Aluminium slaves - Pia Parolin

In Madagascar, the city of Ambatolampy is renowned for its aluminium manufactures. Tourists are brought there by travel companies in order to buy beautiful shiny aluminium items. Those tourists who are not too scared are allowed to walk inside the manufactures and watch the local people at work. Young men and teenage boys make their living by melting old metal parts. These are collected all over the country and brought to this city.

As everywhere in Madagascar, people use charcoal to make fires. Here they use it to melt the metal, once they took the motor blocks or metal barriers apart. They put the metal parts into barren pots and melt them. Then they carry the pots with the melted metal into the roofed houses and pour it into the moulds they prepared beforehand, with clay, sand and wood. There are no safety precautions whatsoever, these men handle the liquid aluminium with their bare hands. They pour it into simple forms next to their bare feet. In the twilight, the remnants of horrible wounds can be perceived on their skin. At the end of the day, electricity is turned off by grabbing the naked cable from the contact.

All day long they breathe the dust and pollution, from early childhood on. The manufactures are presented as a romantic old-fashioned form of work to the naive tourist. Does the tourist question whether these people have an alternative in life? Does he wonder if their happy and proud expressions and smiles are congruent with their life expectancy? Is he aware that the revenues of the sacrifices of these young men flow into the pockets of rich people in the capital or overseas?

Slavery has been abolished officially many decades ago, all around the globe, but in practice, it is still a daily truth in many poor countries. And the people still smile. With this series, I want to document the life of these workers whom I visited twice during my stay in Madagascar in August 2019.

Photo prints are available for sale: photo@piaparolin.com

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