Unity over adversity. It’s a running theme in the story of Tombohuaun, a remote village tucked into the jungle of Sierra Leone’s Eastern Province whose name means “Tombo’s Wound”. The community’s founding legend states that a villager named Tombo cut his foot on a catfish in the river, so the chief ordered the fish to be caught and killed. Back then, as now, the community came together to put things right: they caught the fish, ate it, and went on to name the town after this symbolic triumph.
This story embodies the village’s resourceful spirit, with Tombo’s wound now the least of its ongoing struggles. The community was forced to flee during Sierra Leone’s civil war, returning years later to its ruins. Later, in 2013, the West African Ebola epidemic started here. And for fifteen years, from the end of the war until January 2018, there was no clean water, until WaterAid installed a well.
But dire circumstances were not the sole focus of this photo series. Rather than simply underscoring Tombohuaun’s plight, Lawrence and the community devised a cultural study that would highlight its resilience, its fraternity, its highly organized structure and work ethic. These are all the things that will enable the village to thrive and sustain its clean water resources long after WaterAid has completed its work.
The photographs shown here became the visual identity for WaterAid’s Untapped appeal, which went on to raise over 8 million pounds, winning several awards in the process. Two photos from this original series are currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery, as part of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2018. ‘Portrait of Mayama Mustafa’ and ‘Portrait of Strong Joe’ are shortlisted for the prize.
This event is generously supported by Liberty Speciality Markets.