Introduction

Documented in 2009 and 2010, these five stories are real life accounts that together reveal the unseen reality of human trafficking in South Africa, in at least some of its forms. There are currently similar stories of exploitation and enslavement in cities and towns across South Africa that have yet to be heard, from victims who remain unseen.

Each story in this exhibition is different yet profoundly similar. As you look at these photographs, I encourage you to put yourself in the shoes of the girls and women you encounter. In order to battle the travesty of human trafficking, or exploitation in any form for that matter, the plight of victims needs to be grasped, from their perspective, their trauma and entrapment and even their possible resignation to their ‘fate’.

As a nation, South Africa has come a long way in a relatively short period of time, yet some people remain ‘less valuable’ than others, their pursuit of a better life or even just survival coming at the cost of their freedom and in some cases their very lives. Human trafficking can only be eradicated if it is given no safe haven in which to thrive, and sadly South Africa has a prevalence of such thriving environments.

Victims do not need our ‘spasms of passion’ as coined by Gary Haugen, the founder of International Justice Mission, they need our long term dedication to see the many factors that allow this injustice to continue occurring, to be confronted and eradicated.

To do, first we must know. To know, first we must see. To see, first our eyes must be opened.