ED KASHI
ArchiveCategory
April 17, 2009

Danielle describes Curse of the Black Gold as “…a vivid written account…[which]…creates a deep understanding of the mental and social hurt the oil industry has caused this culture.” Combined with “…remarkable and breathtaking photographs…these two elements make it impossible to look away, to ignore, to be apathetic about the demise of a land rich with resources, allure, and potential.”

Examining the image (left), she comments on the oil industry as “…the colonizer who forcefully took all that Nigeria had to offer, leaving nothing behind but pain and wreckage.

Looking at the photo (right), Danielle goes on to question, “What happened that made the citizens of this town wreck their home in such a manner? Why have they abandoned their mother for the oil? There is a sense of hopelessness and despair among the people of the Niger Delta, perhaps they feel nothing for their mother any longer.”

Danielle: “The massacre of the Niger Delta is clear in this book. There is no denying its impact on the environment and the people.” However, there is an optimistic sentiment in this student’s words as she remarks that “[t]he most remarkable part about this book was that I didn’t lose hope in the Delta’s recovery. It is possible; there are signs of life, joy and beauty throughout the book.”

With this in mind, Danielle discovers “…so much life in this photo , even though it’s a funeral procession. Finding joy and life amongst death is not an easy task, but it has become an essential part of survival for the people because of the nature of the region. There’s so much we can learn from these resilient Nigerians. Not to give up, give in, or to stop living.”

Danielle, thank you for your submission and positive outlook.

To read all of Danielle’s essay, click below.

Danielle Young
4/7/09
Section 3
Beauty in Disaster

Why should anyone care about what is happening in the Niger Delta? This is a cynical question to say the least, but one that nevertheless pops up time and time again when talking about issues outside the United States. No one wants to pay any attention to the world outside their own front lawn because of the complexity of the problems and the distance they’re able to place between themselves and the declining world across the Atlantic. Ed Kashi and Michael Watts tackled this dilemma head on with their book, Curse of the Black Gold. By bringing in accounts of the travesty written by different people Michael Watts creates a deep understanding of the mental and social hurt the oil industry has caused this culture. At the same time we’re receiving a vivid written account our brain is overloaded with color, clarity, and emotion projected through Ed Kashi’s remarkable and breathtaking photographs. Together these two elements make it impossible to look away, to ignore, to be apathetic about the demise of a land rich with resources, allure, and potential.

The text that impacted me the most was “My Blessing, My Curse” by Kaine Agary. The blunt metaphor of the rape and destruction of Nigeria as a mother was impossible to forget. “Lost in his desire, one of these friends had no control as his knife slowly slashed at my body” (p 153). This passage is eerily portrayed in the large photograph on pages 18 and 19. A man, one of mother Nigeria’s many sons, stands strong and stoic loosely holding a massive knife behind his back. He stands gazing into the distance presumably unfazed at the black blood pouring out of the earth, staining and destroying the splendor described by Agary as “paradise.” Many others crowd around the scene as well staring into the huge fracture ripped into the earth by a massive oil pipeline. The shell symbol on the back of the knife man’s jacket represents the colonizer who forcefully took all that Nigeria had to offer, leaving nothing behind but pain and wreckage.

Immediately preceding that photograph is another one that plays out the drama of Agary’s short story. Remnants of the beautiful paradise of Nigeria are seen in that the palm tree lined horizon framing the shantytown precariously lining the water’s edge. “From my head grew great big bunches of plantain; out of my pores oozed palm oil; my legs stood long and strong, the healthiest of rubber trees…” (p 152). Although surrounded by the majestic landscape of the delta corruption has made Nigeria’s people turn on her. They’ve destroyed her precious resources by dumping garbage and filth everywhere in order to exploit her secret treasure buried between her legs. “In my mouth most glands have shut down and the little saliva there is so acidic, only a fraction of the fish that once swam in it can now survive in it” (p 153). What happened that made the citizens of this town wreck their home in such a manner? Why have they abandoned their mother for the oil? There is a sense of hopelessness and despair among the people of the Niger Delta, perhaps they feel nothing for their mother any longer.

This desperation is evident in the interview by Tom O’Neil with the Grand Commander of MEND. “We still believe in negotiations and dialogue. But we will not wait while the government kills us. We have a mandate of defending ourselves” (p 197). Tompolo is blunt about the mission of MEND; they are acting out as a people who have been abandoned by their government and robbed of their most profitable resource. They use strategies and tactics available to them, what they feel is the best way to get the job done. Their appearance says it all. A masked army shrouded in fog, wielding intimidating, colossal machine-guns. They refuse to be intimidated anymore, refuse to surrender what is rightly theirs. They’re prepared to defend to the death themselves, the land, and their oil.

The massacre of the Niger Delta is clear in this book. There is no denying its impact on the environment and the people. Flipping through the pages poignant details of catastrophe are lined up, one-by-one through images and voice. The most remarkable part about this book was that I didn’t lose hope in the Delta’s recovery. It is possible; there are signs of life, joy and beauty throughout the book. Whether its quaint shacks lined up one by one, inhabited by people dressed in beautiful color, or women making use of the only oven they can find: fire from an oil pipeline. Or the stark contrast between the natural green grasses slashed by a silver metal tube. These people aren’t just living, but thriving. I want to bring in one final photo. On pages 184 and 185 a band is marching through the streets, followed by women dressed in bright pink headscarves and shirts. There is so much life in this photo, even though it’s a funeral procession. Finding joy and life amongst death is not an easy task, but it has become an essential part of survival for the people because of the nature of the regio
n. There’s so much we can learn from these resilient Nigerians. Not to give up, give in, or to stop living.

Categories: Educational, Shout Outs

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