by Cameron Conaway, author of Malaria, Poems.
At Singapore’s National Library this September 2-29, a photo-documentation exhibit will highlight the humanity behind the horrifying numbers so often associated with malaria.
The exhibition, titled “Asia Malaria Images,” is a collaboration between Singapore-based photographer Pearl Gan and Professor J. Kevin Baird, and it's in association with the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Vietnam; Eijkman Oxford Clinical Research Unit, Jakarta; and The Wellcome Trust.
I caught up with photographer Pearl Gan to learn a bit about the project. Following the brief interview you can see a few of the photographs that will be part of the exhibition.
Conaway: Can you speak a bit about how this experience came to be, and why you personally feel it's important?
Gan: In the past 18 months I have had the opportunity to visit diverse, isolated regions of Asia Pacific where the ancient scourge of malaria remains part of the daily life experience of millions of people.
From my photography I have come to see that people who live with malaria in the Asia-Pacific are the least visible, and often the most isolated, poor, and voiceless.
The "Seeing Malaria Asia Pacific Project" is photo-documenting the “faces” of malaria; from the journey of those suffering from malaria, to the patients, their immediate families, and the community care providers. I wanted to give them their rightful place (and at the periphery of the modern world should not be it).
Conaway: What were your goals coming into this project, and can you give us a glimpse into your experiences over the 18 months it took to pull this project together?
Gan: My aim was to capture their daily life, their suffering and their humanity, which is largely invisible to the rest of the world. We hope to elevate awareness of this serious Asia Pacific health problem. It is important to help people across the world see beyond the invisibility of these isolated and impoverished communities in Asia Pacific.
The project has been very humbling for me. It is almost unthinkable to those in well-developed countries and cities to imagine that freedom from endemic disease and even basic medical care are lacking for so many people in our region of the world.
I am proud to be involved in this non-profit humanitarian project. Such documentation is important as it shows the world that malaria in Asia Pacific is not a myth, but a fact.
In many of the places I visited, government healthcare amenities are severely limited. Malaria patients often have to travel long distances to get the medical attention they require.
We hope that the collection of photographs will raise awareness of the malaria burden suffered by the inhabitants of these remote communities.