Mariella Furrer: My Piece of Sky
When I was about five years old, I was sexually abused by a stranger … The molestation could not have lasted more than a couple of minutes, but the incident affected my life in ways that are difficult to articulate. As a five year old, I don’t think you really understand that you have lost something when you are abused. Yet you have … You lose your childhood really, your innocence is snatched away, and what little is left of that once-pure child is now transformed into a sexual being, a child with a knowledge of things way before her time.
I want to start this post by commending Mariella Furrer for taking on the heroic task of shedding light on the the global phenomenon of child sexual abuse. It’s a subject that many would rather not see brought to light, but by forcing us to look at and experience the trauma that these acts produce, it will only make our war cry against them louder. Mariella started documenting child sexual abuse in 2002 when a U.S. women’s magazine hired her to take photographs for a story about infant rape in South Africa. She was so appalled by the number of victims she continued to explore the issue on her own. She spent the next ten years working in close collaboration with child protection advocates and the police to research and document with her camera and a sound recorder the crisis of child sexual abuse in South Africa.
The results of Mariella’s exhaustive ten-year project are gathered together in My Piece of Sky: Stories of Child Sexual Abuse which Mariella self-published and was released in November 2013. To purchase the book, you can contact Mariella (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Mariella is Swiss/Lebanese and has lived in Africa her whole life. She attended the Documentary Photography & Photojournalism Program at the International Center of Photography in New York. Since her graduation in 1993, Mariella has worked as a freelance photojournalist based in Kenya. Mariella was awarded an Amnesty International Media Award in 2011 for this work, a grant from 3P (Photographers Pro Photography) Foundation, France, in 2005, and a grant from the Hasselblad Foundation, Sweden, in 2003. She was shortlisted for The Anthropographia Award for Photography and Human Rights (2010), received a Honourable Mention from Unicef’s Photographer of the Year Award, 2005, and was nominated for Sante Fe Prize for Photography, 2007. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications including: Time, Newsweek, Life, New York Times, Outside Magazine, Talk Magazine, Paris Match and Der Spiegel. She has also participated in several book projects and shown her work at group exhibitions.
My Piece of Sky is the result of my personal journey that began over 30 years ago when I was sexually abused, and that has led me to explore and document with my camera the world of child sexual abuse. It is testimony to the young children who have survived the experience of rape, and those who have lost their lives to it.
My book studies the problem in South Africa, a country dealing with an epidemic of child sexual abuse. However, this book is not exclusively for South Africans. Child sexual abuse is a global issue, and one that is seemingly on the rise. Nor is this book an academic one. Through photographs, journals, artwork and testimonies from the abused, the abusers, and the helpers, it is instead a glimpse into a world of utter depravity, of absolute horror, yet of incredible resilience, as young survivors struggle to rebuild their lives.
Many times I have wanted to lock these interviews and photos up and walk away from them, pretend I had never heard them or seen them. Only a sense of obligation to those who shared their deepest, darkest secrets with me, so that it does not happen again, has prevented me from doing so.–Mariella Furrer, Johannesburg – 24 May 2012
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