For Menya’s Kids, French photographer Myriam Abdelaziz bears witness to the child labor that persists in the limestone quarries of the city. Situated along the Nile River’s western bank, Menya is host to over 300 quarries employing an estimated 15,000 individuals, many of whom are children who have left school in hopes of pulling their families out of poverty.
From the inexperienced age of ten, youngsters enter the quarries to collect bricks carved from the mines, facing both short and longterm dangers. Many are killed or electrocuted by elementary machinery, their limbs severed by the stone-cutting blades. Others face lifelong respiratory illness from limestone dust inhalation. For a $15 weekly salary, the kids awake at dawn and are shuttled to the worksites in darkness so as to avoid the brutal heat of midday. In summer, the temperatures exceed 100 degrees fahrenheit, and the children work from 4:00 in the afternoon to 3:00 in the morning. In the winter, they work in below freezing temperatures from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM, with little protection from the elements.
This is Habib Manzah Iddi’s first motorcycle. He is part of a growing new generation of youth that is aware of the surrounding world and strives towards their dreams. They are determined not to live like their parents did, but wish to assimilate to the modern world.
According to the UN site World’s Best News, every third African is now considered middle class, around 33% of the population having up to $20 dollars to spend a day. With the extreme poverty of the last few decades slowly dissipating, people in places like Ghana can afford more than just food for survival. Across the continent, Africans are spending more money on education, healthcare and entrepreneurial endeavors, creating a landscape of rapid cultural, economic and social change. Danish photographer Ulrik Tofte documents the young people in the middle of this transformative upheaval, their lives a constant balance of old traditions and new possibilities.
The Key Is Not To Blink presents a different vision of Africa than we are used to. Tofte focused on youth in Northern Ghana, determined to capture images contrasting the typical photos of war and starving children so familiar to us. The growing middle class has created a culture more focused on the individual – people now more free to have dreams, desires and personal goals. Torn between issues of religion, pop culture, familial expectations and consumerism, young Africans have an uncertain and limitless world in which to navigate their lives. Though progress can be slow, Ghana and other countries like it continue to move forward while trying to preserve some sense of their past.
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