Living with chains Photography Exhibition - An aid for the visually impaired

For its upcoming Annual Public Lecture on Disability Rights – A Global Agenda for the 21st Century, the Australian Human Rights Centre based at UNSW Law is hosting an exhibition by Paula Bronstein, an internationally acclaimed photojournalist who has covered humanitarian issues and conflict for over 30 years. Graciously, she donated a series of photographs she shot in 2012 entitled Living with chains, reporting the circumstances of different disabled people in Bali.


Perhaps the easiest way to explain these specific circumstances, and the photos more generally, is by reflecting on the title of the series, Living with chains. The briefest glance at these images reveals that this title is not figurative, at least not primarily. Several of Bronstein’s subjects live their lives literally shackled in chains. This is done largely by their families, who are unable to control them because of their afflictions. There is a vibrancy in some of the photos that brings this point home.


The following extract comes from Bronstein’s comment attached to one such photo of Ketut, a 33 year old man suffering from mental illness:

 

‘Ketut, 33, reacts as he water hits him while getting a bucket shower by his father Nyoman, in his room where he lives, chained for the past eight years … Inside the spiritual Balinese society there is often a stigma and misinformation about mental illness. Some people feel that this is the work of the supernatural so their hope to solve the mental disorder is to let the traditional healer do his work ... Indonesia has a population of approximately 240 million people, the country has a shortage of psychiatrists and the health ministry spends 2.3 percent of the total national budget on health care.’

 

You can imagine the bite of metal into flesh as Ketut writhes against the chains that bind him, his teeth bared in rage. Crystallised here is the sense that Ketut is doubly afflicted, and his suffering is compounded. Not only does he suffer illness, but he suffers his circumstances.

 

Each of these photos tells a story that is as devastating as Ketut’s.

 

Living with chains will be on display on Level 1, UNSW Law, until 30 June.

With thanks to Matt McRae for this extract from his article on Living with chains, in the next issue of the Human Rights Defender.

 

A full description of each black and white photograph is as follows:

 

Photo 1 - MANGGIS, BALI, INDONESIA-MAY 8: Ketut, 33, reacts as he water hits him while getting a bucket shower by his father Nyoman, in his room where he lives, chained for the past eight years May 8,

2012 in Manggis, Bali, Indonesia.

 

Ketut is shackled by his own family in order to control him. They say that he has shown signs of a mental disorder for 9 years but only took him to a “Balian” which is a Balinese traditional healer. Currently, he is monitored by the Suryani Institute for Mental Health.

 

The Suryani Institute for Mental Health, a non-profit institute that cares for the mentally ill, provides free medical and psychiatric treatment. The mental health institute works to get all of their patients released but in some cases the family creates more problems. Many poor families don’t have money to pay for hospitalization or go to a doctor.

Photo 2 - MANGGIS, BALI, INDONESIA-MAY 8: Ketut, 33, lays on the cement floor in his room where he lives, chained for the past eight years May 8, 2012 in Manggis, Bali, Indonesia.

 

Photo 3 - MANGGIS, BALI, INDONESIA-MAY 8: Ketut, 33, sits in his room where he lives, chained for the past eight years while his bother Nengah cuts his hair May 8, 2012 in Manggis, Bali, Indonesia.

 

Photo 4 - MANGGIS, BALI, INDONESIA-MAY 8: Ketut, 33, sits in his room where he lives, chained for the past eight years May 8, 2012 in Manggis, Bali, Indonesia.

 

Photo 5 - BULELENG, BALI, INDONESIA-MAY 5: Gede, 35, sits in his cell May 5, 2012 in Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia. Gede is not chained since the family chose to keep him in a locked room in order to control him, they say so he doesn’t run away and disturb the community. He has had mental problems since 2001 diagnosed with Schizophrenia, he has been to the mental hospital 7 times. Currently, he is monitored by the Suryani Institute for Mental Health.

 

Photo 6 - ABANG, BALI, INDONESIA-MAY 3: Gede, 55, sits in a wooden shack in a remote jungle away from his family, where his legs are chained for the past 7 years May 3, 2012 in Abang, Bali, Indonesia.

He lives with 4 dogs for protection and companionship, diagnosed with Schizophrenia. The family has chosen to keep him in chains in order to control him so he doesn’t run away bothering the community. He rarely bathes or changes his clothing. Currently, he is monitored by the Suryani Institute for Mental Health.

