Ed Kashi Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta

Nigeria, 2004

Nigeria, 2004, ©EdKashi2004

Nigeria, 2004, ©EdKashi2004

Nigeria, 2006, ©2006/Ed Kashi

Nigeria, 2006, ©2006/Ed Kashi

Nigeria, 2006, ©2006/Ed Kashi

Nigeria, 2006, ©2006/Ed Kashi

Nigeria, 2006, ©2006/Ed Kashi

Nigeria, 2006, ©2006/Ed Kashi

Nigeria, 2006, ©2006/Ed Kashi

Artist statement

Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta takes a graphic look at the profound cost of oil exploitation in West Africa. This work traces the fifty-year impact of Nigeria’s relationship to oil interests and the resulting environmental degradation and community conflicts that have plagued the region.

Since the first wellhead was tapped in 1958, more than $500 billion dollars of wealth has been pumped out of the fertile grounds and remote creeks of one of Africa’s largest deltas and the world’s third largest wetland. Petroleum production has caused devastating pollution to the Niger Delta because of uninterrupted gas flaring and oil spillage. These operations have destroyed the traditional livelihoods of the Niger Delta and provided one of the most compelling examples of social and economic injustice on the planet, juxtaposing the phenomenal wealth produced by the oil industry against the abject poverty and lack of development for the local people.

Curse of the Black Gold recounts the daily life of the Niger Delta’s inhabitants and the conditions in which they live. From the impoverished villages of Bayelsa state, to the pot-holed streets of Port Harcourt, to the gleaming offshore oilrigs in the Atlantic Ocean, the work provide glimpses into the disparity and despair of the region. The photographs capture local leaders, armed militants, oil workers, and nameless villagers, all of whose fate is inextricably linked. His exclusive coverage bears witness to the frustrated expectations, widespread indignation and unprecedented restiveness between the local communities and oil companies on the one hand, and the State and Federal Governments on the other. The result has been a general deterioration of both political and social cohesion.

It is critical to make the connection between the consumers and the producers of energy and to educate people about how both are jointly responsible for the future of our energy resources. With each passing day the repercussions of our reliance on oil become increasingly obvious: human rights violations around the world, public health hazards, environmental devastation, war, and climate change. The planet and its citizenry have never been in greater need of the world’s energy consumers to understand the injustices and dismal environmental and human impacts of our current global energy economy.

About the artist

Born

1957, New York, United States

Nationality

American

Based in

New Jersey, United States

Ed Kashi is a photojournalist, filmmaker and educator dedicated to documenting the social and political issues that define our times. A sensitive eye and an intimate relationship to his subjects are the signatures of his work. Kashi’s complex imagery has been recognized for its compelling rendering of the human condition.

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 the 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 honour their stories.

Kashi’s images have been published and exhibited worldwide. His innovative approach to photography and filmmaking produced the Iraqi Kurdistan Flipbook. Using stills in a moving image format, this creative and thought-provoking form of visual storytelling has been shown in many film festivals and as part of a series of exhibitions on the Iraq War at The George Eastman House. Also, an eight-year personal project completed in 2003, Aging in America: The Years Ahead, created a travelling exhibition, an award-winning documentary film, a website and a book which was named one of the best photo books of 2003 by American Photo.

Along with numerous awards, including honours from Pictures of the Year International, World Press Foundation, Communication Arts and American Photography, Kashi’s editorial assignments and personal projects have generated four books. In 2008, his latest book was published; Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta followed by THREE in 2009.

In 2002, Kashi and his wife, writer/filmmaker Julie Winokur, founded Talking Eyes Media. The non-profit company has produced numerous short films and multimedia pieces that explore significant social issues. The first project resulted in a book and travelling exhibition on uninsured Americans called, Denied: The Crisis of America’s Uninsured.

Ed Kashi is intelligent, brave and compassionate. He always understands the nuances of his subjects. He fearlessly goes where few would venture. And he sympathetically captures the soul of each situation. Ed is one of the best of a new breed of photojournalistic artists - David Griffin, Director of Photography, National Geographic.

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