text & photos by Valentino Bellini
edited by Victor Anton
When the body and life becomes the raw material, can the raw material be recognized as a worker?
Ghana is a country rich in natural resources, especially of gold, which is extracted with bare hands by a lowcost labor force, to be sold at competitive prices on the international market. Since the sixteenth century, during the British colonial era, Ghana was one of the main areas of gold exportation: the breadth of the annual production of Ghanaian mines place today the country in second place worldwide after South Africa. In Akwatia outdated equipment and techniques are used and the situation is compounded by the complicity of the government. The first factor of the environmental impact of gold mining is in the artificial diversion of rivers: after the completion of mining activities, the river is not redirected to its original course, causing water pollution and destruction of flora and fauna – the commons at the base of social reproduction – and impoverishing living conditions of the workers themselves, already exhausted by industrial fordist work/life patterns. Pollution, in extreme cases, leads to desertification and permanent inability to use the land for subsistence economy.
This series of photographs was shot in April 2012. They highlight the working conditions faced by miners, where the value of gold (white, rich, western) is the value of capitalist exploitation of black bodies. The complicity between the governmental elite and the economic systems of developed countries satisfy the greed of the lobbyes themselves, not only preventing human development of the Ghanaian population, but causing irreversible damage to the territory. This trend actualizes and increases a colonialist slavery condition. The imperial capitalist domination and governmental powers related to post-colonial powers are the advocates of an unlimited exploitation of life and work. In this sense, immaterial/post-fordist (western) labor and material/fordist (outsourced) labor are necessary to each other. Physical effort – labor marks on the skin – of workers is the focus of this documentary work, that explores the physical traces of an old but effective vision of the current functioning of the world economy, in the era of the domain of ‘knowledge-based and immaterial economy. The bodies at work are bodies whose life is all set to work: feature, this, which is generalized to all forms of life, to all the new forms of contemporary work. The raw material (gold) that is extracted is life itself.
Valentino Bellini (1984) is an indipendent photographer based in Milan. He graduated in photography in 2010 at the CFP R. Bauer. Since 2011, parallel to his activities as freelance photographer began working at the LINKE. lab where he specializes in fine art printing and production of photo projects and exhibition. His works have been exhibited at Ivrea Photo Festival 2011, Delhi Photo Festival 2011 and at the Rizhoma House Gallery (Palermo, 2012) in a solo exhibition titled “Working Souls”.