The Malnourished Sudanese Baby and The Vulture
Posted by addisethiopia on February 21, 2013
South Africa is in the air, these days. Two weeks ago, when the South African athlete, Oscar Pistorius was jailed for involving himself in a shooting incident against his girl friend, everyone here in the West was talking about the degree of crime among the black population of the country, and that Oscar could only have ‘reacted’ to defend himself from an intruder, who, of course, must be “damn black” burglars. Now, over night, what we hear is a different story, it was murder — namely, Pistorius murdered his girl friend, and the color of his skin is irrelevant.
I never forget those sad days back in the 199os when I saw for the first time this horrific and haunting picture. There was no Internet back then, so the image got relatively little attention, yet, the picture captivated the Internet-absent world back in 1993.
The picture was shot by Kevin Carter, a South African photographer who won a Pulitzer Prize (arguably the world’s most famous and prestigious award for journalists) in 1994 for his most hated picture.
Carter’s photograph was of a young child in the Sudan, who was trying to get to a feeding center. But, as it was then reported, before she could get there, she collapsed in hunger. A vulture is in the background, waiting for the child to die.
This haunting photo came to represent the horror of the man-made famine in Southern Sudan which the world ignored for 40 years because South Sudanese are mostly Christians. Up to three million South Sudanese perished. The attention of the ignorant world was more evident when the arabized administration of Khartoum begun massacring its own “black” Muslim populations in the Darfur region of the Sudan.
Since South Sudan gained independence in 2011, the climate in Sudan has even been more hostile towards Christians. In the past two weeks, Sudanese authorities have detained over 55 Christians, following a media campaign against Christianity and the closing of Christian schools in Sudan, which is sometimes called North Sudan.
Coming back to the picture, in 1993, it made the front page of The New York Times and quickly became the symbol of Sudan’s plight, fueling public outrage over the famine ravaging the country.
Carter’s photograph emphasizes the power of the image, and of those who wield it. With this simple photograph, multiple emotions were evoked from those who saw it: horror at the fate of the people in the Sudan; anger at how people can still die of hunger at a time when excess and consumption have become the fashion; awareness of what was happening in the other parts of the world; a need to reach out and help.
The photograph affected the photographer too. Some two months after winning the Pulitzer Prize in May 1994, Kevin Carter committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. He was 33.
Everyone wanted to talk to the South African snapper about the little girl captured in such a powerful image.
Carter responds he’d chased the vulture away and then sat under a tree and wept. Of the story after that picture was taken, that’s the only part he claims to know.
The Truth about the malnourished baby and the vulture
Two years ago, the Spanish daily, El Mundo went down to South Africa to make a research on the subject, and came back with the following, rather surprising, report.
In 2011 The Spanish newspaper ‘El Mundo’ wrote an article about the truth, the real story behind the photograph. It showed that if one observes the high resolution picture, it can be seen that the baby, whose name was Kong Nyong, is wearing a plastic bracelet on his right hand, one issued by the UN food station. On inspecting it, the code ‘T3′ can be read, This means that the baby had survived the famine, the vulture and the tragic public promotions and predictions.
‘El Mundo’s’ reporter, Ayod, traveled to the village in search of the whereabouts of the child. His search led him to the boy’s family. The boy’s father confirmed his name and said he was a boy and not a girl as previously believed. He told the reporter that Kong Nyong recovered from the famine and grew up to become an adult, however, he said, he had died four years prior to the reporter’s visit.