It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.
Human trafficking was not something I knew much about before starting production on the Atavist story Stowaway. Stowaway is the journey of a young boy we call Fanuel who was a victim of trafficking. At the age of eight he became an orphan and lived on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, until a stranger befriended him and offered him a better life in South Africa. His “better” life was as a domestic servant for the man, who beat him, broke his promise to send Fanuel to school, and threatened to turn him in to the authorities if he tried to leave. We call it an “enhanced e-comic” because it’s a nonfiction comic that comes with a soundtrack and interactive features.
As for the rest, you’ll have to read the story! It costs $2.99, which gets you access to both the Web version AND the iPad/iPhone App version. It’s a collaboration between renowned nonfiction comics artist Josh Neufeld and investigative reporter Tori Marlan, who first met Fanuel in 2006. Marlan, a longtime friend of Neufeld, had never worked on a graphic novel but felt like it was a good fit for Fanuel’s dramatic story. “There is something about the comics medium that connects you with the experience of the characters,” says Neufeld. There’s a sense of intimacy. I certainly felt it while working on Stowaway, in a way that I hadn’t quite experienced before. It also raises some interesting questions about the collision of art and journalism, which Marlan and Neufeld address in some behind-the-scenes extras, available via the App.
Listen to Marlan and Neufeld on Public Radio International’s The World.
—Olivia Koski, Senior Producer