About this project
It all started with a photo notebook
32 children from the L’Esperance Children’s Village followed a photography course in November of 2014, just several weeks before the orphanage was to be closed. The children portrayed their lives. They grew up without mirrors, tap water and without electricity. During the course they learned to look at themselves and the world. The pictures of the children were brought together in a photo note book (designed by Linda Braber) that gives a unique insight into their world. The photo note book is still for sale – and with buying a book, you send these kids back to school, which often their relatives or adopted parents cannot afford.
December 2014, weeks before the orphanage closed, there were still 56 children left. No one had come for them. The brothers Hirwa (13) and Jean-Cloude (10) were among the youngest. Their mother was still alive, but she had not come for them. We decided to help the brothers and call her together. Fareeda was 27 years old and lived in Kigali. She became an orphan during the genocide and was thirteen when she delivered Hirwa. Fareeda was too poor to take care of them. She had good memories of her own years in an orphanage and thought the boys were the best off there. Now the government forced her to take the boys back again. She lost her job as an in-house help and the trio slowly began a joint existence. Would they save it together? Read the whole story on Narratively.
In the film that was released in 2015, we also reflect on our own role and responsibilities – on how difficult it is to do really well. “In my dreams I want to become a tourist” and the photo exhibition with images of Anaïs Lopéz was shown in the Oba in Amsterdam, at the WTC in The Hague and Amsterdam, and at Humanity House in The Hague. The curator of this traveling exhibition was Iris Sikking. The two-screen installation was made by Thomas Vroege.
Why this project?
One of us, Paulien Bakker, has been visiting the orphanage since 2005. When she heard the orphanage was to close its doors, she wondered what would happen to the children. She talked about it with photographer Anaïs López and Anaïs immediately said: “But that’s a modern Cinderella story!” Things quickly developed from there. Over her lunch break, they wanted to ask Cuban filmmaker Anisleidy Martinez to join them. Ani, grown up in a Cuba that send its hero’s to do good in Africa, already answered before the question was posed. We first visited l’Esperance Childrens Village in December of 2014.
Just weeks before the orphanage closed, we gave 32 children a photo course and an assignment: to portray their own lives. By then, of the 126 kids who had once lived in the eight family houses, only some 56 remained. Most were fourteen years of age or older; no family would take them in. Though the government postponed the deadline for closing at the last minute, the orphanage had by then no funds left and sent the remaining children away.
Six months later we went back and visited six children, making inquiries about the other 26 who attended our course and talking to all people involved in the process. The photos of the children have been collected in a photo notebook that is now out for sale. From the profits, we’re sending a few children to school.
More about us
Anaïs López was nominated for a Golden Calf for her most recent project, the exhibition and app De Migrant about an unwanted bird in Singapore. She published two books in 2013: “Only in Burundi” and “In the beginning no bird sang”. Both projects were nominated for the Dutch Doc Award. “Only Burundi” has been on display at the Stedelijk Museum as part of the exhibition “On the Move”. Her earlier work has been exhibited in the Tropenmuseum and Photo Ville New York. Her work has also appeared in numerous media, including Nrc.next and HP/De Tijd. Anais completed her Master’s Degree in 2010 in Photography at the AKV / St Joost, Breda. She followed a Magnum mentorship and was a member of the World Press Photo Workshop.
Interview Dutch Doc about Only in Burundi
Video of the book ‘Only in Burundi’
Anisleidy Martínez Fonseca grew up in Cuba and went to boarding school there. She studied communications at the University of Havana and received training as a professional video producer at the College of MultiMedia in Amsterdam, where she lives since 2009. She worked for ZoominTV. Her first project is shown on: http://www.mijndiamantbuurt.nl/. Anisleidy is now working on her first big documentary project in Cuba.
Paulien Bakker is author of the book “A romantic people”, about the people of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. She’s currently working on her second non-fiction book. Up until the summer of 2018, she was the Director of the Initiative for Narrative Journalism in the Netherlands. As a freelance journalist, she writes mainly for Dutch media outlets like De Volkskrant and Vrij Nederland. Her work was also published on Narratively. Paulien studied Journalism and Psychology.
Video Hello Baghdad
Narrative pieces online: Correspondent and Narratively.