Nigerian Film Recalls 10 Years of Chibok Girls’ Abduction”

The abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls in 2014 marked the beginning of a harrowing trend of mass kidnappings that have terrorized Nigeria’s education system, with at least 1,400 students seized in the ensuing decade. While a majority of the victims were released after ransom payments or through negotiations led by the government, the perpetrators behind these heinous acts rarely face consequences for their actions, escaping justice with alarming regularity.

In a poignant and solemn gathering on Thursday, the community of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria, reunited in Lagos to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the tragic abduction of their daughters. The poignant moment was marked by the screening of ‘Statues Also Breathe’, a collaborative film project created by French artist Prune Nourry and Nigeria’s Obafemi Awolowo University, which sought to honor the girls’ memories and bring attention to the ongoing pain of their absence.

The film, which runs for 17 minutes, opens with a bird’s eye view of a poignant installation of 108 sculptures, which seeks to capture the likeness of the Chibok girls as they might appear today. Using images provided by their families, the statues reflect the individual characteristics and features of the girls, from their hairstyles, facial expressions, and even visible patterns, as a way to memorialize and honor their lives.

Among the harrowing accounts featured in the film is that of a Chibok woman who had managed to escape from her captors. Speaking in the documentary, she recounts the harrowing experiences of her captivity, describing the physical and emotional abuse she endured. ‘We suffered greatly,’ she said, her voice trembling with emotion. ‘We were beaten up. But Allah (God) made me stronger.’

The film is not just a testimony of the survivors’ resilience, but also a stirring chronicle of the profound sorrow and loss felt by the mothers of the missing girls. The pain of their loss is etched in their faces as they reminisce about happier times, when their daughters were safe and sound. Each voice cracking with emotion, each tear an indelible mark of their grief, these mothers speak of the light and warmth that vanished from their lives the day their daughters were taken.

Another poignant moment in the documentary captures a mother hesitating to view her daughter’s sculpted likeness. Overcome with emotion, she explains, in a trembling voice, ‘If I see it, it will bring back sad memories.’

In the aftermath of the Chibok kidnapping, analysts are concerned that the security flaws and shortcomings that enabled such a tragedy to occur remain prevalent in many schools across Nigeria, endangering the lives and well-being of students. A recent survey conducted by UNICEF Nigeria found that a staggering 57% of schools in the country fell short of minimum safety standards, highlighting the severe lack of safeguards in place to protect students from potential threats.

Despite the public outcry over the Chibok abductions, government officials have been tight-lipped about any ongoing efforts to rescue the remaining women. However, some of the lucky few who have managed to escape their captors have shared harrowing tales of the women still held in captivity. These testimonies paint a grim picture of their plight, suggesting that those who remain in captivity have been coerced into marriage with their extremist abductors, a fate that befalls many female victims of kidnapping in the region.

In a glimmer of hope, a handful of the Chibok women were able to flee their captors starting from the beginning of 2022. Yet, their escape comes at a cost. Each woman returned from the ordeal bearing the children of their abductors, a poignant reminder of the horrors they endured in captivity. This bittersweet reunion underscores the urgent need for sustained efforts to free the remaining women and to provide them with the support and resources they need to heal from their trauma.

For one of the Chibok mothers, speaking in the documentary, hope seems to have evaporated, turning into an acceptance that has transformed into a bleak resignation. ‘We shouldn’t even think about them anymore,’ she said, her voice brittle with pain and sorrow. ‘I feel like they’re already gone.’ Her words, stark and devastating, reflect a sense of hopelessness that threatens to swallow the dreams of a community desperate for answers and closure.


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