Everyone Misunderstands China / Global Recycling Chains (#WSJ)

Wall Street Journal and others are running stories about the crash in recycling prices due to China's new import restrictions.  There is a grain of truth to the story, but there is so much more going on that I have to issue a quick explanation [US Recycling Companies Face Upheaval from China Scrap Ban].

It has little to do with the sentiment in China over "western garbage". That trite little meme is everywhere on Twitter.  It's something else entirely.



Nuance Delivery 4: Correcting Our Aim

Having trouble with the video editing software to get Oluu Orga's excellent video-bio on his years in Agbogbloshie up for view.  I had been using Picasa for the previous videos I edited. Alphabet (Google) is kind of the popular boyfriend/girlfriend that only dates you for a couple of years and then loses interest... Love their free products but they wind up dropping support and pulling the plug-ins.

While I keep working on it, I'm also getting ready to receive a bunch of African Fair Trade Recycling members. Wahab "Ghana Tech" is arriving in Boston. Emmanuel Nyaletey arrives tomorrow from Georgia Tech. Evans Quaye of Accra is networking in South Africa.  Web Element is completing their Fair Trade Recycling Waste Offset (re-export) paperwork at Ghana EPA. Our newest Fair Trade Recycling staffer, John Sumani of Wa (far Northwest), a Ph.D in environmental studies, has a good network at Ghana EPA. The Techs of Chendiba Enterprises check in politely now and then. And the "three musketeers of Agbo", Awal, Yaro and Razak, have their Whatsapp credits ready to spend (at all hours of day and night).

Nuance Delivery 3: Eyewitnesses To Hell - Oluu Orga

The Agbogbloshie waste site has really become a crucible for examination of the charitable industrial complex. The richer the African city, the more consumer electronic waste it generates.  When I go to Agbogbloshie, I don't see anything I didn't see in Mobile, Alabama.

But once, I thought did.  When Westerners go to unfamiliar places, something happens. We photograph something that seems exotic, and the more shocking and unfamiliar, the more valuable the photo.  It's interesting to contrast our Western photos of Agbogbloshie to those taken by an African who lived and worked at the place. Western photojournalists (e.g. Kevin McElvaney) earn a better living selling their photos if there's a nice Biblical Halloween Titled Hyperbole around them.

In Nuance 1 and 2, we focused again on Awal Muhammed of Savelugu, Ghana, the guy in his mid-20s who figured out that adding more gasoline - literally - to the ewaste (and tires, mostly) burning fire was a recipe for handouts. On my first visit to Agbo in 2015, he certainly stood out. (And he video calls me too often ever since, see last night).

Today, let's focus on an authority, Oluu Orga, who is everything Awal is not. He also came to Agbogbloshie from the North, he also pushed a cart around the city, but he didn't ever learn to perform fire tricks for the Photojournalist convention (which started in earnest a year after Oluu left).

Oluu Orga didn't have much to spend on film, but he took pictures of his friends doing different jobs.

In the mid 1980s, I returned from 30 months in Africa with 7 undeveloped rolls of film. When they were all developed at once, I could see where my priorities had been.  Excited to be in remote Africa, the place I had heard about as primitive and natural and exotic.. many photos apparently were intended to "validate" my time there. More shots of grass roofs than corrugated steel, no pictures of paved roads.  When I went through Oluu's photos of his time there, Agbogbloshie finally got real.

Nuance Delivery 2: Awal is BlackboxMedia's Tire Burning Boy

Well, I was working on a different Nuance #2 - the upcoming release of Juan Solera / Palm and Play's documentary "Blame Game" (former working title Clean Hands).

But before I could make an announcement, another German White Savior documentary has just been released!  "Welcome to Sodom" makes Awal Muhammed (and perhaps fellow Musketeers Yaro and Razak? Didn't see them in the trailer) return for another one of his tire-burning-circus acts.

In fairness, I have only been able to see the trailer.  But hey, here's the same theme.  Agbogbloshie in Ghana is presented as "Europe's Ewaste Dump". Shots of girls with water baskets on their heads. Shots of garbage being dumped (not even electronics) through a frame of a 1970 television husk.  But if the trailer and website is any indication, our hero is, once again, Awal Muhammed of Savelugu (north of Tamale) Ghana.

Here he is with his gasoline-filled-tire-burning-act (previously seen on Placebo's MTV video last year).  This is not something they do - use this much fuel to make this big a fire - except when European camerapeople are present. Awal is credited with figuring out that it's the fire that brings the cameras for your close up (a hint for Hollywood Extra Wannabees, perhaps).