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Left Behind
by Nneka Ezemezue


Left Behind unveils the plight and resilience of widows from the South East of Nigeria who are subjected to the mandatory observance of mourning rites. These ancient rites vary across communities, but can include a widow to be forced to sit unclad on a floor for weeks without having a bath, to drink the water used to wash the corpse, or to shave her hair completely, and so on. The reasons given for these treatments vary—from proving the widow’s innocence, to respecting the dead, or protecting the living from the dead. These practices emanate a patriarchal culture, where women are regarded as objects rather than subjects. Due to these unfavorable customary practices, widows can be maltreated—chased away by their in-laws and denied access or ownership to land and other properties that are rightfully theirs. Many communities have abolished inhumane mourning rites, while others claim them as tradition.

This project was supported by Magnum Foundation Fund.