“Victims of Sorcery” … PNG …

Spent a few days … not near enough … with legendary News Ltd journo Cindy Wockner in Goroka in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea working on a story for News360 on victims of sorcery.

Variously named as ‘Sanguma’, ‘Poison’ and other local monikers … sorcery related violence has exploded in PNG in recent years. There is little evidence that the phenomena has a long history. It appears that the crimes are opportunistic using vicious attacks and, indeed, murder … and an accusation of sorcery is a convenient weapon against the vulnerable. Once the victim is tainted with a sorcery accusation the stigma generally lasts for life. Families of those accused also suffer the consequences.

We spoke to and photographed more than a dozen, girls and women, boys and men, who had experienced attacks at the hands of sorcery accusers … but none were as graphic and heart rending as the story we heard (through an interpreter) from sisters Dorcas Numbi Nunugi and Pita Ambane. They and Dorcas’s son Ari were accused of sorcery after a family member died. Dorcas was attacked with an axe and her arm almost severed. She received other axe wounds on her thigh and head. Then she was tortured with iron bars that had been heated in a fire leaving massive scars on her torso and legs.

Her sister suffered a fractured skull from an axe blow to the head and other injuries … but somehow they escaped alive.

Many don’t … their bodies thrown in the river or any convenient hole.

Needless to say, Cindy’s story is compelling reading … but not easy to find … the link is here … www.couriermail.com.au/news/world/evil-sorcery-and-witchcraft-killings-exposed-in-papua-new-guinea-as-victims-flee-villages/news-story/3d7153f581a3f0a7b5ca63bc8a99ead0 … but as it’s ‘Premium’ content it may be inaccessible behind the paywall (alternatively subscribe to the Courier, read, see the pics and watch the accompanying video on your iPad or other device 🙂 )

However … you CAN read Cindy’s story … “Evil Sorcery and Witchcraft Killings Exposed in Papua New Guinea as Victims Flee Villages” … here below.

I’ve also posted (below) … just a few of the images I made whilst covering the story … and have concentrated here on those of Dorcas and her sister Pita recovering from their attacks in a ‘safe house’ in Goroka. I will eventually post a full pic essay on “Victims of Sorcery”.

Images © Brian Cassey


"Victims of Sorcery" - PNG - images by Brian Cassey

"Victims of Sorcery" - PNG - images by Brian Cassey

"Victims of Sorcery" - PNG - images by Brian Cassey

"Victims of Sorcery" - PNG - images by Brian Cassey

Sorcery in PNG - "Victims of Sorcery" - News Ltd photos by Brian Cassey

“Finding the Right Photographer” … Photo Editor Feedback …

Stunned !!!!!

I’ve already posted on my recent Papua New Guinea work on Yaws disease … so I’ll make this short and to the point …

I’ve worked with countless picture editors over the years … that’s central to the task … but never before have I had a picture editor put in writing for everyone his thoughts on how he found and employed yours truly … and publicly voice and detail his appreciation for my work ! (See post below … )

Bill Douthitt (‘Science’ Journal, Photography Managing Editor) … I’m both touched and grateful ! Thanks … and it was also a distinct pleasure to work with your good self and all at ‘Science’.

(NB … It’s also a very good informative read … If the copy of Bill’s ‘Science’ blog (below) is challenging the eyesight a little you want to read it at it’s original home on the ‘Science’ blog here at … http://blogs.sciencemag.org/vis/2018/07/23/finding-the-right-photographer/

Images © Brian Cassey, ‘Science’ … post/text © Bill Douthitt – Managing Photography Editor, ‘Science’ Journal


Science Journal - Blog post by pic ed Bill Douthitt - 'Finding the Right Photographer - photographer Brian Cassey - story Yaws Disease in PNG

‘Armani Refugees’ … Not … !

It’s not too often that your work prompts days worth of National news coverage … but that has been the case since last weeks job for the Daily Telegraph and News Ltd in Papua New Guinea.

The job description from the DT pic desk was succinct … get to Port Moresby and find the first group of refugees that were flying out of Manus Island en route to the United States. In short … I did find them, spoke to them, shared drinks and (almost) a shisha pipe with them … and photographed them at Port Moresby airport as they departed for resettlement in the US.

The images were published page one and page six of the Daily Telegraph (below) … and almost instantly Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton denounced the asylum seekers in my photographs (variously from Myanmar, Sudan, Bangladesh, Somalia, etc) for their dress and refugee status, during a radio interview with Sydney’s Roy Hadley. The term “Armani Refugees” was bantered about.

This par is from The Guardian … “Mr Dutton, asked about an image of those preparing to depart Port Moresby, said a lot of people who ended up in the island camps had not come from war-ravaged areas but were instead economic refugees. They’d received “an enormous amount of support” from Australian taxpayers for a long time. “We have been taken for a ride, I believe, by a lot of the advocates and people within Labor and the Greens who want you to believe this is a terrible existence,” Mr Dutton said.”

So … there you have it … being incarcerated behind numerous massive razor wire topped fences for a period of around four years, being subjected to physical and mental torment despite being classified as ‘genuine refugees’ by government agencies whist also NOT being a criminal … is astonishingly described by Dutton as “receiving an enormous amount of support”!

Let’s get this straight … the clothing of those asylum seekers who I saw depart PNG was either … donated by charities or government … or purchased on the very cheap from Manus Island road side stalls or shops. Armani or Gucci didn’t come into it.

Labor’s Chris Bowen fired back at Dutton … “They are refugees, they’ve been found by him (Immigration Minister Peter Dutton) and his government to be genuine refugees under the (UN 1951 Refugee) Convention – and he might choose to point that out rather than being the commentator on the efficacy or otherwise of their clothing.”

I spent several hours with the group of refugees in their well hidden Port Moresby hotel … and can confirm that their over riding concern wasn’t for fashion or clothing … but for the fate of the hundreds of their asylum seeker friends still facing an uncertain future at the hands of the Australian Government on Manus Island.

It did take several days … but on Sunday Foreign Minister Julie Bishop DID come out to contradict colleague Dutton and confirm that “people leaving Australia’s offshore detention centres for resettlement in the US were ‘genuine refugees’ (source – The Guardian). At least Bishop showed some integrity … too much to expect any of that from Dutton.

Images © Brian Cassey & The Daily Telegraph

Armani Refugees - Daily Telegraph - Manus Island refugees fly to the US - image by Brian Cassey

Armani Refugees - Daily Telegraph - Manus Island refugees fly to the US - image by Brian Cassey