Monday, July 05, 2010


In 1998, yielding to the international pressure, the Sudanese government allowed good aid to be distributed to the south. British photojournalist Tom Stoddart travelled with Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to a camp in Ajiep, where more than 100 people were dying every day. There he took the above photo of a crippled boy who had queued hours for food, only to find it robbed away from him by a fit man who strides confidently away.
Stoddart received overwhelming criticism for his image, people demanding why he did not intervene. He responded, “I am a photographer, not a policeman or an aid worker. All I can do is try to tell the truth as I see it with my camera.” However, Stoddart requested that the papers that print
his Sudan photos run the credit card hotlines of aid agencies next to the photos. On the day the above photo appeared in theGuardian, MSF had 700 calls and £40,000 was pledged. The Daily Express raised £500,000. Le Figaro ran 10 pages of his pictures, Stern magazine nine pages.
On a deeper level, the photo is a symbol of Africa’s continuing problem — the big man with the stick rules. Large amount of food aid disappears from the camps in much needed areas and appears for sale in the market places in neighboring countries. Not to be anecdotal but I once volunteered in an African country that should remain nameless. Food and medical aid that Western governments sent there were regularly pilfered by corrupt bureaucrats and sometimes aid is withheld or rediverted to areas that don’t need them because the governments there like to use foreign aid as a bargaining chip to subdue/cleanse tribes and ethnicities they don’t like. Yet, Western governments and aid agencies continue sending aid because sometimes getting a little aid to affected areas is better than cutting off aid.
This succinctly describes the relationship between European/American (even Chinese + Russian) multi-national corporations, supranational organizations and the former bread-baskets of the continent of Africa within a neo-liberal framework.
This picture makes me sick. I always get a little angry when I see photojournalism like this, because the subject is so compelling, and heartbreaking. As a viewer, I feel uncomfortably complicit in this crippled Sudanese boy’s plight. As a viewer, I am challeneged to DO SOMETHING, because I live in a world where resources are distributed mostly to those who possess relative privilege and effective demand.
Folks complain about socialism’s disribution of wealth? Well, I counter with this- capitalism requires the movement of capital driven by demand- largely the demand of corporations, and the lesser consumer demand of the privileged. Resources from “underdeveloped” nations are being taken from the soil, from the water and from the air in order to fuel, supply the lifestyles of the relatively privileged in industrial and post-industrial nations such as the USA or UK.


litlgrey said...

This is a wonderful and unexpected blog post. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I thank you also.
A powerful image. said...

This won't really have effect, I consider like this.