Sara Hylton

Women of GOd


Curated by Keith Miller


Girls of the Doom caste, traditionally known as the pig rearing caste, Girls of the Doom caste, traditionally known as the pig rearing caste, graze pigs in Bardaha village in Eastern Nepal. Pig farming is still considered a dirty job, mostly performed among Dalits. Villagers reported having had their pigs killed if they walked near the homes of upper-caste villagers.

In this exhibition, Sara Hylton brings together three bodies of work–“Women of God,” “Girls’ Education in South Sudan,” and “Nobody Listened”–each of which offers some of the too-often-unheard stories of girls from around the world. The collection “Women of God” looks at the Dalit, or “untouchable” caste of  South Asia; “Girls’ Education in South Sudan” is framed by the aftermath of years of fierce fighting in the new country of South Sudan; and “Nobody Listened” explores the murdered and missing indigenous women of Saskatchewan.

The Invisible Lives of South Asia’s ‘untouchable’ women

Because she is of the Dalit caste, Panpati suffers from severe malnutrition and receives only a portion of the rice that she is allotted per month by the government. Most women have anemia in “Harijan Mahala,” a term used to describe her colony in Sapbarwa, Jharkhand, India where Dalits remain segregated from other castes. And each day presents humiliation and discrimination: performing tasks such as manual scavenging, removing dead animal carcasses or cleaning the streets.

The United Nations estimates that there are nearly 100 million Dalit women living in India, and four Dalit women are raped every day according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau. Dalit women are one of the most vulnerable and at risk groups of society who experience the weight of their caste in specific and gendered ways.

I began reporting on this topic in November 2016 gaining access through the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. I documented a wide spectrum of stories from Dalit women living across South Asia in Sri Lanka, Nepal, and India. Through authentic and natural portraiture, details, and landscapes, my aim is to bring the stories of these women to your viewers in a beautiful, humane and intimate way.

A pet parrot hangs in the home of Nanpatiya Kumar, 41 of the Chamar caste in Kolodohar, Jharkhand.

Girls Education in South Sudan

Fierce fighting in her village in Unity State, kept 18-year-old Susan away from her school in Juba for more than a year. But even those girls who are able to attend often have to travel for hours to reach school.

And each day presents a new challenge: watching their friends drop out or get married off. Then there is the hunger. Amijong Garang, aged 14, describes the way it makes her feel. “My head is paining and sometimes I vomit,” she says.

The United Nations estimates that 2.3 million people have been displaced in South Sudan since December 2013. Forty-seven percent of those are school-aged children. Nearly one in three schools has been closed, destroyed or turned into barracks.

Girls in South Sudan are doubly vulnerable, with many being forced into early marriage and susceptible to sexual abuse and exploitation. An adolescent girl in South Sudan is three times more likely to die in childbirth than to complete primary school.

But despite these barriers, girls such as Susan and Amijong continue to chase their dreams – seeking an education and fighting for their futures in one of the world’s most volatile countries

Viola, 10, of Terekeka returns from washing dishes at the river during a hot afternoon.

Viola, 10, of Terekeka returns from washing dishes at the river during a hot afternoon. If Viola is lucky, she will be among 2.5 percent of the female population to make it to secondary school. She hesitated before discussing her dreams, then said with a smile that she wants to be a doctor.

Nobody Listened

Loss and healing among Saskatchewan’s Indigenous women

On Sept. 25th, 2013 in Regina, Saskatchewan, Kelly Goforth’s body was found in a red garbage bin wrapped in a hockey back in an industrial area of town. Goforth’s killer, a white male, is known to have killed Richele Bear, another indigenous woman, and the family suspects he may have killed others. Goforth’s death is not an isolated incident in Saskatchewan, one of many areas in Canada struggling with a shameful history of abuse, neglect and indifference towards its First Nations women and people. Human rights groups estimate that at least 4000 indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing across Canada. Though Justin Trudeau promised a national inquiry into the issue that was meant to begin in May 2017, it has been met with delays, disappointment, and controversy.

I returned home after 15 years and spent the month of April traveling across Saskatchewan meeting with indigenous women. Attempting to cut through the numbers and the desensitized nature in which families of missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) are portrayed, the incredible resilience and strong tradition among communities was revealed. This was the story I saw.

Through authentic and natural portraiture and evidential landscapes, my aim is to bring the stories of these women to viewers in a humane and intimate way. Exploring the emotional space between loss and healing, women were photographed in locations where they felt closest to their loved ones, hoping to give them a sense of agency.

Tracey George Heese, 42, sits on buffalo skin in a tipi

Tracey George Heese, 42, sits on buffalo skin in a tipi, a symbol that reminds her of her late mother, Winnifred George. Winnifred was murdered and discovered next to a park bench in Edmonton, Alberta over 20 years ago. There was no police investigation into the murder and Tracey is still left without answers. “This buffalo skin represents Canada, this North America. This was [our ancestor’s] land. I think of all the buffalo that were slaughtered [here]…Are aboriginal women to be sacrificed as the buffalo have?” said Tracey. “Not enough is being done, the Canadian system is derailing us…growing up and hearing of these deaths of our Aboriginal women, it doesn’t matter if we’re educated, all you have to say is she’s Aboriginal and people have that stereotype.”

Sara Hylton is currently based between Brooklyn, New York and New Delhi, India and covers women’s issues and human rights. Sara’s principal medium is the portrait; resilience, humanity, and the quiet beauty in everyday life guides her work and the stories she covers. 

Sara completed a post-graduate certificate in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from the International Center of Photography and also holds a Master of Arts in International Conflict Studies from Kings College London.

Sara has worked for the New York Times, the LA Times, Al Jazeera, Smithsonian Magazine, Slate, Bloomberg News, Vogue Magazine, the Financial Times Magazine, the Globe and Mail, Reuters, and Roads & Kingdoms, among others. Sara has also worked with several non-profit organizations including the United Nations, the Gates Foundation, the Danish Refugee Council, Doctors Without Borders, the International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, and the Rainforest Alliance among others.