Homo Detritus

Stephan Gladieu

2020 - 2021

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Congo, DRC, has one of the richest sub-soils in the world and yet remains the eighth poorest country in the world.

For decades, like many African countries, the DRC has seen its wealth exploited by international companies. The lack of commercial equity, the strong dependence on China combined with the corruption of successive governments, prohibits any equitable redistribution of the proceeds of natural resources.

Congolese people are the great losers of globalization and rarely benefit from products manufactured from their country's resources. These products reappear in Africa, at best stale, but above all in the form of waste, the processing of which is relocated by industrialised countries. They are used to fill in the land on which the shanty towns of Kinshasa are built.

From this waste, a collective with an artistic and protesting vocation was born. "Ya Ndaku, la vie est belle", founded by the artist Eddy Ekete. Today it brings together nearly 25 former street children and young artists who have joined forces to denounce their daily tragedy, local wars, human exploitation, over-consumption, the pollution that results from it and ferments the unfathomable misery that deprives them of all dignity.

These artists reinvent the traditional African mask with the diversity of waste that surrounds them (plastic, foam, cable, glass, cans).

The street is their common history and their artistic scene, it seemed legitimate to me to place them in the reality of the ghettos of Kinshasa.

"What is born of the earth returns to the earth” Euripides. In the DRC, we have corrupted the virtuous circle by turning a nourishing land into a garbage dump.

All these photographs were taken with the written consent of the collective and of each artist and done in total collaboration with them.

Published in Géo France and National Geographic International in February 2022.

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