Something Gained

Wonai Haruperi / Mpalume Mentorship Recipient


About 5% of the world’s population (430 million people)  have some degree of disabling hearing loss and deafness and 80% of these people live in low and middle-income countries like our own Zimbabwe. 

Hearing loss has been ironically nicknamed “the silent epidemic” because its effects, particularly social, are invisible, awareness is low and its appearance and intervention on public policy agenda is less than ideal. From a child being unable to develop speech, to the elderly becoming isolated from social activity as a result of hearing loss, the foremost concern has always been an individual’s ability to communicate and ultimately what consequences this has on them and the community around them. 

Biomedical and disability discourses have largely framed research and intervention in hearing loss and deafness around the central theme of loss. Truthfully, embarking on this project I intended to uncover and shed light on what the negative effects of having a hearing loss and deafness in the Zimbabwean context may be. Instead, by inquiring into the lived experiences of individuals with varying degrees of hearing loss I ended up with a project that explored personal identities and the different ways that people connect; with other people, with their hearing ability and with community.  

Each individual told stories of gain rather than loss, before going on to share what they hoped people could come to understand about hearing loss and deafness. 

Something Gained focuses in on two of the people I photographed, David Graham, hotel owner of the Whitehorse Inn, and Dione Ndoro, a young dancer who lives in Harare. By sharing these two personal identities, the intention of the series is to invite dialogue around the issue of creating truly inclusive communities that are understanding, empowering and above all, connecting. At the very least, there is something to be gained by simply knowing and seeking to understand a person’s story.