The Child Witches of Nollywood

Buried alive, poisoned, scarred by acid–these are just some of the fates that have befallen Nigerian children accused of witchcraft. Researchers believe this stigmatisation is a relatively recent phenomenon. While the belief in witchcraft has long been central in Nigerian culture–particularly in the Niger Delta states–a UN expert workshop on witchcraft in September 2017 heard how the Nigerian movie industry is also to blame for this phenomenon. The Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN) submitted a report to the panel highlighting how Nollywood films often blur the line between fact and fiction, with many viewers mistaking the films as fact-based documentaries. The report also underlined the lack of research regarding their knock-on effects within communities. Pentecostal churches, such as the Liberty Gospel Ministry, have also started making and distributing films across the country which have been linked to subsequent attacks on "child witches." While there is a lack of definitive data on the exact numbers of attacks, local NGOs claim they have turned away an increasing number of children from their safe house–despite witchcraft accusations against children having been recently made illegal.

This multimedia photo/graphic novel goes beyond the rumours and investigates the link between Nollywood movies and the surge in attacks on children accused of witchcraft. Photojournalist Marc Ellison traveled to the Delta states of Akwa Ibom, Cross River, and Enugu where the attacks have been most prevalent.