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Children of Diabaly

Photographer: Nic Bothma

 

Portraits in black and white transitioning into color of children whose psychological and emotional scars cannot be quantified. These children are residents living along the same street in the small rice growing community of the northern Malian town of Diabaly who in the month of January 2013 lived through a rapid chain of events in the Malian war. On 14 January 2013, the Jihadists vandalised the town's church desecrating all the religious symbols, raided shops and took down the Malian flag. For eight days the children lived in fear with these Jihadists amongst them. Then the French attacked with a precision airstrike late at night. The airstrikes were incredibly accurate striking these vehicles within meters of the children’s homes. The strikes caused the vehicles to explode and set off ammunitions with bullets and shrapnel flying in all directions. The shrapnel caused damage to the mud houses but miraculously there were no fatalities. While some children were injured, the majority remained unharmed physically. Many Jihadists were killed and the fathers of these children were made to dig big holes by the jihadists on the outskirts of the town into which the bodies were thrown. Four days later the French and Malian forces entered on the ground to cheers from the town’s people with a Malian military camp now restored and protecting Diabaly. The children continue their daily lives playing with marbles in the sand streets, constructing clay toys and scavenging metal pieces off the destroyed vehicles as the population clear away the debris from their homes and go back to their subsistence lifestyles in the harsh Malian landscape.