South Africa

From Kenya in 2014, I journeyed to South Africa teaming up with Alzheimer's South Africa to photograph in Capetown and in The Free State. This was the first time I would encounter the realization of stigma, as well as the harsh reality of what happens when people do not have access to Western medicine in super rural areas. South Africa has a very diverse culture which I spent a lot of time photographing. I was blown away at the reach and impact Alzheimer's South Africa had on the communities they served given the South African government does not classify Dementia as a critical disease.

Capetown, South Africa

Given that Capetown is a very modern city there are many resources and amenities for patients and families. While I was in Capetown I photographed at the Robin Trust Eco- Facility, the home of a minister and his wife, and at NOAH a facility in the city that takes in lower income patients. Robin Trust is a facility that is at the foot of the iconic Table Mountain and is privately funded by a rehabilitation center so families can afford the facility. They encourage hours of patient “roaming” outside with lots of games and activities.

NOAH was such an interested facility because given the racial divide in South Africa, people of different races were coexisting together which is rare especially since these people all went through the Apartheid. We ended with visiting the home of a man who cared full time for his wife in the final stages of Dementia and then to the home of a minister that was just diagnosed.

Bloemfontein & The Free State, South Africa

After leaving Capetown, I was feeling pretty inspired after visiting Robin Trust, NOAH, and the two couples. When I arrived in Bloemfontein still partnering with Alzheimer’s South Africa, I was brought to a beautiful assisted living called Striata that had every comfort of a assisted living you would find in the US. From there I teamed up with a wonderful woman named Thakane that would be my translator. If you aren’t familiar with townships in South Africa, they are areas that are very impoverished that black and “colored” people were at one point forced to live. They built thriving communities in these areas but have lots of issues with power and water cuts, little access to Western medicine, and tons of other social and safety issues. Photographing in the two townships below completely changed my perspective of the purpose of this project.

When I first arrived to Botshebelo, a super rural farming township I was more or less blown away at the beautiful landscape. People had tidy little homes in this township but were surrounded by lush green which wasn’t very normal for other townships I had been in. When we arrived to a small home, I photographed a woman who ‘s son had been caring for her fulltime. He had just left to run errands and came home to her almost burning down the house trying to cook Pap. While we were there this is when I was told the harsh reality of what happens to people with Dementia in very rural townships. I met with a Traditional Healer (some would call a witch doctor), who knows Dementia is a disease that should be taken seriously. He told me that in many situations other Healers tell families that the patient is cursed and the patients are sometimes banished from the village or even burned alive. He believes he can treat people with a special root that he puts in their ear, but knows that Dementia requires Western medicine. From there, we traveled the Heidedel where I went to a community center to photograph patients that have families un able to care for them. Down the road I visited two sisters. The younger sister cares for her older sister but the entire family believes she is cursed so they have no family support. She had to pull her daughter out of school to work to help support her and her sister. This completely changed everything for me because I learned about stigma. With proper resources and education, these people could be living entirely different lives.