Technology’s toxic end

Last week Thursday, Pieter Hugo’s latest body of work — Permanent Error — launched at the Brodie/Stevenson Gallery in downtown Johannesburg.

Copyright Pieter Hugo. Courtesy of Michael Stevenson, Cape Town and Yossi Milo, New York.

Hugo is one of my favourite photographers. His portraiture captures African lives and stories with a potent blend of empathy and poignancy — from the South African border town of Musina, to Botswana’s judiciary and Nigeria’s Nollywood film industry.

Permanent Error takes us to the edges of a Agbogbloshie, a Ghanaian slum, a dumping ground for the West’s technological waste.

The gallery’s website says:

The UN Environment Program has stated that Western countries produce around 50 million tons of digital waste every year. In Europe, only 25 percent of this type of waste is collected and effectively recycled. Much of the rest is piled in containers and shipped to developing countries, supposedly to reduce the digital divide, to create jobs and help people. In reality, the inhabitants of dumps like Agbogbloshie survive largely by burning the electronic devices to extract copper and other metals out of the plastic used in their manufacture. The electronic waste contaminates rivers and lagoons with consequences that are easily imaginable. In 2008 Green Peace took samples of the burnt soil in Agbogbloshie and found high concentrations of lead, mercury, thallium, hydrogen cyanide and PVC.

The show will run until 15 December.

Find out more here.

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