Mali, once rich from gold, today is considered one of the world´s poorest countries with 90% of the population living on less than $2 dollars a day. Despite this, it has some of the warmest people. An estimated 90% of Malians are Muslim and almost 50% of the population are less than fifteen years old.
Its hard to understand how Africa´s third largest producer of gold has failed to benefit over the last 15 years in terms of industrialization, the job market, public finance or level of social expenditure. Direct foreign investment has enjoyed excellent returns through tax breaks while exercising little to no effective corporate social responsibility. A variety of factors are to blame for not bringing the people of Mali out of poverty. Child labor is common in all regions.
Mali is home to the Dogon people whose culture and traditions had largely gone unchanged until tourism. The Dogon are losing their younger generations at a rapid rate to seasonal work outside the community.
These photographs were taken while developing several works-in-progress on child labor, the Dogon country and Muslims in Mali prisons. The UN estimates the number of child laborers in the gold trade at 100,000 - 250,000 in West Africa. Mercury poisoning from gold refining and the loss of eyes to metal shavings in recycling plants are commonplace for many young children. The swelling population in prisons is explained by some Malians as - one´s fate is determined by Allah alone, regardless of state law. One of my works-in-progress is to examine this in contrast to inmates in the USA turning to Islam once incarcerated.
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Eric M Johnson
917 969 0604 US
Mexico City / New York