M I C H A E L   K A T A K I S


   One of my fondest memories of Kainkordu is waking on a bright Sunday morning to find my friend and protector Sahr washing his three goats with an expression not unlike that of a California kid washing his new used convertible. There are many memories of that place and time that I have wanted to keep safe, but that is no longer possible.
   As I look at these photographs now they have become for me a sad family album with stories of murder, the mutilation of children and, at the heart of it, diamonds. I know in all probability that my friend Sahr was killed, along with many others in these photographs, and that Kainkordu may no longer exist. As more information has emerged about events in Kainkordu, my denial has turned to anger; anger at exploitative corporations and governments that facilitate unethical business in places like Sierra Leone. Above all, I am angry at the indifference of consumers around the world.
   The smuggling, selling, and purchasing of diamonds continues to facilitate misery and death in Sierra Leone. When I try to explain the reality of this situation I assume others will be equally concerned. Instead, what I often find is a litany of rationalizations. Some have told me that, after all, they are only one person—what could they do and what difference would it make? Others have even said “Those people [meaning Africans] are always killing each other, even before there were diamonds”. I suppose that, in this time of selective morality, it is much easier to make speeches about social justice than to apply it. This indifference is not my country’s alone, it is a global indifference, as was recently witnessed in Rwanda.
   In the end, I only have my camera and words to record what I see. I can only hope that it makes a difference. Perhaps I am naive. As a result of my work in difficult places like Sierra Leone I no longer believe in countries, corporations, nationalism, or unbridled capitalism. What I believe in is the right of the people I photographed to have lived their lives full measure, with hope that life could be better one day for themselves and their children.
   Sometimes I dream of Sahr. He is walking ahead of me quickly. From time to time he turns, smiles, and motions me to catch up. In front of him is the giant spreading tree we often passed together. I try to keep up but am always behind. Finally, I am standing alone. I can no longer look at diamonds without seeing blood on them.

Michael Katakis, Paris, France, September, 2000

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