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Alixandra Fazzina –Escape from Somalia


There are few places in the world more difficult and dangerous for journalists to work than in lawless Somalia. Similarly, living in the country which has been embattled by civil war since 1991 involves unrelenting poverty, unrestrained violence and little hope for sudden change.

Opening at the National Museum of Kenya, Alixandra Fazzina’s photo exhibition, A Million Shillings – Escape from Somalia, tells the story of the dangerous journey taken by Somalis in a desperate attempt to escape their volatile homeland.

As explained in Fazzina’s project statement : “With land borders cut off or closed, and surrounded by conflict on all sides, one of the only means of escape is by sea.”

Photographed over two years, A Million Shillings follows the path taken in pursuit of freedom from the Somalia reality. Through images that appear more inspired by Baroque painter Carravaggio more than by any photographer, Fazzina shows us the hardships of those fleeing the continent by sea. Viewers follow as hopeful emigrants meet smugglers who will take their million shillings ($50) as entrance fee for the perilous exodus. Traveling by boat from Africa’s Golden Horn across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen and beyond, the terrible journey is the only option for many in search of a better life.

Risking their lives to escape, there is, according to Fazzina, a one-in-twenty chance that passengers on the smuggler boats will not complete the journey alive. The smugglers could as easily be responsible for the death of people seeking help as they could be credited for facilitating safe passage.

A Million Shillings – Escape from Somalia has also been published in book form by Trolley. A serious essay from a country that is largely unvisited by even the bravest photojournalists, this is one of those rare emotional photo series that is at once beautiful and horrible and important and sad.

Alixandra Fazzina’s A Million Shillings – Escape from Somalia
Until May 15th
The National Museum of Kenya April 15 – May 15, 2011. Daily from 8:30am to 5:30pm. Museum rates apply. Museum Hill, Nairobi, Kenya +254 (0) 20 8164135 +254 (0) 20 8164136 +254 (0) 20 8164134

Clint McLean

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