Ruth McDowall

6x6 Southeast Asia and Oceania Talent: Ruth McDowall, New Zealand

“For 11 years now, Ruth Mcdowall has been based in West Africa dedicating her photography practices to putting light on the plights of people living on the 'margin' and leading projects that serve as agencies for people at risk of violence.” - Andrew Esiebo, Nigeria, photographer and 6x6 nominator

Ruth McDowall is a New Zealand born photographer, whose projects are often concerned with youth justice amidst conflict, and the environment and our relationship to it. McDowall received a Photo Reporter Grant, and was a finalist in Lensculture’s Portrait Awards. She has worked extensively for editorial, NGO and commercial clients, including creating short documentaries and videos.

Malaiku - Survivors of Boko Haram abduction

Boko Haram have been rapidly increasing attacks in Northern Nigeria, with a new target on youth. Both boys and girls have been abducted while travelling on the roads, attending school, working on farms, and from their homes during attacks on villages. They are put through psychological abuse, forced labour, forced marriage, forced to convert to Islam, and become victims of sexual violence and rape. Boko Haram take young people on operations and teach them to carry ammunitions and eventually to kill - including sending girls as suicide bombers. It is not uncommon for abuses against youth to go unprosecuted in Nigeria yet, more often than not, youth bare the brunt of conflict.

I'll lead you to the water

This project focuses on climate change driven migration and lifestyle changes amongst nomadic, pastoralist Fulani communities. Because of a steady decrease in rainfall, Fulani communities from Burkina Faso or Northern Ghana need to move further south to find water and grazing. In the worst cases, they’re forced to settle or move to cities to work as traders. Ghana’s population growth has led to an increase in farms and small villages, some of which are in areas where Fulani communities used to relocate to, to water their cattle during dry season. In the dry season, water shortages can also create conflict with local communities.