Helena Lea Manhartsberger
Kandaka - Women of the Sudanese Revolution

Omar al-Bashir was the authoritarian president of Sudan for three decades. In 2019, the Sudanese people peacefully took to the streets and demanded his resignation. The security forces ended the protest with a massacre: on 3 June 2019, 128 people were killed; more than 70 were raped. In the meantime, a transitional government comprising civilian and military representatives has formed, but the struggle continues. Around half of the activists are female: they are fighting for democracy, freedom and equality in a country where women have been beaten for wearing trousers. Helena Lea Manhartsberger tells the stories of five women of different generations and backgrounds who took part in the Sudanese revolution. She shows objects and places that carry particular significance for her subjects. One year after the beginning of the uprising, she creates an image of oppression and liberation, frustration and hope.

  • Activism
  • Women

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Photographer Helena Lea Manhartsberger answers 6 questions about her work Kandaka – Women of the Sudanese Revolution.

Download six posters about the work Kandaka – Women of the Sudanese Revolution and print them out yourself.

3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a formative moment in your career as a visual journalist?

For me, it wasn’t so much a single crucial moment – it was rather many small, lovely, inspiring experiences. This job gives me the opportunity to enter many different worlds, and to have access to people and life realities that would remain closed to me if I didn’t have a camera. Most of all, it’s the profound encounters with people from various social, cultural and geographical contexts that drive me to make their stories visible and share them with the public.

2. The decisive moment: When did you first encounter your topic and why did you decide to cover it photographically?

I’ve been interested in gender equality and social movements for quite a while. In this context, the events in Sudan were particularly interesting and I followed developments there from Germany. Last year I had a rather intense conversation with a Sudanese woman living in Germany; she had spent 30 years fighting Omar al-Bashir’s radically Islamist, misogynistic system. Her determination and optimism impressed me and reinforced my decision to travel to Sudan and make a deeper examination of the role that women played in the revolution.

3. The future: What could the visual journalism of the future be like?

Despite all the pessimism in the industry, my view of the future of visual journalism is positive. There are many developments in the ways people are represented; I think they are good and important. New forms of storytelling and creative visual approaches in journalistic projects enable a more pluralist image of our society, one that is richer in perspectives than classic, Western-dominated photojournalism has been up to now. With my own projects, I like working multimedially; I prefer a participatory approach. My protagonists should be able to work with me as active subjects, not just as mute objects represented by me.

»It's painful but true, nature couldn't defeat those guys, but bad cops could.«

Nagda Mansour

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In a video message protagonist Nagda Mansour speaks about the current situation in Sudan and about collaborating with photographer Helena Lea Manhartsberger.

»I want to walk freely on the street without fear of harassment.«

Wala Fadul

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Wala Fadul speaks about the still difficult situation for women in Sudan, even after the revolution, as well as about special challenges due to Covid19.

© for all photos by the photographers
© for videos Lumix Festival Hanover, if not indicated otherwise.

*1987 in Innsbruck, Austria
Helena Lea Manhartsberger first completed her BA in International Development at the University of Vienna before taking up her studies of Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts in 2015. In her work, she reflects on the structures in development aid and stereotypical representations in photography. As a multimedia journalist, she is interested in the topics surrounding gender, identity and social movements around the world.


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