By Rachel Zeng
“When Singapore is executing somebody, everyone in Singapore is executing somebody. Just that someone else is doing the executing for you.” – Mr. Toshi Kazama
There is a saying that a picture can tell a million stories, and indeed, Mr Toshi Kazama’s stories do. They tell stories that you and I do not know about, and the reality that lies beneath one of the most ancient and violent form of capital punishment – the death penalty – which has yet to be abolished in some countries, one of it being Singapore.
Mr Kazama, a photographer based in New York City, was here on 26 October 2011 to present his photographs and his story about his subjects – juveniles on death row in the States – in a private, via invitation only event jointly organised by Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign and We Believe in Second Chances. His photographs include the electronic chair (in Alabama’s prison, it was nicknamed the Yellow Mama because of its “motherly feel”), lethal injection chamber, execution chamber of Taiwan, prison cemeteries, death row inmates (16 – 18 year olds, ranging from those who were at the wrong place and the wrong time as well as those who had committed serious crimes), and both family members of the inmates and victims of the crimes. These photographs and the stories behind each of them evoked such a sense of sadness within me and I found tears in my eyes from time to time.
Mr Kazama also shared with us his story of being a survivor of an attempted murder. He nearly died from the attack and still suffers physical consequences of it but despite being victim to such a crime, he told his family and friends not to harbour hate towards the perpetrator. His touching message of love, humility, and the importance of finding the root of crimes that exists within the society really humbled me as a person and strengthened within me the reasons why I am still campaigning against the death penalty.
Keep up the good work, Mr Kazama!