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'The Curse of the Black Gold: 50 years of oil in the Niger Delta' by Ed Kashi

For the first time famous photojournalist Ed Kashi's award winning 'Curse' exhibition comes to London. Fiona Halliday previews and considers the issues.

Oil could and should have made Nigeria one of the richest countries in Africa and yet the Niger delta suffers from what economists call ‘the resource curse’ where the abundance of natural resources that should generate wealth bring only corruption, exploitation and violence.

Awrd-winning photojournalist, Ed Kashi’s photographs capture the teeming diversity of ethnic groups and their local leaders, the oil workers wading through the polluted black jungle, the shadowy boatloads of militants, and the sinister snaking pipelines, the massive presence of the gleaming oil rigs. His photographs demonstrate the lack of development and the ruinous destruction. Whilst the world media concentrated on the notorious kidnapping and execution of foreign oil workers, Kashi’s photos address the basic struggle for humanity and survival in the region that should have been paradise.

“I take on issues that stir my passions about the state of humanity and our world, and I deeply believe in the power of still images to change people’s minds. I’m driven by this fact; that the work of photojournalists and documentary photographers can have a positive impact on the world. The access people give to their lives is precious as well as imperative for this important work to get done. Their openness brings with it a tremendous sense of responsibility to tell the truth but to also honor their stories.”

And what a story it is, told beautifully in these picutures. The Niger Delta is one the world’s great deltaic areas, the third largest wetland area in the world, where wealth in the form of oil, literally oozes out of the ground. Yet it not only oozes out of the ground, it chokes the rivers, it kills fish and destroys biodiversity. The acid rain it produces corrodes buildings and fills the air with toxic benzenes. By the countless oil flares that grimly light the coast, it is never dark, yet the air is filled with swirling black soot. Locals complain of respiratory illness. And yet the oil is always disappearing, leaving in its wake, not gleaming new roads, hospitals, decent schools and safe havens for the nearly extinct Pygmy hippo and Red Colobus monkey, but increased militancy, hostage-taking, pipeline vandalization, unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions and so on. 30 million people on the brink of poverty. Worryingly, according to Wikipedia, ‘much of the natural gas extracted in oil wells in the Delta is immediately burned, or flared, into the air at a rate of approximately 70 million m_ per day. This is equivalent to 41% of African natural gas consumption, and forms the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet.

See his online presentation at: ...
For events related to the exhibition see: ...
The exhibition is on 8th March to 6th April at HOST Gallery, 1-5 Honduras Street, London EC1Y 0TH