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Crying Meri: A Creative Response to Endemic Violence Against Women in Papua New Guinea. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on March 9, 2014.

Crying Meri: A Creative Response to Endemic Violence Against Women in Papua New Guinea.

About this project

With a Human Rights Lens

When FotoEvidence first exhibited the documentary photography project Crying Meri we had no idea how fast and deep would be its impact. Within months, the work was picked up by both the United Nations and Amnesty International for campaigns to expose the extraordinary violence against women in Papua New Guinea (PNG). International attention and a public outcry by concerned citizens brought a response by the government, which passed the nation's first law prohibiting domestic violence late last year. This is testimony to the power of art and creativity to expose, open eyes and enlighten. By backing the publication of the photobook Crying Meri in hardcover and for iPad you can be part of this creative process at the intersection of art and humanity.

A woman looks down the valley from Kassam pass, Morobe province. The beautiful landscape of PNG’s highlands belies the brutal reality of life in the region, where more than 90 per cent of women report suffering gender-based violence.
A woman looks down the valley from Kassam pass, Morobe province. The beautiful landscape of PNG’s highlands belies the brutal reality of life in the region, where more than 90 per cent of women report suffering gender-based violence.

A Shocking Situation Exposed

Papua New Guinea is a violent place and violence against women is seen as normal. The beauty and power of Vlad's photography has allowed people to see the normal in a new light.

Reliable statistics are hard to come by but in the only survey available, done more than twenty years ago, approximately half of women reported being raped. Qualitative studies done since suggest that nothing has changed. More than two thirds report being subjected to domestic violence. In one qualitative study in a highland region, done bay an advocacy group, almost all women  reported being raped. In addition, traditional beliefs about sorcery often lead villagers, confronted with a death or unexpected misfortune, to accuse a woman of sorcery. The accused may be killed or brutalized and ostracized, leaving them injured and without community support. UN Women states that levels of violence against women in Papua New Guinea are getting worse and Medicins Sans Frontieres claims that they are dealing with levels of violence normally only experienced in war zones.

Omsy (right), an ex-member of the Kips Kaboni gang, with his wife Carol in their house. Omsy was a rapist and thief, but left the gang few years ago to become a bass guitarist.
Omsy (right), an ex-member of the Kips Kaboni gang, with his wife Carol in their house. Omsy was a rapist and thief, but left the gang few years ago to become a bass guitarist.

In many remote places in PNG the police are absent. If a rape or attack occurs, a woman is required to pay the cost of gasoline for the police to respond and investigate. This cost is often prohibitive. Most rapes and acts of violence go unreported.

Helen lost her leg in 2005 in a fight with her drunk husband, Alai Kawa. Alai chopped off Helen’s right leg with a bushknife in front of their young children, who later called for help.
Helen lost her leg in 2005 in a fight with her drunk husband, Alai Kawa. Alai chopped off Helen’s right leg with a bushknife in front of their young children, who later called for help.
Rasta was accused of sorcery by the people in her village after the death of a local young man in 2003. She was set upon by a crowd at his funeral then beaten and strangled before she escaped. She lost her hand in the attack.
Rasta was accused of sorcery by the people in her village after the death of a local young man in 2003. She was set upon by a crowd at his funeral then beaten and strangled before she escaped. She lost her hand in the attack.

Creativity, Consciousness and Society

The power in Vlad's photographs and the intimate accounts of his subjects suffering found eager eyes and ears among people concerned about the endemic of violence against women in PNG. The United Nations mounted a photographic  exhibit of his work in the capital, Port Moresby and Amnesty International used Vlad's photographs and stories in a public education campaign.  These developments reflect the power of the creative process to re-frame social phenomena, influence human consciousness and enlighten society.

By giving voice to the voiceless, Vlad's photographs and multimedia also demonstrate the power of the creative process to transcend the artist himself.

Christina Saunders, Human Rights Adviser to the  United Nations in Papua New Guinea from 2009 to 2013 said, "Vlad Sokhin captures life with a human rights lens. He gets to the heart of the story by treating his subjects with great respect and dignity."

Kate Schuetze, Pacific Researcher for Amnesty International said, "Vlad Sokhin, by shining a light on these issues, has offered the women a voice to the outside world and has given them hope for change. Amnesty International used his photos to expose the failure to address the endemic violence against women and to campaign for legislative and institutional reform."

The creativity of Vlad's work has led other highly-regarded artists to seek collaboration with him. The multimedia production company DuckRabbit asked him to collaborate with them and the BBC World Service on a soon-to-be-released, documentary about the issues exposed by Crying Meri.

A PNG man is waiting for his court trial in his prison cell, having been accused of multiple rapes. Port Moresby, Boroko Police Station.
A PNG man is waiting for his court trial in his prison cell, having been accused of multiple rapes. Port Moresby, Boroko Police Station.

The Book 

Crying Meri captures the astounding natural beauty of PNG and the irony of the human tragedy unfolding there. It  brings together in one place Vlad’s work on domestic, sexual and sorcery violence shot over the last three years and his personal reflections on the creative process.

Vlad's dedication and assistance to his subjects has given him remarkable access, allowing us intimately into the lives of victims of abuse and sorcery violence.  This intimate access is a core element of the creative process in documentary photography. Crying Meri will show how he did it using his “Crying Meri Diaries," field notes and Polaroid images that capture his personal experience and conversations with the people he photographed: victims and perpetrators alike.

Others are eager to collaborate with Vlad in this creation of Crying Meri. Andrei Polikanov, editor of Russian Reporter magazine, will serve as photo editor. Jo Chandler, an award winning Australian journalist, who has covered gender violence in PNG for years, will write an essay for the book.  Christina Saunders, Human Rights Adviser to the United Nations in Papua New Guinea from 2009 to 2013 will contribute a foreword. 

The book will be printed at Ofset Yapimavi in Istanbul on a four color press, in a stitch-bound, hardcover edition. An iPad version will also be produced. It will be published by FotoEvidence.

Crying Meri in the Press

Vlad Sokhin is a working photojournalist who has been widely exhibited and published. The full list of his exhibitions and a partial list of publications can be found in his bio at the right hand side of this page.

Risks and challenges

If we raise the money to publish "Crying Meri," we don't anticipate major challenges. Vlad is a working photojournalist, diligent about producing assignments and meeting deadlines. FotoEvidence has published several high-quality photo books without any problems. We have a team that has always delivered on time and within budget. We expect to meet our commitments to donors without difficulty.

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    34 backers

    You will be acknowledged in the book as one of the backers.

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    46 backers

    A signed CRYING MERI POSTCARD, one download of the iPad edition of CRYING MERI and acknowledgment in the book.

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    A signed 5" x 7" digital print from CRYING MERI, one download of the iPad edition, and acknowledgement in the book.

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    A signed 11" x 17" digital print, two (2) signed copies of CRYING MERI, a download of the iPad edition and acknowledgement in the book.

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    A signed 16" x 20" digital print from an edition of 8, two (2) signed copies of CRYING MERI, a download of the iPad edition and acknowledgement in the book.

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    A signed 16" x 20" digital print from an edition of 8, and (5) signed copies of CRYING MERI, a download of the iPad edition and acknowledgement in the book as a lead backer.

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    A signed 16" x 20" digital print from an edition of 8, up to ten (10) copies of CRYING MERI, a download of the iPad edition, and acknowledgement in the book as a lead backer, and for an NGO, your logo and contact information included.

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Funding period

- (35 days)