so this shoot, bhutanese refugee women. 50 Cents Period partnered with World Relief Atlanta (a local resettlement agency) to provide sanitary products for the first six months the women are here (which is not covered by the provisionary medicaid and food stamp assistance they receive), and additionally provide health education and prevention workshops. my job was to take photos of each woman for her to share with her family and to send back home. where is bhutan? I don’t know. BRB…. okay, it’s a tiny himalayan kingdom located between india and china.
the group I worked with were new arrivals, the longest being here six months, the newest having arrived the week before. I think only two of them were older than I am. two of the women had just lost babies. as in they had died after the women had given birth the week leading up to the workshop.
*WARNING, you are about to learn something.*
the group had been living in refugee camps in nepal since the early ’90′s, when the government of bhutan declared “bhutan for the bhutanese” (much in the same way that hitler declared “germany for the germans”). the bhutanese in the southern part of the country overwhelmingly shared the same customs, dress, language and religious practices as the nepali hindus in neighboring nepal. unlike their fellow northern bhutanese, the majority of whom are buddhist and have abided quietly under the same ruling family and classes for millenia. when the crackdown happened, there were horrible protests (syrian-style). the southern bhutanese fled to nepal or were exiled, where they have been living ever since. many of these women are survivors of torture, rape, warfare, and genocide. (thanks to lorrie king of 50 Cents Period for explaining it all to me).
if any of you really know me, you know I live in a media vacuum. I’m fairly apolitical, and live in a world of books and my family and music and food and drink and exercise. so all I saw at this shoot were other women. who sort of look like me. some on a great adventure, some bewildered, others seeming to be barely holding on. I had said that all shoots come down a documenting of some form of love. for these women it was love of family and freedom and life and survival and whatever gods that were their own. and they were all beautiful.