Nyaba Léon Ouedraogo

The Hell of Copper

It is hell. Hell on earth, today, in Ghana, which in recent years has turned into one of the main destinations for electronic waste from Europe and the United States. In Accra, the capital, a whole illegal business industry revolves around e-waste traffic, which represents an important financial source. Ghanaian wholesalers re-purchase this material which is sent straight off to the dump in Accra to be burnt by children. The copper retrieved will be resold to Nigerians and Indians who transform it, in the main, into cheap jewellery bound for Europe. According to the UNO, each year up to fifty million tons of electronic waste are produced. The environmental and health consequences are dramatic. The Agbogbloshie Market dump site spreads over 10 kilometres. From dawn to sundown, dozens of Ghanaians between the ages of 10 and 25 spend the seven days of the week dismantling old computers and burning the plastic or rubber components to recover the copper. We can imagine the damage done to health and the environment by lead, mercury, and PVC vapours. Using a direct documentary approach, this is what the photographer denounces.


Nyaba was born in 1978 in Burkina Faso, and lives and works between Paris and the East of Africa. He practices a novel kind of photography based on travel reportage, and the focus he adopts dilutes the boundaries between photojournalism and documentary photography. His work has been shown in various places in Africa and France. In 2011 he was the winner of the Union Européenne Prize and the Foundation Blachère Prize.


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