Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fish story from Ghana, courtesy of HMJokinen, Hamburg, Germany for Fish Story

Dear Aviva,

I would like to tell the fish story from Accra, Ghana.

"We must know that 'away' is in fact a place ... where people and environments will suffer from our carelessness, our ignorance or indifference." Jim Puckett, environmental activist

This series of photos (above) shows the way mostly illegal transports of e-waste, computers, refrigerators and broken cars leave Hamburgs harbour and arrive in the harbour of Accra/Tema, Ghana. There parts which cannot be repared (approx. 70 %) are transported to Old Fadama, a sad place for globalized e-waste from many harbours in rich Western countries, also the USA.

Old Fadama holds the reputation of being "one of the most polluted places on earth". Huge amounts of broken cars and electronic waste are manually taken apart by the poorest of Ghana’s poor. Extremely poisonous fumes are emitted when children and young people burn plastic coated computer cables to salvage metals. The hard foam removed from old refrigerators is used to kindle the fires.  The air as well the nearby Korle Lagoon and sea water are significantly polluted with heavy metals. The health of people living in proximity is put in danger, while on the coast of Accra high levels of toxins are killing off the fish which has been an important food supply and source of income.

Old Fadama with 80.000 inhabitants is situated in the center of Accra. The residents make a living mainly through small businesses in nearby market places. Currently foreign investors have become attracted to this centrally located land. Their plans to build a recreational park are supported by local politicians and accompanied by the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project KLERP - at first view a reasonable solution. However, the area would fall victim to gentrification, all the while the Old Fadama residents would be forced to the outskirts of the city where they would loose their very means of subsistence. International NGOs have presented substantial alternative models for recycling e-waste which would avoid the environmental damage currently happening but these proposals seem to have fallen on deaf ears of the decision makers. The Old Fadama people are organising protests and strikes against the forced evictions.

(Photos: HMJokinen, Gordon Uhlmann; project AWAY IS A PLACE 2011 htttp://www.away-is-a-place.de; installation "zongo. caravans of hope" 2011 http://away-is-a-place.de/exhibhh2.html; text by HMJokinen and Charlie Michaels from the catalogue http://www.away-is-a-place.de/AIPpdf/caravansofhopecatalogueHMJ.pdf )

Me (below) taking a water sample near Korle Lagoon in Old Fadama. 
(Photo: Charlie Michaels):

The water sample under a microscope (heavy metal analysis) and a fragment from the "Animistic Spells I-XIV" poem by Wole Soyinka (below):
(Photo: Institut für Hygiene und Umwelt, Hamburg)

A flag showing the situation in Old Fadama. While e-waste is burnt, inhabitants and fish die. The text on the flag in Twi, the Ghanaian language: "Last bath. Troubled waters." The term "last bath" also refers to Assin Manso, a memory place where enslaved people  had to take a bath after a long march and before they were sold and transported to the slave forts on the coast to be shipped to the New World. Ghana's ressources have  been exploited since centuries.

A second flag showing the struggle for fish. While the fish is dying on the coast because of the e-waste burning and the local fishermen and their families loose the existence, the rich nations' trawlers show up off coast and take away the very rest. The text on the flag in Twi, the Ghanaian language: "Last supper. Troubled waters."

The two flags refer to the traditional Fanti Asafo Flags which visualize historical events of the community for future generations. These flags were designed sown by Kodwo Edusei after I told him the two stories - a traditional way for ordering such a flag.  (Photos: HMJokinen)

Best wishes
HMJokinen, Hamburg, Germany
visual artist, curator


No comments:

Post a Comment