Sumy Sadurni, photojournalist whose focus was East Africa, dies at 32

Sumy Sadurni, a prolific photojournalist who documented human rights struggles, political resistance and gender issues in East Africa through a piercing and intimate lens, died March 7 in Kampala, Uganda. She was 32 years old.

Her brother, Jorge Sadurni Carrasco, said she died in a car accident.

Ms. Sadurni, a freelancer, traveled the world, but was best known for her work in her adopted country, Uganda. His photographs for Agence France-Presse have appeared in some of the world’s leading newspapers, including the New York Times.

She reported on Uganda’s turbulent 2021 presidential election, focusing on Bobi Wine, the opposition leader who challenged the country’s longtime president, Yoweri Museveni.

On the morning of the vote count, his Agence France-Presse colleague Michael O’Hagan said in an interview that he and Ms Sadurni were at his house with Mr Wine. She was taking photos ahead of the announcement of the election results, but instead of just focusing on him, she also took portraits of his wife, Barbie Kyagulanyi, an activist and political figure in her own right.

“It was classic Sumy,” Mr O’Hagan said, “because she not only mixed the front-page political story of a Ugandan opposition leader who was under great threat, but tackled also things from a different angle, looking at Barbie’s perspective and her as an individual.

The election was a violent and controversial experience: Mr Wine and his supporters were beaten, arrested and gassed, the Times reported, as Mr Museveni pushed to stay in the role he had held for 35 years. Outside observers called the election unfair after a major internet outage just before the vote count.

Ms. Sadurni’s photographs cast an unyielding look at this social unrest, and she often found herself at the heart of violent marches and protests. In one memory On Twitter, Mr Wine, who lost the election, wrote that she was never deterred from her work, even in the face of resistance.

Ms Sadurni began working as a freelancer for Agence France-Presse in January 2018, the organization said. She was a member of the International Press Association of Uganda, formerly known as the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Uganda.

Many of Ms. Sadurni’s topics and viewers, particularly related to her work, have focused on gender. A major project of hers involved photographing acid attack survivors in Uganda, often used by men against their wives or girlfriends, as they formed a support group and lobbied for a law that would increase penalties for such acts.

Sally Hayden, a friend of Ms Sadurni who covers Africa for The Irish Times, said in an interview that Ms Sadurni’s work is notable for her determination to portray the self-reliance and dignity of her subjects.

She covered things few journalists would cover, Ms Hayden said, citing her series as an example. portraits of sex workers in Uganda as they organized after being denied government aid during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Sadurni’s work was rare, Ms Hayden added, because in depicting Africa he moved away from “a stereotypical image of tragedy”. “The people in his photos,” she said, “have power; they have dignity; they have autonomy. Often they smile.

Ms Sadurni has also produced portraits of Ugandan feminist activist and author Stella Nyanzi, who written in a Facebook post that the two had become close friends.

“Where several expatriates working and living in Uganda use their expertise in the service of privileged abusers of oppressive power,” Ms. Nyanzi wrote, “Sumy has passionately deployed his skills in service of outsiders.”

Sumaya Maria Sadurni Carrasco was born on August 30, 1989 in Santiago, Chile to Jorge Jose Sadurni Jammal and Maria Del Carmen DeCet Carrasco. She grew up in Chile and later lived in Mexico and Switzerland. She completed her secondary education at the International School of Lausanne and studied journalism at the University of the Arts London. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Westminster. Her thesis focused on the coverage of human rights in Chile.

Ms Sadurni moved to Uganda, Mr O’Hagan said, after visiting a childhood friend and falling in love with the country.

She is survived by her parents and her brother.

As well as being a renowned photographer, Ms. Sadurni was a Canon certified photography trainer who offered mentorship to young photojournalists in Uganda. After her death, she will be remembered by many as a mentor.

Liam Taylor, a journalist who is co-president of the International Press Association of Uganda, said in a statement: “We marveled at his photos. We were moved by them. But if you want to trace her legacy, look for it in the young photographers she mentored and inspired. They’re still out there taking the pictures she can’t anymore.”