With this photo project, I have attempted to show a glimpse into the life of the Zaghawa of Sudan that live in Calais’ infamous Jungle refugee camp. The Zaghawa are a transnational ethnic group, composed of various different subgroups who live mostly astride the border of Chad and Sudan, with some as even as far as Libya.
Back in the 12th Century, their belief system was originally Animist but they later converted to Islam, whilst still retaining strong links to their African heritage and identity.
In Sudan they can be found in Darfur and they represent one of the main tribes most engaged in the on-going conflict that began in February 2003. One of the main reasons for the confilct’s outbreak was the repression of Darfur’s non-Arabs population, whom the Zaghawa belong to.
Under a ruling Arab elite, the Zaghawa have been heavily persecuted by Sudanese government– using violence and torture perpetrated by the Sudanese Army and via local Janjaweed militias.
This conflict has forced hundreds thousands Zaghawa to flee to refugee camps located in Chad, Central African Republic also direction to Europe. The main way they used to reach the UE is from Libya to Italy by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. It is due to Sudan’s history as a former British colony, most them of them can speak English, have relatives in Britain and retain strong emotional ties to the country.
Unlike other nationalities present in the camp, such as Afghan, Eritrean and Syrian refugees, the Sudanese and especially the Zaghawa tend to be more sedentary. They live in shelters next to each other (most of the time from the same tribe and family), they don’t run any of the camp’s restaurants or shops, and they generally prefer to stay in their area.
The Zaghawa are some of the most well-educated individuals I have ever met in The Jungle. They have always treated me with respect - as and equal and as a friend. Some are electronic engineers, teachers and historians. Many held jobs as aid workers and strategists for the UNHCR and many own Masters degrees from the University of Khartoum.
These photographs are a tiny window into the world the Zaghawa community have built for themselves in a refugee camp and a world that continues to turn its back on them.