By Nii B. Andrews.
There is a 10 km long computer cemetery in Accra at a suburb called Agbogbloshie.
It has a post apocalyptic character with rancid smells, thick black acrid smoke, oftentimes glowing fires reminiscent of hell and always the stench of desolation and despair.
The ground is littered with discarded computers, electronic components, cables and coated with a veritable brew of thick viscous sludge.
This terrible place is the work site of children and young adults ranging from 10 -25 years old; there is no PPE in sight and they work seven days a week.
They dissect with their bare hands and burn the computer parts from Europe and the US in order to salvage metals that can be sold. What they retrieve is mainly copper which is often bought by traders and turned into cheap bracelets either in Ghana or Nigeria for export to Europe.
The photo journalist Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo arrived at the Agbogbloshie computer cemetery for the first time in 2008. Originally his mission was to document the AFCON tournament.
He immediately contacted Greenpeace in order to get a full scientific evaluation of the on going ecological disaster that confronted him at Agbogbloshie.
Their report was harrowing.
It stated, “collectors are exposed to doses of lead, mercury or phthalates up to a hundred times higher than accepted standards.
Doses that irreversibly affect the reproductive system of children, the development of the brain and the nervous system.
To this must be added the respiratory, cardiovascular and dermatological problems observed.
Every day, they are exposed to dangerously irreversible and even fatal doses.”
Ouedraogo took pictures, loads of them, to document what is part of the underbelly of the beast of our lopsided national development.
Lead, Cadmium, PVC, Mercury all abound and goats and sheep graze even among the toxic fumes; even seagulls fly in and of course the apostles of carrion – vultures.
The same very site is used for football games.
Ouedraogo bore witness to the devouring effects of unbalanced economic relations within the context of globalization.
He explained his mission thus: “The goal was to bear witness to the present, because I favor the taste for reality, the documentary.
In my images, I sought a not neutral, but natural attitude, in order to avoid that the subjects seek to control their image, when they pose in front of the lens.
I photographed them in their workplaces, with a freedom of framing which is specific to me. I wanted to give a synthetic vision of the phenomenon.”
His arresting photos are able to transmit the sight, sounds, smells and perhaps even touch of this infernal site which should be a scar on the conscience of every thinking person.
Why and how such a site should continue to exist should not be too difficult to fathom for any astute observer of contemporary ghanaian society.