Faith in Chaos


Pep Bonet, Kinny Mattia tries to feel the morning light. “Milton Margai” is the only school for the blind in Sierra Leone. Approx. 85 children, 4 to 18 yrs old, study and live here. In 1998, when RUF-rebels attacked Freetown, the school had to be evacuated. In 1999 it was bombed. Some of the children lost their sight because they were brutalised by the rebels. Early dawn, June 15, 2002 (2012.27.1)


Pep Bonet, Kinny Mattia plays the piano. Milton Margai School for the Blind. Children learn to play music: drums, piano, flute, and they learn singing. As street musicians, some children could make a small living for themselves, April 15, 2002 (2012.27.2)


Pep Bonet, A player kicking the ball during the game. War amputees soccer team. This soccer team was established in February 2001 and is made up of 22 players, all residents of Murray Town Camp for Amputees in Freetown. Most of the players were amputated by roaming rebels with machetes and handsaws. Their powerful football skills transform them into true athletes, June 15, 2002 (2012.27.6)

Pep Bonet, A patient washing himself at the City of Rest (CORE) drug rehabilitation centre. The Deliverance Ministry runs the centre, which offers counselling and support for recovering drug addicts, alcoholics and traumatized or delinquent youths. The ministry tries to address problems of addiction, delinquency and even cases of demonic possession with rest, food and prayer, August 31, 2006 (2012.27.9)


Pep Bonet, A patient screams. He died four days later, he did not want to eat or drink…
Kissy Mental Hospital. Many of the patients are soldiers or ex-rebels, mainly admitted for psychoses due to severe drugs abuse. Others are affected psychologically by Sierra Leone’s civil war (1991-2001). The building is old (built in 1827) and battered by war and lack of maintenance. Patients are often chained to their beds (if they have one) or to the floor, where they sit in their own excrement. Therapies are obsolete, November 15, 2003 (2012.27.11)

In 2002, a year after end of the devastating decade-long war in Sierra Leone, photographer Pep Bonet visited the country to document “hope” that could be seen after the war. In a series of different stories such as Born Again, One Goal, Blind Faith, and City of Rest, Bonet would visualize the determination of the survivors to continue their lives after the suffering. In Blind Faith the children at the Milton Margai School are shown reading, learning Braille, and making music. One Goal tells the story of a group of young men and boys who lost an arm or leg in the war and founded the Single Leg Amputee Sports Club to play soccer. The photographs show strong and proud men, moving athletically on their crutches playing a powerful game of soccer. While some young men amputated their legs or arms to prevent them from fighting, others had their eyes stabbed or cut out by opposing rebels. Other stories, such as Kissy Mental Home, seem more aligned with the dark and gritty nature of the photographs: the images show the panic and loss of a people who experienced the brutality of an endless war. Winner of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial in 2005, Bonet continued to document Faith in Chaos until 2007. The series can be viewed via the photographer’s website.

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About claartjevandijk

Assistant Curator, Collections at the International Center of Photography, New York
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3 Responses to Faith in Chaos

  1. Reblogged this on sarahmariebazan21 and commented:
    This photos isn’t relevent to us now, but it was when it was taken in 1998-1999. It’s impartial because it is about blind children in Sierra Leone, and how they live

  2. eao96 says:

    Reblogged this on elizabethoxford and commented:
    This photo has impartiality because it is non-biased. It portrays an event that actually happened to these children/people. Many were effected by bombs, drugs, and even war. It has timeliness since they use current dates. All these causes had an effect on these people. Because of the bomb some went blind. Because of the drugs for traumatized victims. Because of the war they went crazy.

  3. rodriguezkim says:

    Reblogged this on rodriguezkim and commented:
    this picture I feel does not show timeliness at this certain date. I do believe that this photo is elevent becuase there are still people in the world that suffer from being blind.i do nnot belive that this ohotographer was bias becuase he was just telling the truth. this story does to me tell a strong dark story.

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