Playing Slowly, 2017

“A sequence of six images show students playing “In-Out,” a popular children’s game in Nigeria, in a classroom in Shehu Sanda Kyarimi school, Maiduguri. I asked the students to re-enact games they used to play when they were younger. The text “playing slowly” is from the primary school book “Macmillan Modern Handwriting” by T.O. Ogunseemo, published in 1994, Ibadan, Nigeria. Maiduguri, Nigeria, 2017. This series was created for the theme “Borders” for the 2017 World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass. When I first began the “Education is Forbidden” project in 2015, it was to document how students were experiencing the Boko Haram conflict in northeastern Nigeria. I would arrive at a school or university days or many months after a violent incident had occurred there. I often had this feeling that I was arriving too late and what I was capturing was often a residue—a quickly evaporating substance of a traumatic event I was asking my subjects to recollect. This substance, a memory being played back to me, had the quality of smoke I was trying to capture in my viewfinder or my recorder, malleable material that I had a hand in shaping into something tangible and digestible through the questions I asked. I felt I was involved in a sort of ancient game of “truth making”. With each question, I was creating a sort of narrative “trap” that locked my subjects into a character, a victim, someone at the losing end of war.”

-Witness World Press Photo

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