"I discovered the cooperatives of blind people during my stay in the region of Dananť, Ivory Coast, near the Liberian frontier.
I had noticed that many blind people went every morning in the direction of the market but I didn't know where they were going exactly. One day, I stopped one of them, Barthťlťmy, who took me to the Blind "Farm", where there was the cooperative.
When we arrived, two blind people were cooking manioc leaves, another was repairing a machete, another was chopping chillies that he had just picked, while some others were talking. Barthťlťmy had come to look after the poultry farm. What I saw at the cooperative in Dananť impressed me very much.
That was the starting point of the photographic work I realized after staying also in other cooperatives of blind people all around the country and in the capital city Abidjan. Later, I discovered Bamako cooperative, in Mali, those in the region of Ouahigouya, Burkina Faso, and in the region of Conakry, Guinea. The handicap is seen in different ways, depending on the community (urban, rural) and religion (Christian, Muslim). I noticed, however, that local people are often similar in their way of reacting. These cooperatives create a particularly positive impression of another Africa, which is very creative and courageous. The exhibition was meant to give a picture of it.
Diseases causing blindness - the blinding disease, cataract, glaucoma, avitaminosis - can be prevented, but local people are so poor and often torn between tradition and modern life. Even when drugs will be available at the local hospital, will someone in the family be ready to waste one or two days of their time to help unfortunate people? And if someone volunteers, who will pay the fare for going to the hospital? And who will pay for the drugs? And finally, to what extent do local families trust modern medicine?
Some blind people overcame such difficulties by joining together to form cooperatives.
A big step forward has been made since the time when they were forced to live in isolation from the other people in their country. Life in the community opens up new prospects and fosters hope in blind people's heart"
GaŽl Turine was born in Belgium in 1972. He has made several photo reportages in Africa, Asia and Latin America, co-operating with humanitarian organizations. His works have always aroused the interest of both the Belgian and the international press.
Grazia Neri is GaŽl Turine's sole agent.
CBM- Missioni Cristiane per i Ciechi Mondo (Christian Missions for blind people of the world) is an international non-profit organization, which has been working for over 90 years to eradicate blinding diseases in developing countries, supporting 1,051 projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
CBM Italia Piazza Santa Maria Beltrade, 2 Milan - phone: 02 72093670 - fax: 02 72093672
Exhibition mounted in association with:
Their eyes can't see the light but they look quiet and their face looks bright. They are African men and women living in one of the communities of blind people organized by the humanitarian association Cbm, Missioni cristiane per i ciechi nel mondo (Christian Missions for blind people of the world). Young globetrotter photographer GaŽl Turine met them during a stay in the Ivory Coast. Turine was born in Belgium 29 years ago. He is the author of social reportages, which were published in the most important magazines in the world. Grazia Neri is GaŽl Turine's sole agent in Italy.
Beyond darkness is the title of a touching photo reportage on GaŽl Turine's blind friends. All the pictures are exhibited at San Fedele Arts Centre, in Milan. 50 beautiful black and white images taken by a professional photographer, who is very keen on his job, picture the everyday life in the cooperatives of blind people in West Africa. There are 45 million blind in the world. 90 per cent live in developing countries. Men and women photographed by Turine became infected with the blinding disease - the river blindness, as African people call it - a disease caused by a parasitical worm and passed on to men by a black fly bite.
The blinding disease could be cured with the appropriate drugs, which exist but are too often unavailable in Africa.
In the village a blind man is often regarded as a heavy burden, first of all because he can't work, secondly superstition makes people think that he has been given some sort of evil eye, then that he is dangerous and must live in isolation from other people. The cooperatives help the blind to make a new life for themselves, working in the fields and rice fields or learning the Braille code. "From a time of forced isolation in the country - says Turine - to life in the community, which opens up new prospects to blind people's heart".
From LA REPUBBLICA,
September 13 2001