This is the continuation of a post I wrote a few weeks ago which you can find here.
Now for this second part, I am going to write about a photograph I came across a couple of months ago that caught my attention. The picture is from the series “The Price of Cement” by Mozambican photographer Mario Macilau in which he portrays the “reality of young boys and girls who work in illegal cement bagging operations in Mozambique in darkened buildings, hidden from view, recycling and cutting cement from cement spillages with disastrous consequences for their health.”
According to UNICEF, “in Mozambique, hazardous labour activities involving children are mostly related to farm work either in the cotton or tobacco industry. The largest number of children works in the Inhambane region.
Children working in agriculture work on farms and small plots known as machambas and use dangerous tools, carry heavy loads, and apply harmful pesticides. Limited evidence suggests that children in agriculture often work with no pay and that there are cases of children used as labourers to pay off family debt. Some children in Mozambique are subject to debt bondage. However, most working children take up unpaid work for the family.
An estimated 22 per cent of children between 5 and 14 are engaged in child labour. Overall boys and girls are involved in equal measures, with the exception of domestic work where girls make up a larger proportion of the affected children.
Access to education in Mozambique is limited because of teacher shortages, indirect schooling costs, and the lack of schools and sanitation facilities. The Government of Mozambique estimated in 2011 that nearly 200,000 school aged children were out of the school system. Despite government efforts to provide birth registration to children, some children may not attend school because they do not have the birth records needed for enrolment. Even though the National Organization of Professors established a code of conduct, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse is common in schools. It is also common for teachers to demand sex as a condition for advancement to the next grade. For many children, especially girls, this type of abuse leads to withdrawal from school.
Additionally, there are an estimated 900,000 orphaned children in Mozambique, many of whom lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. The Government of Mozambique estimates that nearly 20,000 children are heads of households and are responsible for their younger siblings. As a result, these children are particularly vulnerable to poor school attendance and engagement in the worst forms of child labour.”
From the series “The Price of Cement”
This picture is very simple in terms of composition and lighting techniques but I feel that the photographer managed to beautifully yet provokingly capture this portrait in a way that instantly draw our attention, raising awareness to the situation of thousands of children that around the world are victims of child labour.
Macilau is a documentary photographer born in 1984 in Maputo, Mozambique where he currently lives and works. He was featured on Al Jazeera’s Artscape programme in May 2013, a six-part documentary showcasing how a new generation of African photographers are keen to celebrate what is unique about the region, while remaining unflinching about the real problems facing their countries. You can watch the show here.
Similarly, if you are interested in his work, you can see his series ‘The Zionists’ at the Saatchi Gallery in London, on display until 2nd November 2014, as part of an exciting new exhibition entitled ‘Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America’. In this body of work he documents the “religious rituals of the Zionist African Christian movement which are practised predominately by poor Mozambicans and are a familiar sight to passers-by along Maputo’s Marginal coastal road at dawn.” A show not to be missed!