photo by Alex Lear
MEN WITH GUNS
my fingers hesitate, but i must tell someone, and who better than you, even though, i’m sort of sure, I mean, i’m pretty sure, you’re not expecting to hear from me. you know, the way we left, or at least, the way i left. maybe one day before we make thirty you will forgive me... i hope you’re willing to read this ... anyway, stop distracting me. oops, i’m sorry. i didn’t mean to say that.
i’m blaming you again for my own in-discipline. remember, how once i jumped on you for sleeping to quietly? you woke up and asked me what i was doing, and when i realized i had spent 20 minutes just looking at you sleeping, i got angry at you... anyway, how are you?
sometime back i filed some photos for the christian science monitor. was supposed to have two shots but it got cut down to one (kalamu re-ran the article on www.topica.com/lists/e-drum, you can search the archives for “black diamond” and read it). i’ve attached the two photos.
i think i did a pretty good job even though no one photo can tell it all. plus, you know, i don’t know that photography (or anything else) is capable of telling the whole story over here. remember we talked about what photographs can do, about why i continue as a photographer, why i think i can make a contribution being a revolutionary photographer. yu said a picture of a gun can’t shoot shit. and my reply: but a picture of a woman with a gun can make a man shit. lol. rotglmao (that’s, rolling on the ground laughing my ass off). smile, that’s just my macabre humor at work.
what’s that blues line: laughing to keep from crying? except, i really felt like crying after that shoot. you’d have to be here, i guess, to feel me, except if my pictures are strong enough to make you feel... i’m talking in circles again, huh?
we were in this encampment at a village caught in the middle. d, there’s nothing left. the guerillas invited us in to report on what happened. the journalist i’m traveling with is interviewing guerilla women, including one named black diamond. she’s only average height, robust but not big. a plain, oval-shaped, dark face. could be any woman in this area. except she speaks with fierce intensity. not shouting or loud, but not soft either. and, like, everything she says sounds like a command that everyone follows without hesitation. of course, i took some shots of her, me kneeling and angling up, making her look like a giant.
while the interview continued i looked around for something else to shoot. there was nothing. devastation is not dramatic unless you can find a small something that will hit home to the viewer, but there’s nothing we would recognize as a destroyed home. and... d. are you still reading? i hope so. i’ve got a whole half hour of internet access. it only took me about ten or twelve minutes to file photos. my batteries are charging now, and i have about fifteen minutes left, so that’s why i’m rambling...
i’ma be honest: i miss you. but i know you know that cause whenever we argued and I threatened to leave, you used to all the time say, you know how you drawl, dawg, you gonna miss this bone when i’m gone... “dawg!” d. was that your hip way of calling me a bitch without saying the word? did you think i was acting like a bitch cause i didn’t want to commit to a long term relationship? ... i didn’t mean to bring that up.
this girl was standing by a tall, slender tree, one arm around the trunk. ther was something, like, I had this feeling she had been watching me for a long, long time. she did not avert her gaze when i glanced at her. just stared back. instantly i knew she had seen a lot of stuff, there was no innocence in those eyes. no curiosity. just witness. her eyes were like my camera.
i held my camera up and pointed it toward her to ask permission. she didn’t respond. just kept looking. my hand flew to my mouth covering my lips, you know the gesture i do when I’m embarrassed, you always used to point that gesture out to me. i thought about you at that moment and how you would always say: ask for what you want, don’t be embarrassed by your wants.
so, i said, “photo”? no response at first, then she raised her free arm and hugged the tree like it was a best friend. i started to try and quickly frame that shot but before i got the camera up all the way she said, “yes, mam.” her english was clear and her deference made me hesitate.
“what’s your name?” I asked.
she replied, “kuji.”
i told her my name and fired off two quick shots. i wanted to talk but couldn’t think of anything appropriate to say, so i asked her age?
“you live here?”
“no. i am with the freedom fighters.”
i took another shot, she was holding her hands clasped in front of her.
“no, i mean when did you join the freedom fighters?”
“when i saw captain diamond.”
d. i’m running outta time (you know how long it takes me to type, how I usually send postcards, but we have not had easy access to the mail, except the office email is working fine, thus, this email but no postcard, you unnerstand?), anyway, i will just tell you what kuji told me. kuji is a war orphan, her mama was beat to death, never met her father, her twin brother is missing and she dosn’t have anyone else. she said she used to go to school in the city and one day they all had to leave suddenly. their teachers put them in the back of a truck trying to escape, but the truck was attacked and all children jumped out running, except kuji climbed a tree and she saw one of the guerillas catch a teacher. kuji heard the woman screaming and saw the man grab her red hair, that’s what kuji said, “red hair.” the teacher tried to run but tripped. the man grabbed her by hr blouse. the cloth ripped. kuji said, “she had one of them white straps holding her breasts” and the gurilla he grabbed that and it broke. and then he kicked the woman and jerked her by her arm and dragged her into a hut. after a while, kuji said, black diamond came with some other women guerillas and then the man came out with his gun in his hand, saying something kuji could not hear. when diamond tried to go inside, the man stepped in front of her. dimond pushed the man aside and went in. she came out quickly and walked straight up to the man and before he could do anything, she hit him with her gun. twice again. and ordered one of her soldiers to take his gun.
d. it was extraordinary to hear the pride as this young girl described this. kuji’s eyes were shining while telling me what had happened. kuji says, the guy and black diamond started shouting. diamond turns to the other guerillas and they discuss what to do. that’s when kuji climbed down and told them what she saw. they asked her questions and the guy questions. the man said kuji was lying. she said, I’m scared but i’m not lying. and than the man tried to grab her and shouted, “this kid is lying.” and i said, i mean, kuji said, i no lie! that’s when diamond ordered, let me see your dick. show me your dick! we will see if you have been with a woman just now. the man grabbed himself and shouted no. long story short, black diamond shot him. and proclaimed, we are fighting so that men with guns can never hurt us women again. death to thugs!
d., i got to go. i wish i had got the picture when kuji repeated diamond’s words, holding her little fist fiercely above her head: death to thugs! if you saw all the mad violence i’ve seen here, you would understand a teenage girl being proud of helping to kill a rapist. or maybe not, but anyway, life’s truly tragic here and probably it will take more women killing a bunch a men in order to put an end to all the killing and raping women suffer.
those are hard facts, but what else can anyone do? war is hell and women are heaven.
let me know how you like the article. i’m thinking about doing a book about the women over here and maybe i will call it, death to thugs.
gotta run. ciao (mein). ;>)
—kalamu ya salaam