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Etinosa Yvonne Osayimwen Is Telling Conflict Stories By Trying To Get Into Her Subjects Heads

Etinosa Yvonne Osayimwen is a 28-year old self-taught photographer. Osayimwen takes portraits of survivors of violence and terrorism in Nigeria. She then blends those photographs with another image that reminds her subjects of how the violence changed their lives.

Osayimwen got awarded a grant by Women Photograph to pursue the project titled, It’s All In My Head. The 28-year old tells in an interview that she got the inspiration from a documentary which featured a young Syrian refugee who said he could not get images of violence he had seen out of his head.

The sole purpose of the work is to get in the head of her subjects, to understand them from within.

“What goes on in the heads of the… the people in my country?” Osayimwen wondered.

Etinosa Yvonne Osayimwen explains that no one really talks with the victims about how they are coping; the things going on in their heads. These survivors continue to suffer emotional trauma from their experiences.

“Nobody really talks to them about how they are coping, what’s going on in their heads, the events and memories that have been stuck in their heads. They are still suffering emotionally. It really is not easy to move on, even if it was 20 years ago,” Etinosa Yvonne Osayimwen says.

The photographer has interviewed people from Nigeria’s conflict prone areas. In the photographs below, her subjects are drawn from the north central, especially Plateau State. This state has a long history of socio-religious crisis, which has seen many displaced and killed over the years.

“I feel I owe these people a responsibility to tell their stories,” she says.

Abdul-Azeez Buba, 33, Borno, Nigeria: “Before Boko Haram attacked my community, I was a successful building engineer. I made a lot of money from constructing houses.”
Saleh Adams, 45, Jos, Nigeria: “[In] 2001, my shop was looted. I lost all my sewing tools and equipment. Months later, I started over. Then [in] 2008, the shop got burnt. I made up my mind to stay idle, but my clients encouraged me to start again, so I did in 2014.”
Saratu Joshua, 59, Borno, Nigeria: “I listen to gospel songs daily to take my mind off all that I witnessed. I lost one of my sons in 2015 during a fracas at the internally displaced camp in Abuja. Thereafter I became hypertensive. Music makes me happy, it calms me down, and it makes me not remember the past. Music is a form of escapism for me.”
Rose Yusuf, 55, Jos, Nigeria: “I used to be the perfect definition of a Nigerian ‘big woman.’ Although I was a widow, I was doing very well for myself and my children. I had a very big shop were I sold food stuffs. Suddenly, in 2008, a crisis erupted and I lost all I had worked for over the years.”
Vou Choji, 36, Jos, Nigeria: “[In] 2001, I never imagined that I [would] be a victim at any point. [Then in] 2008, I was shot in the leg … and I was hospitalized for three months.”

All photographs from Etinosa Yvonne Osayimwen/Courtesy of

This article first appeared on NPR as A Nigerian Photographer’s Portraits Of Mind

Fifo Adebakin
Fifo Adebakin

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