Video produced by OB at 'Shot by Excelsis'.
‘Remember Me’ is a collaborative project between Francis Kokoroko, Rania Odaymat, and The Fair Justice Initiative. It focuses on twelve women living in Nsawam Medium Security Prison, Ghana. All twelve are serving life or condemned sentences, which under Ghanaian criminal law amount to indefinite imprisonment.
These women are ‘faceless’, marginalised by wider Ghanaian society and by their own families. The Remember Me project seeks to grant them the validation of being remembered as people with identities more complex than their incarcerated status.
The project began with a series of workshops, the first of which was dedicated to making collages. Initially the collective was cautious and sceptical of the value in doing so, but they persevered and produced poignant works that became foundational to the development of the project. A second workshop was initially designed as a self-portrait photography session in order to challenge their belief that ‘our face is our shame’. However, the regulations of the prison environment dictated that the project be adapted instead into a discussion about photography as a tool for advocacy, and a session on image-making with a Polaroid camera that focused on body language rather than facial expression.
After lengthy negotiations, approval was granted for a final two-hour workshop dedicated to the production of the final portrait photo series, a time frame made workable by the invaluable support of make-up artist Sandra Don- Arthur and stylists from Dark and Lovely. By replacing their prison uniforms with traditionally-inspired clothing and styling, the images simultaneously show that these women are ordinary people whilst reflecting their unique personalities. These are women who want to be remembered not just for their crimes, but for being Adwoa, Abena, Agnes, Ama A, Mary, Lamisi, Ama Y, Esther, Akosua, Salamatu, Zelia and Talata.
After being shown as part of the 'Make Be' exhibition at La Maison in October 2018, the advocacy work of the project is expanding to new forms. The Fair Justice Initiative have collaborated with designers at Mhoseenu to develop a booklet about the project. The primary intent behind this is its use as an advocacy tool - to present to diplomats and politicians in Ghana with the power to influence policy change on life sentences and the death penalty. The book contains both the photographs and testimonies from the women themselves on their challenges, hopes and dreams.
Most recently, the series was showcased at The October Gallery in London for a fundraising evening arranged in collaboration with The Bella Teaching Foundation (UK). Profits from the sale of books and portraits will be donated towards a computer and business skills reintegration programme set to launch in 2020.
Remember Me, London Exhibition - shot by Mutombo Da Poet (@fotombo)
is an artist, stylist, creative facilitator and curator. She is one of the founding members of the Beyond Collective, a Ghanaian non-governmental organisation whose aim is to promote creative awareness and education, as well as facilitate artistic exchanges and collaborations. She is also a trustee of The Fair Justice Initiative.