scale of what I am talking about you need a deeper understanding of the cause and effect of the Sierra Leone Civil war. The Sierra Leone civil war started in the early 1990’s; the main cause of the war was civil discontentment with the political system, the

government parties and distribution of Sierra Leone’s natural resources, especially diamonds. During the war, millions of people lost their lives, tens of thousands left damaged and more than millions have been displaced. Young children full of potential became soldiers, slaves’ even prostitutes in their fight for survival. The war stole our hopes, our potentials, our dreams and our future.

Before the war, both my sister and I were living with our parents, everything was going fine. My dad had a good job and we were truly enjoying our childhood until (1999) when the war separated my family. My mother was lost, we didn’t know her where about. My sister and I were left with my father and my grandmother, my father was worried for our safety, because during that time the rebels were capturing young girls to be prostitute and young boys to join their dangerous activities. We had limited food and clothing. The rebels brought us pain fear and suffering. The people we had grown to know and love, our friends, even our family; killed, raped, and tortured. For our own safety, we had to seek refuge in Senegal, a country where we didn’t know anyone nor did we understand the language. At the age of (10) I saw my father; a strong man became unemployed living under the control of others in order to be able to support us.

We lived in Senegal for more than 5 years, sadly my father became very ill and we lost him in 2009. My sister and I were left with our grandmother; we had no one to support us without my father so my grandmother moved to Guinea where we stayed with some relatives who went to seek refugee in Guinea. That was when we heard news about my mother through friends; we got told she travelled to Australia in 2007. We got in contact with my mum and she started sponsoring us. She promised to help us and that we would join her here. Because we were missing during my mother’s immigration process, she had to file for Child migration visa for my sister and I. We travelled to Ghana in 2010 to start our visa process, we had to do DNA test to prove that we are our mother’s children. My grandmother couldn’t come with us because it would’ve been difficult for my mother.

Luckily we were granted visa in January 2011, we arrived here in February. Coming to Australia restore my hope for the future, especially reuniting with my mother after all those years has become one of the most memorable moments in my life. When I arrived here, I started Intensive English Centre (IEC) at Holroyd; going to school here was very different to what I was introduced to in Africa. Everything was going fine, my sister and I like the new environment, we are still able to practice our traditional culture and eat our traditional Sierra Leone meals. Sadly in September 2011 we had a family breakdown and I had to move out of home. Despite the difficulties, I continued my education, studying English and doing things to help build my future. One of the main reasons why I continued to study is that even though I felt lost, I never stopped because I had the opportunities that I would’ve never come across if I was in Africa. With the help of Auburn Youth Centre and Marist Youth Care, I’ve been given a place to call home and I can never thank them enough for all the support. I’m currently completing my certificate four in Community services and I’m hoping to start university next year to continue my studies in Social science. That’s my experience so far in Australia, and I believe with the support of AYC and Marist I would be able to reach my goals and fulfil my dreams.”


Why I shoot film and not instagram!

This post is not only a response to Olly Lang over at: but something I have been thinking about since the influx of mobile photography and instagram.

Olly is a great photographer who is the co-founder of the Australian Mobile photography group, together with Misho Baranovic, who are strong advocates for Mobile Photography and sharing. Olly has written an interesting article that I agree with on pretty much every point. It is exciting in this digital age with the ability  to reach a larger audience than ever. I just want to expand on this point and share some of my thoughts.

“3. Digital creation has advanced enough that the reach of digitalised art is only bound by the limitations of digital curation (and the resulting consumption).”
I think this is the major problem I personally have. There are huge limitations in the consumption of this new media. I really don’t want people looking at my images on a 3.5in screen. Some people are ok with it but everyone has their own ideas or voice to share. Output is important and adds to the concept of the project. Looking at your work as it evolves and noticing ideas and concepts is also important but we need to make sure that the instant gratification of seeing “likes” on images do not skew the future decisions for the project as it can often lead to a popularity contest.

For example, people ask me why I shoot film and I explain that for this particular project, film adds to the concept. I believe that people who migrate and settle in Australia, no matter how hard they try to hold onto their culture, within 2 or 3 generations it will be completely gone except for some devoted few whose goal it is to keep the culture alive. Sound familiar? Just like film. I do have issues with globalisation and the loss of culture but I won’t get into that now… So it is important for me to photograph this in film, not only because I love the process but to add to the eventual feeling of the finished product, playing on ideas of nostalgia and clinging onto the past.

I’ve never been into popular culture so I guess it’s not about appealing to the masses but striving to create a body of work that I find important, something which defines me so my grandkids can pick up a photobook of mine and get an insight into who I was. I’m nowhere near that goal but something I have started working on. For me, it is very important to work in projects, in particular long term projects. I don’t think we can make blanket statements either. We are all photographers who take photos of what we find interesting. Now I guess it depends on what you want to get out of photography but I truly believe that if we want to capture an intelligent audience who respects and understands our work, it needs to be personal or have some idea or concept behind the work that means something to you. Rewarding the viewer for looking deeper into your work discovering something about not only the photographer and the subject matter but also discovering something about themselves! I find mobile viewing is very limited in its display of projects as a whole but it will get there.

Ironically I just typed all this and updated the blog from my phone.

“South Sudanese Youth Chairmanship” election

South Sudanese from all over NSW gathered at St John’s public school to vote for a Youth leader of the South Sudanese community group.

Talking to some of the members of the community, I discovered that the elected candidate will not only serve as a role model for the whole community and organise events but the whole process of the election gives members of the community an opportunity to vote in a democratic election. Something which they have never done before! It was very cute seeing younger community members teaching the elders how to vote for their choice of the 2 candidates.

The winner of the election was, Longar Akol. And why shouldn’t he with the following text on his election poster.

“Vote for the prosperity of our nation.

My aim are:

- To encourage unity.

- To promote peace and harmony among ourselves.”

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