Giulio D'Ercole - Canvas Africa Productions
Photojournalist and Documentary Director Producer
Giulio D'Ercole Humanitarian and Development Projects Photographer: Sierra Leone in the last decades has been in the spotlight of news because a cruel and gruesome civil war that, lasting eleven years (1991-2002) left the country poorer than it already was. Today is again at the center of global attention because of Ebola.
I was in Sierra Leone in 2008, shooting a documentary for OXFAM. The documentary focused on the participation of women in the national politics, and on their running for positions in the Parliament. The assignment involved a long trip around the whole country to interview women, local and national politicians, community and NGOs' representatives, and OXFAM project officers dealing with the issue at stake. In previous years I already worked and traveled in very poor countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and in the most remote and forgotten areas of Kenya, but never before I felt a sensation of seeing true poverty like the one I had in Sierra Leone. Maybe because of the lush vegetation of the country that conflicted with the social and economic conditions of the country, or maybe because I knew that Sierra Leone is instead a potentially very rich nation. A wealth given by its minerals and natural resources, that, unfortunately, are well kept in the hands of corrupt politicians, and of very few exploiting business men, most often than not foreigners coming from Lebanon, Belgium and Holland. It was not a coincidence that Sierra Leone was the last country in the UN ranking for the achievement of the MDGs.
Such breath taking sensation of poverty was worsened by a humidity and heat I never experienced before that could literally make you be short of breath. ..... but yet again, as it always happens in Africa, there were the people. Amazing people. Colorful people. Beautiful people. Tireless people. I never saw so many children, women and men walking no stop, in the hot, thick air of Freetown and everywhere else in Sierra Leone, carrying all sorts of things on the head. They could be big plates with peanuts, pyramids baskets with few pieces of charcoal, huge pans full of kitchen utensils, 20 liters jerry cans, six meters bamboo branches, and even 32 inches old TV sets. Once I saw a man carrying a 2 KW generator on his head. But the most fast going item was a square small spongy towel used to wipe out the sweat constantly pouring out of everybody's face, neck, arms, etc..
The photos of this gallery are a short summary of that trip.