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Strength and Hope at Together Our Space

Posted on 08, October 2009

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To coincide with World Mental Health Day 2010 (10 October) Strength and Hope: Mental Health in Uganda – a photographic exhibition by award-winning press and documentary photographer Hannah Maule-ffinch opens at the Together Our Space Gallery on October 8.

The exhibition documents life for people experiencing mental ill-health in Uganda’s difficult conditions in a series of 40 stunning images. The shots not only provide unique access into hospital life but provide a real insight into the vibrant and inspirational spirit of the people and communities challenging the stigma they face whilst forging an independent future.

Hannah was commissioned by The Butabika Link, a training and education exchange programme established by the East London NHS foundation Trust and Ugandan Mental Health services, to illustrate the need for, and the effects of the work it does to improve the lives of people affected by mental health issues in the country.

Hannah described the theme of her work, “photographing this project has been one of my most rewarding shoots to date. I was lucky enough to gain access to the reality of mental ill-health in Uganda and I wanted to insure that my images were as a true a reflection of the people I met, as possible.

“The result is a collection of deeply contrasting of shots from the extremely stark and uncomfortable to the vivid and bright. By circumstance rather than design, the exhibition gives viewers the opportunity to experience the hidden world of taboo-laden psychiatric treatment of people in the vibrant country of Uganda.”

As well as her trip to Butabika Hospital, Hannah accompanied East London NHS and Ugandan Health professionals on trips to visit service users in remote communities.

Shuna Kennedy of Together says: “Much is being done to reduce stigma endured by mental health service users in the UK. In other parts of the world it is very much still very much a taboo subject. However, there are many mental health service users around the world fighting for their rights and as seen in this exhibition, community spirit and support is key to recovery.”

Cerdic Hall, the Co-ordinator of the Butabika Link says: The photographs capture so well the incredible strength and resilience of Ugandan sufferers of mental illness. Despite stigma and misunderstanding, they strive to participate in community life and the Organisations in Uganda leave me sure they can only succeed. Within hospital services, having enough staff with the right skills is key. Hannah’s photographs also capture the willingness of staff to work with positivity and dedication despite incredibly tough conditions. East London has an opportunity to learn so much about working across barriers but most of all we are inspired to be part of the solution.”