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.
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.
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.
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.