A revelation feels new to an audience, yet the word itself implies that its truth is pre-existent.
Revelation, translated from the Greek word apokalypsis refers to an uncovering or revealing of something. Other translations describe this word as the act of laying something bare or making something naked. Far from referring to new truths, it is a reference to old truths being finally made visible. It is the unseen becoming seen; the blurry being pulled into focus.
Throughout Jesus’ journey towards the crucifixion, systems of injustice and exploitation are stripped of their pretence. Jesus’ path of dismantling tangled networks of power and oppression was not taken as a means to gain control over these systems, but to simply begin by speaking of them and bringing them into the light.
The stories we open ourselves up to receiving, and the stories we pass on to others carry within them a similar type of power. Stories, if we let them, have the power to clear our vision and remove the facades from our structures of violence.
As a photojournalist and videographer working to represent the stories of those affected by leprosy, I have often felt anxious about prying my way into the personal lives of people I have just met, in communities I had only recently arrived in, within locations I would soon be departing from. What does it mean to represent their pain, their oppression, their hopes, and their dreams? What does it mean to look eye-to-eye when I can leave while they cannot?
Yet in every community I have received the same message: ‘please share our stories.’
It seems that many of the countless people I have interviewed for The Leprosy Mission Australia understand something about the importance of stories as a tool for revelation. It was members of self-help groups in Nepal who taught me that stories form a critical role in liberation from structures of systematic discrimination. I thought I was working in Nepal to take Shiveram and Samana’s story from them. In reality, Shiveram and Samana were the ones who were invested in giving their stories as a way of leading positive change. The same can be said of countless others who have been impacted by the work of The Leprosy Mission Australia and who are now owning, celebrating and sharing their own stories.
When I interviewed Nagammal in India my colleague said to me ‘looks like Nagammal will be directing this video.’ Nagammal is a person affected by leprosy who has suffered some of the cruelest forms of discrimination. She also knows the power that stories have to facilitate revelations, because her story did just that. Nagammal’s story revealed how with the right support and encouragement, she was able to lobby an electricity company which had unwittingly discriminated against her by assuming that failing to provide her with a basic service would be without consequence. It revealed how local authorities have limited capacity to ensure support for Nagammal’s physical, social, and economic poverty. Her story revealed injustice at multiple levels; yet she would not be silenced.
The stories I have encountered in my work are powerful because they reveal systems and cultures biased towards able-bodied people.
These stories are powerful because they reveal structures which prevent access to dignity and flourishing.
These stories are powerful because they remove the facades from a system which fundamentally works against the interests of the marginalised.
These stories make oppressive systems naked.
Those of us who have language at our disposal and concern in our hearts hold the necessary tools to spread these stories. The hidden corners of our world ache for their stories to be amplified and heard in the hope that one day people from all walks of life will stand in solidarity with their suffering.
Rather than speaking on behalf of those who have already had their dignity stripped from them, we have an opportunity to boost the volume of their voices and hear their oppression. I encourage you to join with The Leprosy Mission Australia in responding to this call.
I believe that in doing so, we begin to stand alongside those who have been made voiceless for far too long and march the false powers of ableism, economic exploitation, and social exclusion ‘naked down the street’.