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Photography Dignity amid ignorance, ostracism and persecution

JOHN GREEN is moved by an extraordinary book of profoundly humanising portraiture of Ghanian women accused of witchcraft

Witches in Exile
By Ann-Christine Woehrl
Kehrer Verlag £36

WHEN witches are mentioned today in Europe, we invariably think of fairy tales or the horrendous treatment meted out to women accused of witchcraft in the Middle Ages.

Sadly, still today, in parts of the world, particularly Africa, women are being accused of witchcraft and subjected to inhuman treatment.

This book gives us a selection of movingly beautiful portraits of over 40 women from Ghana who have been accused of witchcraft and subjected to beatings, ostracism and exile from their families and communities.

In such communities, living with daily insecurity, fear and ignorance, scapegoating vulnerable individuals, particularly women, is an easy option when faced with inexplicable events, illness, injury or simply out of an urge for vengeance.

Ann-Christin Woehls wonderfully evocative photo portraits and succinct texts by Anje Pinter-Rawe bring the lives and suffering of these women to our attention.

Woehrl has sensitively depicted each of the women in close-up, against a black background.

They are dressed in simple but brightly coloured, traditional dress which, with its vibrancy, contrasts sharply with the dark, melancholic dignity of the faces.

The suffering of these women speaks eloquently through their eyes and through every wrinkle in their proud faces. They ask us to bear witness to their suffering and mutely challenge us to do something about it.

In the north of Ghana, in Gambaga and Gushiegu, Ann-Christine Woehrl met women who have suffered this fate and has given them a voice through her riveting images.

Abandoned by their families and forced to leave their villages, they found refuge in so-called witch camps.

This unique album tells the story of these women who, stigmatised as witches, have narrowly escaped death.

Five per cent of the book proceeds and 10 per cent of the proceeds from the special edition will be used to support the Ghanaian aid project Witchhunt Victims Empowerment Project, which creates and raises awareness for such places of refuge.

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