Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Selected Work: Nadia Bettega

Today marks the start of "Dying Matters Awareness Week", an annual campaign supported by the National Council for Palliative Care. The hope is to get people talking and thinking more about death – about how they, and their loved ones, might have a "good death". Here are 2 exhibitions relating to the theme carried out by Photographer Nadia Bettega. Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual. 


This project was commissioned by the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, which has been a leading donor and advocate for palliative care in sub-Saharan Africa since 2001. It documented the work of several of their palliative care partners in Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda and was aimed at illustrating how an affordable and holistic approach to healthcare can provide relief from pain and symptoms associated with HIV/ AIDS, cancer and other life-limiting illnesses. 

The project worked with and alongside patients, their families, community members and health care staff. Neglected for many years in sub-Saharan Africa, palliative care is increasingly gaining recognition for the crucial role it plays in care and treatment.


A selection of this work is up at the moment in the Royal Society of Medicine and will be up for 2 months.http://www.rsm.ac.uk/globalhealth/news.php


Nadia Bettega carried out a comparative project looking at palliative care in the UK, which will result in the ‘Small actions: Big difference’ photography exhibition for Dying Matters Awareness Week 2012. A sensitive and ground breaking photographic exhibition captures the small actions which make a powerful difference to those people facing the end of life, thereby creating a new space for public reflection on dying.  

The exhibition provides an alternative medium for terminally ill people to communicate their thoughts and feelings at such an intense time. It also provides a positive testimony to those individuals who work in a myriad of simple and sensitive ways to support dying people. Nadia Bettega said, ‘ For some death can be tragic, frightening and time of despair while for others death can be beautiful, a time of peace or relief. The show provides the opportunity to reflect on what it means to be alive and what each of us can do to support those that are dying. This exhibition highlights stories and experiences around dying - and aims to trigger much needed discussion about the way we die in Britain today. ‘I have a long standing interest in palliative care and how this varies across international cultures. 

The first part of the Dying Matters photography project involved creating the portraits with patients, their families/carers, bereaved people, hospice volunteers and staff from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. Together we developed portraits, which are accompanied by a narrative describing the different issues they were facing and the relevance of palliative care. This gave the participants the opportunity to define how they and their community are represented. The show will continue to evolve by examining what impact this has on those who view it. It is supported using public funding by the Arts Council, England.

Jim Edwards 

"I have end-stage emphysema. The St Helena's hospice day centre I attend has a special bath for my weekly body wash and pamper! I'd never seen anything like it before and it now, quite often, forms the highlight of my week."

 Mr Das

Mr and Mrs Das are a Bangladeshi couple living on Brick Lane. They receive support from a Charity called Majlish - one of the leading providers of culturally appropriate homecare services in London. They provide homecare services to the elderly and disabled people of all ages and specialize in assuring the cultural appropriateness of the service to its diverse clients. Mr Das has end stage Parkinson’s and has two volunteers who come in daily to help clean and wash him - enabling his wife to have small snippets of respite when she pops out to the local shops.

Bernard Palmer

"My name is Bernard. My wife Ivy died 14 years ago. I remember once, it was soon after we moved into here I came into the sitting room and she was crying. I said “Oh, what'sthe matter?” and she said, “I think I've got cancer.” What can you say? Not much other than - “No, of course you haven't!" That was in February 1998. Ivy died on the 8th of April, 1998."

It was a terrible time. I still miss her daily. Soon after my wife died I used to go up to the hospice every couple of weeks and take flowers, they allowed me to put them on the bedside table next to the bed where she was in. A hospice is not what people think it is. I once had to take a cab there and the cabbie said "Oh that's where they go to die, isn't it?” and I said “No!” Sometimes all the patients want is to talk to someone away from their family because that way there isn’t that pressure or avoidance. Talking to someone outside of that circle allows them to leave their life for a bit.

The Dying Matters ‘Small Actions Big Difference’ Photography Exhibition will take place 15-20 May in the Dray Walk Gallery of the Old Truman Brewery. 

http://www.trumanbrewery.com/ It will then tour the country during 2012 in public spaces, hospices and hospitals and schools helping to break down the final taboo and British people’s reticence to talk about dying. 

To view Nadia Bettega's work go to her website.