Books: The Day Kadi Lost Part of Her Life

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A FRIGHTENED four-year-old girl, dripping with blood, wrapped in a dirty blanket, faces life with a new sadness after the ordeal of female genital mutilation. Behind her, cleaning up the blood, are the buankisa, who performed the operation, and her elderly helper.

The Day Kadi Lost Part of Her Life (Spinifex pounds 9.95) is a photo-essay following Kadi before, during and after the violation. There is scant ceremony or ritual. The walls of the open-roofed hut are contaminated with the blood of sacrificed animals. First Kadi, then a three-year-old and her one-year-old sister are held down, screaming and crying, while the buankisa sets to work with a razor. The girls are then treated with iodine and a splash of water. Girls who die after FGM are seen as `witches whom the community are glad to be rid of'.

The foreword, by Dr Olayinka Koso-Thomas, respects cultural sensitivities: `[the women] strongly believe they are doing Kadi a big favour by making her a marriageable commodity.' But Isabel Ramos Rioja's text cannot hide her revulsion: `Kadi's first scream went through me like a dagger ... the buankisa didn't give it a thought ... the old woman even took some of the sweets that had been brought for Kadi.' Most extraordinary of all is the fact that the photographs, as sensitive and empathetic as they are horrifying, were taken by a man, Kim Manresa. Times are changing in this part of sub- Saharan Africa, but not quickly enough for Kadi.