 

Photo 7 - ABANG, BALI, INDONESIA-MAY 4: Ketut, 57, diagnosed with Schizophrenia he has been chained for 15 years May 4, 2012 in Abang, Bali, Indonesia. Ketut is shackled by his own family in order to control him, they feel he is aggressive, and sometimes dangerous, and might run away disturbing the community. Ketut has been to the mental hospital 4 times over the years, his mental condition began in 1991. Currently, he is monitored by the Suryani Institute for Mental Health.

 

Photo 8 - BULELENG, BALI, INDONESIA-MAY 5: Gede, 28, stands in his room chained for 4 years inside the home of his family May 5, 2012 in Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.

 

Bali has one government run mental hospital. Indonesia has a population of approximately 240 million people, the country has a shortage of psychiatrists and the health ministry spends 2.3 percent of the total national budget on health care.

 

Photo 9 - BULELENG, BALI, INDONESIA-MAY 4: Komang, 27, sits in her room where she is chained and diagnosed with Schizophrenia May 4, 2012 in Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.

 

Photo 10 - BULELENG, BALI, INDONESIA-MAY 4: Komang, 27, stands in her room where she is chained, diagnosed with Schizophrenia May 4, 2012 in Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.

 

Photo 11 - BULELENG, BALI, INDONESIA-MAY 4: Komang, 27, sits in her room where she is chained and diagnosed with Schizophrenia May 4, 2012 in Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia. Komang is shackled by her own family in order to control her, they say so she doesn’t run away and disturb the community. She rarely changes her clothing and since her wrist is chained dressing herself becomes more difficult. Komang comes from a poor family with 6 siblings; she has been chained off and on for years as she undergoes medication for her illness. Her brother who also has a mental condition was chained for eight years but has now recovered and was released in 2009. Currently, she is monitored by the Suryani Institute for Mental Health.

 

Photo 12 -BULELENG, BALI, INDONESIA-MAY 5: Gede, 28, chained for 4 years inside the home of his family May 5, 2012 in Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia. Gede is shackled by his own family in order to control him, they say so he doesn’t run away and disturb the community. He went to school for 9 years and has been to the mental hospital twice but escaped in 2006. Currently, he is monitored by the Suryani Institute for Mental Health.

 

Inside the spiritual Balinese society there is often a stigma and misinformation about mental illness. Some people feel that this is the work of the supernatural so their hope to solve the mental disorder is to let the traditional healer do his work.

 

Photo 13 - GIANYAR, BALI, INDONESIA-MAY 1: Wayan Pait, 50, who is severely physically and mentally handicapped lays in his bed where has has been tied up and confined most of his life May 1, 2012 in Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia. According to his family, Wayan lacks muscular control so is kept with his arms and legs tied for his own health otherwise he will hurt himself.

 

There is no official diagnosis for his medical condition from the local hospital although Polio was suggested. Wayan has never been educated. The family tried many times to heal him taking him to a “Balian” a traditional Balinese healer but they say nothing helped.

 

According to his mother, one month after he was born he went into a coma and the family thought he was clinically dead but eight days later he came back. For the physically handicapped, especially those born with deformities some believe that they may embody bad spirits from those who have lived before.

 

More about Paula Bronstein:

Paula Bronstein’s many nominations and awards span decades and represent only a small space in what is simply a lifetime of phenomenal front line news and documentary photography across the globe. She sits alongside the most important female photojournalists as a multiple nominee and award winner of international contests including The Pulitzer, Pictures of The Year International, and The National Press Photographer’s Association. She has judged some of the most important international photography contests such as The World Press Photo Award, exhibited extensively, and given interviews herself for the media in the US, Australia, and across Asia. Industry peers watch her insights and listen to her talks closely about her iconic images of life in Afghanistan and post 9/11’s ‘war on terror’ and its impact across the Middle East. Bronstein’s work reflects a dedicated humanitarian and visual war correspondent finding visual moments nobody else would dare look for, as she brings a voice to those who have none. She continues to photograph presidents and kings, natural disasters, political turmoil and conflict, and always the most impoverished and vulnerable people on this earth, from Mongolia to Afghanistan and Africa. Her images have been published globally in a variety of newspapers and magazines.

 

 

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