Abducted Nigerian School Girls
In her school notebook, Hauwa Nkeki writes a letter to her brother, "Dear Brother Nkeki, Million of greetings goes to you thousand to your friend zero to your enemies." On another page, she lists the names of her friends who are "good" girls, "stupit,” and "on top table" -- the very best.
Hauwa is one of the nearly 300 girls kidnapped by Islamic militants Boko Haram on April 14 from their school in Chibok, a remote village in Northern Nigeria. Boko Haram’s name translates roughly to “Western Education in Sinful” and they believe that girls shouldn’t be in school and boys should only learn Koran.
For the past few years, Boko Haram has been burning villages to the ground, using forced recruitment, and participating in an ongoing insurgency that the Nigerian military then escalates. Thousands have died and the region has been devastated. No one took much notice before the girls were kidnapped.
A media frenzy began and coverage of the protests was extensive. But the thing that’s been missing from most of the coverage is the girls themselves.
The girls are missing from my photos too. But, we can’t understand the things we can’t see, and I wanted to make the girls visible.
The girls’ school uniforms make them real, distinct individuals. One was made in a hurry, in messy stitching with different color threads. Another was utilitarian. A third uniform was especially dirty and threadbare. It'd been stitched again and again at the sides – torn and repaired, probably the only uniform she had.
In her school notebook, Elizabeth Joseph wrote the definition of the word Government: “the word "government" suggests different thing to diffen people. When we use the term "nigerian government" we usually mean the sum total of people and institution that make and enforce law within nigerian." The cover of the notebook is lime green, yellow, purple and blue. There’s a silhouetted girl blowing a bubble.
The Nigerian government failed Elizabeth and the other girls of Chibok. The truth is that it's unlikely they'll come home. So these notebooks are their last words.