On my first trip to Ghana, the photographer that I was traveling with had come across a book by Karen Palmer, titled Spellbound. The book was written about her experience at the Gambaga Witch Camp. A decision was made to include a trip to the village of Gambaga to visit the witch camp there. I was shocked by the realization that these camps really exist. The women there were strong and resilient, although living in harsh conditions. Behind this strength I could see and feel a pervading sadness.
I contacted the author of the book, Karen Palmer, and asked if she would write a piece to go along with my photographs of the women in the Witch Camp at Gambaga.
Below is what Karen wrlote.
Empathy for those living in the harsh face of human rights abuses is most strongly triggered by our ability to see ourselves in another’s situation. But how can we see ourselves in the reality of women living in Ghana’s witch camps? They live in mud huts, are often illiterate and wholly reliant on ancient technologies to cook, wash, farm or fetch water. Theirs is a culture with a belief system different from our own.
So how do we begin to understand their lives?
We can see them as we see our neighbors, helping to raise the community’s children. We can see them as we see our friends, sometimes competing for male attention. We can see as our sisters, struggling with unseen demons. We can see them as our mothers or grandmothers, needing care and attention as they age. We can see them as ourselves, worrying about surviving the lean times.
Ghana’s witch camps are a conundrum: for some, they are the beginning of a sentence; for others, they are the beginning of sanctuary.
Put yourselves here, now, as you view this collection. See what can happen when lives tip over the thin line between survival and serious trouble.
–Karen Palmer, Author
Spellbound: Inside West Africa’s Witch Camps
For more about the Witch Camp, visit my website, http://www.oursisterskeeper.org/further-reading/discovering-commonality-in-the-gambaga-witches-camp/