• Image 1 of 7

Faces Behind Atrocity

Matilde Simas | Nairobi, Kenya, Kenya

Organization: HAART Kenya

Pendo came from a poor family in Tanzania. She knew very early that to get ahead she needed to work hard and going to school was not something she could dream about. At age 16 a family friend told her that she could find some work across the border in Kenya. Believing her, two days later she traveled to Kenya with this family friend. However, when she arrived there she realized that a lot of what she was promised was not true. She was forced to work as a prostitute. Overworked, abused and no money, a year later, she was lucky to find someone that helped her escape.

 

Human trafficking is globally pervasive, economically motivated, and emotionally overwhelming. The exhibit “ Faces Behind Atrocities” are portriats of 7 young women, ages 13-16, from 4 different nationalities who have been rescued from the horrors of the trafficking world and are in the healing process. In collaboration with the survivors, Matilde Simas worked to provide a forum for healing through art. In this portrait series low lighting was used to evoke a mood of deception and secrecy that has been endured. In a pure example of courage, many of these woman chose to hide their faces behind a mask to protect their identity. In addition to providing a visual representation of their resilience, beauty, and strength, each woman recorded a written testimony of how they were lead into trafficking and the atrocities they faced.

A Kenyan based nonprofit, HAART Kenya, granted Matilde access to their organization to document the healing process of these young women. HAART Kenya works exclusively on combatting human trafficking in Kenya and empowering its victims.

A Kenyan based nonprofit, HAART Kenya, granted me access to their organization to document the healing process of these young women. Services offered to victims depend on the needs of each victim. The services include psychosocial support, medical aid, legal aid, economic empowerment, and rescue. Last year HAART opened a shelter for girls between the ages of 6-17 to offer immediate care to rescued girls who have been trafficked.

BIO.

Matilde Simas is a freelance visual storyteller, whose photography, straddles the line between fine art and documentary work.  She received a BA in Liberal Arts and Science from Suffolk University and attended the Rhode Island School of Design to study digital photography.

Partnering with non-profit organizations, Simas has traveled to over 50 countries, bearing witness to the enduring power of the human spirit. Simas is passionate about how photography can be used for social change, how it is essential to storytelling, and enables social change groups and organizations to demonstrate the impact of their projects.  Recently she has turned her lens to compelling human trafficking stories and documenting the recovery process of human trafficking survivors.

Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Simas exhibits her work regularly in solo shows, and her fine art prints are included in numerous private and corporate collections, including the Boston Children’s Hospital International Gallery displayed in Boston and Waltham, MA. Though the majority of her photos appear in humanitarian organization collateral, her images have appeared in publications such as The Guardian, Black & White Magazine and Professional Photographers Magazine.  Her client roster includes, among others, Genesis Fund Boston, MA; Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, Boston, MA; Foundation for Puerto Rico, PR; Big Life,Kenya; HAART Kenya.

Simas is currently exhibitingin the Art to End Slavery Exhibition in Nairobi, Kenya. Arts to End Slavery (A2ES) is an awareness raising art project that aims to bring attention to human trafficking in Kenya. It was developed and launched in 2015 by a Nairobi based NGO, Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART) The A2ES exhibition will take place from 24 June – 8 July 2017 at the KOBO Trust. The exhibition will build upon the previous exhibition, Telling their Stories which was mainly focused on the experiences of the victims of human trafficking.

A Kenyan based nonprofit, HAART Kenya, granted Matilde access to their organization to document the healing process of these young women. Services offered to victims depend on the needs of each victim. The services include psychosocial support, medical aid, legal aid, economic empowerment, and rescue.  Last year HAART opened a shelter for girls between the ages of 6-17 to offer immediate care to rescued girls who have been trafficked.

HAART addresses trafficking using the UN Four P's Strategy that includes:

Prevention- grassroots workshops are done to create awareness about the issue to prevent them from being trafficked. HAART Kenya has three types of workshops:

1.Basic human trafficking workshops, safe migration workshops, and child trafficking workshops. On average HAART conducts 20 workshops in a month.

HAART also does awareness campaigns in the community using art through the project Arts to End Slavery that is a moving impact exhibition that brings together artists to create awareness about the issue.

Protection: the organization has been assisting victims of trafficking since 2013 and so far, has assisted more than 300 victims of trafficking.

HAART offers trauma-informed care to victims of trafficking so that they can recover from the experience of trafficking. Services offered to victims depend on the needs of each victim. The services include psychosocial support, medical aid, legal aid, economic empowerment, and rescue.

Last year HAART opened a shelter for girls between the ages of 6-17 to offer immediate care to rescued girls who have been trafficked.

Prosecution- prosecution in Kenya is a responsibility of the government but HAART follows up on cases involving victims of trafficking to ensure that they get justice.

Policy and Partnership: HAART works with other organizations to advocate for the right policies around human trafficking in Kenya. HAART is a member of several local and international networks that focus on migration, gender and children.

 

Matilde Simas

www.matildemarie.com

Behind the concept of "Faces Behind Atrocity"

Human trafficking is one of the most difficult subjects to document due to the atrocities these women have endured. Because of this; human trafficking is rarely documented using a combination of photography and testimonies. My goal was to empower the survivors by creating a safe, sensitive, trusting, collaborative environment. We began growing our relationships by communicating about everyone’s feelings about the project. They shared with me their ideas and the boundaries and I committed to respecting that. Our portrait session provided the survivors with the power to decide how they wanted to be photographed. We all agreed we wanted to create portraits to spread awareness about human trafficking and to aid in the movement for social change.

The biggest concern for this project was hiding the identities of the survivors faces due to fear of their perpetrators finding them and the stigma that surrounds Human Trafficking. For the survivors, hiding their identities was important to them.

The idea that a direct human connection can be made through the windows of someone’s soul was a concept that I felt was important to capture. The survivors and I agreed that their eyes needed to be revealed. The mask concept came from the seven survivors who participated in the activity. Each survivor was given the choice as to which mask best represented them best. I provided the lighting concept and all survivors agreed the representation of darkness was important to execute.

In the end the most important part of this process for me was to make sure the survivors that participated in the activity felt that they had control of the process at all times. Everyone was given a platform to exercise their voice, opinions, and their right to decide. I believe the whole process was a successful therapeutic exercise.

Another individual’s truth can be difficult to imagine. However, if you think about how images bait emotions, we see that photography stretches an individual’s perspective, understanding, and compassion. For example, the images of the brave women who survived human trafficking will likely solicit an empathetic response from viewers – which we hope will lead to soldiers in the war against human trafficking.

Content loading...

Make Comment/View Comments