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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

NEWS: A Fuller Picture

Artworks and film add a new dimension to the ILA—History of Leprosy website.

Painting, ceramics and more: new online offerings help to give the perspective of people affected by leprosy.

Art and Documentary categories have been added to the International Leprosy Association – History of Leprosy website. The new categories depicting works by people affected by leprosy and those close to them were unveiled at a symposium on leprosy heritage in April.

Paintings and photographs comprise the bulk of the over 300 items in the Art database, which also includes entries for ceramics, calligraphy and music among a total of 11 sub-categories. Most of the items are from Japan, with the remainder from China, Korea, Colombia and Russia.

They offer a window on the spirit of creativity that existed behind sanatorium walls, capture scenes from daily life as well as some of the brutal realities.

Among the photographs are those taken by Kunje Cho, whose images of Japanese sanatoria in the 1960s include a wife carefully pouring tea into her bedridden husband’s mouth, and a young woman having her hair done at a beauty parlor. Paintings by Chang-won Cho show a burial ceremony for an infected toe at Sorokdo Hospital in Korea and the burning alive of the head of the hospital’s patients’ committee following an uprising there.

The Documentary section consists of six films – four shorts from China and two longer features from Malaysia. Among the former are the story of Ms. Jiao, who has lived on a boat for the past four decades looking after a man who like her is affected by leprosy, and of Mr. He, a blind basket maker who lost his sight to the disease. The Malaysian films look at what happened to families broken up by leprosy and the fate of children born in the Sungai Buloh leprosy settlement, including two who go in search of their roots.

The History of Leprosy website has its roots in the ILA’s Global Project on the History of Leprosy, which set out to create a database of leprosy archives to encourage further research into the disease. It was relaunched in a more user-friendly format in 2016.

For further information, and to offer artifacts for inclusion on the site, contact