“SCARS” Paints A Powerful Story Of Nigerians Who Live With Their Scars
I had the pleasure of visiting Lagos, Nigeria this past May to be a part of the NOW Collectives conference. It wasn’t just a photography conference, for me it was a look into the work of creatives in the area. I wanted to understand the state of photography in other regions in the world, and Lagos being home to (estimated) 21 million people, I was curious to see what photography meant for people and what they captured.
Today, I would like to highlight one of those stories.
While I was there, I had the pleasure of meeting photographer Rebecca Nwose. I met her at a studio of good friend Emmanuel Oyeleke where she was behind the screen retouching his work. I was happy to find a fellow retoucher, she exudes the same passion I have for retouching and we immediately shared a common bond from half way around the world!
The conference began the next day and one of the first segments was a presentation of personal projects from a few of the past students. Rebecca was sharing one of hers! She presented a personal project of hers called “SCARS”. I was immediately taken back from the imagery, dedication, and stories that she was able to capture. The showcase of human resilience amid such conditions is tremendously inspiring and praise worthy.
This project shows me just how important these personal projects are, to be able to tell people’s stories. I hope you feel the same and help me get this story out to the world. The more attention we can bring to these projects, the more photographer’s are empowered and motivated to capture and share them.
Below is a collection of those stories and images.
To get in touch with Rebecca, reach out to her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/rebeccanwose
About the Project
“SCARS” is aimed at photographing subjects living with scars to allow them the ability to tell their stories to change how they view themselves, how society views them, and how they can encourage people living with scars.
This body of work was created with simplicity of background for all subjects, different lighting scenarios, and the relationship between different personalities with their scars.
Wande (Burn Survivor) Tattooed by Fire
“My Tattoos” as she calls her scars, happened February 18, 2016 at an Aunt’s Burial. She was just about to get food when the fire mysteriously jumped on her clothes and started burning her skin.
Wande’s right hand and left leg was burnt before they could put out the fire. Her right hand was severely burnt so they had to take out skin from her thigh to graft her hand.
Her right hand was grafted with skin taken from her thigh which furthermore caused more scars. She was stared at and made fun of after returning back to school from surgery. She wore long sleeves and covered her scars.
Not long after, she realized that people would still always stare, maybe make fun of her and ask her to cover up. She decided to own her scars. Today, Wande doesn’t wear any form of clothing to cover up anymore. She is also super confident of how she looks and walks gracefully.
Edwin (Accident survivor) Handed Life
Edwin is a vibrant and expressive young man who has a knack for business. By educational training, Edwin is a food scientist but struggled to get into the industry after returning back to the country in 2015. He is a fish farmer and also a driver. He was involved in an accident in December 18th, 2015 on his way from an engagement and wedding from Warri to Benin in Nigeria.
Sadly, Edwin’s arm was right outside the car when the vehicle he was driving was ran out of the road by a truck. He described this experience as one of the worse experiences in his life as his life flashed right before him. “I would have died that day if I was in a public transport bus, driving alone, or not with my family,” Edwin said. Luckily for Edwin, he was with his family when this incident happened. He didn’t get medical attention from 5:30pm till 12am as he was rejected from the first hospital but his sister and brother did not give up. They rushed him to another hospital where he eventually received medical attention.
At this point he had lost a lot of blood and his badly injured arm could not be revived anymore. Edwin had to undergo surgery and had his left arm amputated. Contrary to the norm of staying away from what can be a reminder of how they got their scar, Edwin is currently a driver for one of the biggest transport companies in Nigeria. Edwin has embraced his scars and lives with it still driving. He is quite a happy chap with no dull moments, doesn't wear prosthetics neither does he hide his scar.
Peace (Accident) Faced the Fall
Peace is a confident and beautiful young lady with a huge smile on her face.
Peace was just coming up the stairs from fetching water and carrying it on her head when they broke the news of her mother’s demise. She slipped down and fell four floors from the news. Her jaw was totally crushed from the fall and she was rushed immediately to the hospital where she went into a coma.
She woke up 2 weeks later and her jaws completely swollen and had turned into a tumor. Doctors advised to remove the entire jaw on both sides to avoid further growth of the tumor.
Her first trial at surgery to try to recover her face was not quite successful. She had to undergo another one where she had to take a bone from her back to create a jaw bone. The surgery left a huge scar on her back. She could barely walk for a while but she pulled through it. Peace has to wait another 8 years before she can carry out another surgery because her body needs time to heal.
Despite how her face looks, she is a very beautiful woman and has a great personality. She makes hairstyles that makes the shape of her face
Sydney (car accident)
It was a beautiful and happy day for Seedee (as she is popular called), her sister, and her cousin. It was her younger sister’s birthday and they decided to pay her a visit in school in Ogun state.
They individually took bikes to arrive at their destination.
”Suddenly I found myself on the floor, looked up and saw my cousin bleeding. I started crying for her until I looked down and saw I was badly injured myself”. They were rushed to the hospital but her cousin’s injury wasn’t as bad as hers. She had stayed in the hospital when she heard her dad was sick. She would speak to him on the phone till they broke the news to her that her dad has passed on. She didn't get to see him before he passed.
”It was a very tough time for me at that point but all of the events that happened made me appreciate that I was alive. It could have been worse. People would stare at me but it didn't stop me from being comfortable in my scars. My leg is complete and that for me is everything.”
Sydney is a very beautiful girl who walks with so much confidence and doesn’t hide her scars. She wears outfits to show her scars and she is still beautiful with her scars.
Mosunmola (car accident)
Mosunmola was 19 when she was involved in a car accident and sustained injuries on her arm and face.
“Nothing changed for me when I returned back to school from the hospital. My friends and family gave me all the support I needed and this didn’t make me feel any different”. Mosunmola was a student at the time.
She wears her scars so effortlessly that no one would notice them except when you look closely. She has undergone surgery to get her face where it is today.
She looks beautiful with her scars and she doesn't conceal them with any form of makeup.
Esther (burn victim)
Esther had an argument with her neighbor which led into a fight. They were separated from the fight and that was supposed to be the end.
Esther is a Nigerian who lived in Cotonou with her brother. She was fetching water that faithful day when she heard some movements behind her. She paused and turned almost immediately only to see her neighbor running towards her carrying hot oil. All she could do was cover her face and the lady poured the hot oil on her body.
She was rushed to the hospital and her neighbor ran away and has not been found till the date. She moved back to Nigeria and is currently a happy mother of two children.
She doesn’t cover up anymore because she can’t change what has happened to her.
Lucky (scarred by ignorance)
Lucky is a 94 year old woman with 5 children and grandchildren. She was born with a red mark on the side of her face. Her mother had no clue what it was or what to do as she could not afford medical attention.
Her uncle recommended a particular powder to be applied on the spot with the redness. Instead of helping her heal, the powder caused that part of her face to rot.
Unable to get proper medical care, the sore had spread to the upper part of her face getting worse that her teeth could be seen. A white man had arrived to their village and saw her going through pains and immediately applied proper medication that helped heal her face.
She grew up being called all sort of names and people making jest of her. She didn’t let any of that get to her because even before they called her ugly she told me that she already called herself that.
It took her a long time to come to terms with how she looked.