White hand-Black hand

Mike Wells

In 1980 Mike Wells took this powerful photograph of a Catholic missionary holding the hand of a starving Ugandan boy. In so many ways it almost looks like the hand is not human. It’s almost the hand of a space alien, a different species, or anything but the hand of a human being. Unfortunately it can’t be ‘willed’ into being something else, it is the hand of a human being. A starving human being.

, White hand-Black hand

Freelance photojournalist Mike Wells, as we read in rarehistoricalphotos.com, explained to Holland Herald magazine, in an interview after winning the World Press Photo of the Year award, that in 1980 he was in Africa working for the Save the Children Fund of the United Kingdom, covering their anti-polio campaign in Swaziland and Malawi. Wells made this image while on a side-trip to Uganda, at a seminary where the Verona Fathers were distributing food during the early days of the famine. One of the monks described the situation to Wells and told him that the Karamojong boy was around four years old.

The photographer Mike Wells, who would later win the World Press Photo Award for this photo, admitted that he was ashamed to take the photo. The same publication that sat on his picture for five months without publishing it entered it into a competition. He was embarrassed to win as he never entered the competition himself, and was against winning prizes with pictures of people starving to death.

Read also: A Human Miracle is Born: The Great Green Wall of Africa

Giannis Koutsocheras

The poet, lawmaker, politician (PASOK), Ambassador of UNESCO and highly acclaimed for his work, Giannis Koutsocheras, who was from Patras (Achaia), inspired by Wells’ photograph, wrote the poem entitled “White Hand, Black Hand”.

White hand-Black hand

White hand one


Black the other-



with black silent bitterness

this the child’s skeletonized hand

in Karamoja, Uganda

and who died waiting and waiting

the white race the debt the overdue.

Now on the white palm

the child’s black palm.

shocking handshake


in pointless foods

in war games

in nuclear rockets-

and heartless  of the heartless of our century white race.

I am ashamed.

Giannis Koutsocheras was born in Ziria, Achaia on December 25, 1904 and died on August 28, 1994.

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