Nneka Iwunna Ezemezue

“Left Behind” examines the traumatic experience of widows mostly from the South Eastern part of Nigeria, who were subjected to mandatory observance of inhuman mourning rite. These ancient rites vary across communities; a widow could be forced to sit unclad on a floor for weeks without having a bath, drink the filthy water used to wash the corpse, shave her hair completely, and so on. The reasons given for this treatments are to prove the widow’s innocence, respect the dead or protect the living from the dead.

These practices emanates from the subjugation of women which is deeply rooted in the patriarchal culture and tradition of the Nigerian society where women are regarded as objects of rights, rather than subjects of rights. Owing to this unfavorable customary practices, most widows are maltreated, chased away by their in-laws and denied access or ownership to land and other properties that is rightfully theirs. Through Christianity, many communities have abolished inhuman mourning rites, but others are obstinate because they claim it is tradition. 

This project was supported by Magnum Foundation Fund.