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Indigenous issues highlighted by winners of global photo contest

12 April 2022

“The awarded work invites us to step outside the news cycle and reflect on the devastating effects of colonisation and the importance of preserving indigenous knowledge.” – World Press Photo Foundation

© Amber Bracken for The New York Times

Various photographic series representing the perspectives and plight of indigenous peoples and the environment have been awarded the title of global winners of the 2022 World Press Photo Contest. 

The overall winner of the World Press Photo of the Year title has been very deservedly granted to photographer Amber Bracken for her striking and evocative image depicting red dresses hung on a row of crosses, captured at the site of the former Kamloops Residential School in Canada, to commemorate the thousands of children who tragically lost their lives in the residential school system.

After the recent discovery of up to 215 unmarked graves at this site, Amber decided to use her photography skills to honour and commemorate the children, highlighting their suffering and the unthinkable injustices they faced at these institutions.

Residential or factory schools were first established in Canada in the late 19th century with the aim of removing indigenous children from their families and communities in order to indoctrinate them to conform to the dominant Western way of life, while forcefully and often violently eradicating their native cultures and languages.

Although these horrific institutions are no longer in operation in Canada and the US, similar factory schools still exist today around the world in countries such as India and Malaysia. An estimated 2 million indigenous children are still being subjected to these abusive and racist practices, which are designed to create an obedient future workforce but are leading to thousands losing not only their cultures, but also their lives as a result.

The competition’s other three global winners consist of similarly striking images highlighting indigenous and environmental issues, from the plight of tribes in the Amazon rainforest as a result of the deforestation, logging and mining taking place at the merciless hands of Jair Bolsonaro, to the loss of ancestral knowledge and heritage in Ecuador following colonisation and forced migration, and the vital role of the indigenous Nawarddeken people of Australia in preventing wildfires and protecting the environment.

The recognition of these projects and the voice they give to global indigenous perspectives at such a crucial time in history is something to be celebrated. In the words of the global jury chair, Rena Effendi, “All four of them, in their own unique ways, address the consequences of humanity’s rush for progress, and its devastating effects on our planet.”

Click here to find out more about the World Press Photo Contest and the stories behind this year’s winning submissions and their creators.

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