The figure of ‘witch’ can resonate with different images in our mind, meeting the visions of superstition, mystery, beauty, struggle or prosecution. Ancient, fictional or real, witch is an extremely gendered term, carrying the message of both, repression and liberation for women.
It’s an ambivalent archetype of feminine, rebellious, sensitive and wild, a freedom-fighter and a prisoner at the same time, always standing strong, always retaining her sense of individualism and independence. The whole theme of which craft embodies woman’s fight for a very basic freedom.
I took these portraits in Gambaga Witch camp – an enclosed community within Gambaga town in the northern Ghana. All of these women were accused in witchcraft, banished from their families and forced to live out their days in exile.
This camps are a dramatic manifestation of the status of women in Ghana. Many women in Ghana's witch camps are widows and it is thought that relatives accused them of witchcraft in order to take control of their husbands' possessions. Aging women, especially in poligamic families is another popular target for accusations, as it is an easy way for a husband to give up on his financial obligations or replace aging wive with a younger one. Simply being eccentric and outspoken for woman can be interpreted as evidence of being a witch.
Camps like this serve as an only refuge for accused women to feel safe, otherwise, the accused woman would always find themselves under the thread of being lynched, beaten or even killed.
Here they are living as a community, under the protection of local chief, paying him back with the labour work.