WHO AM I?
I am Stefano Stranges, a freelance photographer and photoreporter born in Turin (Italy) in 1978. I work in the field of photography since 2005, and I am now working in particular into the field of reportage and social projects. You can have a look at all my works here.
In 2016 I started a project about the Coltan supply chain.
Coltan is the mineral that everyone carries around in his or her pocket and which is the object of a long commercial chain that implicates serious consequences in terms of human and environmental rights.
This mineral which is used in the production of various high tech materials, is especially fundamental in making smartphones. Cell phones were initially created to allow us to be reachable anywhere. Now they’ve become genuine all around instruments essential, not only for communication, but also for documenting everyday life. The compulsive consumption and the continual updating of these objects, fed by by the media’s barrage of ad campaigns, has caused the coltan industry to grow exponentially since the end of the 1990’s. From that point, there has been the exploitation on the part of large multinationals and the catastrophic consequences regarding the people from areas like DR Congo which has the largest coltan reserve.
My photographic project, therefore, starts in this area of the world, as the initial link in a process that begins with the extraction of the mineral followed by the production of the object (South East Asia) and then moves onto the excessive use in every corner of the planet, ending up in the immense African dump sites (in particular, Ghana).
THE FIRST STEP: DR CONGO (JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2016)
The photographs that are presented here are part of the result of the first leg. Visiting the region of North Kivu, in particular the Masisi territory, where the country’s most important coltan mines are concentrated, I encountered the predominant problems of the people in the surrounding villages.
At first glance this territory seems like a paradise, the rich green meadows and the terrain acquired mostly by the country’s rich politicians and entrepreneurs within, however, the landscape is broken up by thousands of white plastic tents full of refugee camps of families that have escaped from neighboring towns in a context that is characterized by the presence of rebel groups motivated by the lust for power.
The substantial lack of alternatives for survival and the low level of schooling forces the residents of the entire area to be slaves on their own land and to work as miners with zero security levels.
The towns close to the mines such as Rubaya are inhabited by hundreds of fragmented families in which a widow or a mother often cannot even mourn over the body of her loved one because he is buried and abandoned in the chasms of the mountains. The rights and support for these women on the part of the mineral companies are non existent. Help for survival only arrives through the NGOs that operate in the field.
First part of the reportage in the Democratic Republic of Congo was realized thanks to the logistic support of "Tumaini – Un ponte di solidarietà" Onlus and “Incontro fra i popoli” NGO/Onlus.
A first presentation of the work was organized in March 2016 in the "Tumaini – Un ponte di solidarietà" headquarters, in Padua.
In May 2016, a selection of the pictures was projected in Udine (Palazzo della Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia), supported by the NGO "ACCRA".
The support of “Incontro fra i popoli” NGO/Onlus allowed me to produce a photographic exhibition that will be hosted in many locations.
The first vernissage was held in Turin in June 2016, hosted by the Holden School and developed with the help of B#Art.
A second exhibition took place in September 2016, in the Alliance française Turin office, with the support of the Centre for African studies in the framework of the CreativAfrica festival.
Both the events hosted John Mpaliza, Congolese activist known internationally for his peace walks, which aim is to increase awareness about the bloody conflicts and the social injustices in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Here the video of the vernissage in June:
You could visit the exhibition in Italy, in Padua from 1st to 16th December 2016 and in Bassano del Grappa (VI) from 3rd to 25th March 2017.
If you want to see the whole reportage, check my website here