C15 April is the 5th anniversary of the kidnapping of more than 270 secondary school girls of Chibok town in Borno State, NE Nigeria. While 164 of the girls have been released so far, 112 still remain in captivity.
To mark the anniversary this year, vr360stories scheduled a simultaneous screening — on VR machines — of a short film in specific locations in Lagos (Alausa, Falomo, Victoria Island); running for about 11 minutes, “Daughters of Chibok” actually tells the story of not just Yana Galang (the mother of one of the kidnapped girls, Rifkatu Galang), but also that of Chibok itself.
While Chibok has made headlines around the world over the years, people often wonder what the place feels like. From the VR footage, we see a community of mud houses, thatch roofs and sparse vegetation.
“Chibok is Chibok,” Yana says, perhaps hinting at the fact that the town, stamped on the world’s conscience, no thanks to Boko Haram, is unlike any other place and so cannot be compared to anywhere else.
In her other reflections, she recalls the town of her birth and childhood as peaceful and where everyone lived in harmony regardless of their faith, before “Boko Haram came and changed everything”.
Chibok is also more or less a vast arid community of peasants who ride bicycles and spend a good part of the day farming. “Every woman in Chibok is a farmer,” Yana says, a hoe slung over her left shoulder.
Groundnut and corn are two of the crops most cultivated by the women, who often have to till the soil with crude implements. “We don’t have tractors and other mechanized tools to make our work easier so we work hard on the farm,” Yana adds in her haunting and weakened voice. “And when we harvest the yield, we take it to the market, sell them and use the money to send out kids to school.”
The film gives viewers a brief glimpse of Government Secondary School, where Boko Haram kidnapped the girls in the dead of night of 14 April 2014, after setting two building on fire.
Yana has eight children (three boys and five girls); apart from Rifkang, the other seven children still live with her in Chibok, all of them praying and hoping that their sister will return someday (Reports say at least 32 of the mothers have died). As a matter of fact, they have kept to a ritual since Rifkatu’s kidnapping. Every now and then, they will pack out her clothes from a bag where all her personal effects are kept, wash and dry them.
“We do this to feel close to you,” Yana weeps as the camera shows her pull out a printed photograph of her missing daughter. “All of your things are still intact.”
For all the mothers who lost a daughter to the kidnap, there is little to do other than to be hopeful. And to keep hope alive, they meet regularly to encourage one another, with Yana as their consensus leader.
A vr360stories team of four travelled to Chibok in January/ February to film the town and its subjects for purely humanitarian reasons.
“We are hoping that this film will help raise money for the women of Chibok,” producer Joel ‘Kachi Benson tells me after I’m done watching. “You will see in the film that the community needs a lot of help. This film doesn’t even show the level of the suffering we witnessed. It’s really bad.”
The team plans to show the film in more locations over the coming months. “We also plan to show it in 2D — on TV, that is — soon,” Benson says.