Gold without glory?

Gold without glory?

A Journey to conventional Gold Miners and Fairtrade Cooperatives in Africa!

With bare hammers, they hit chunks out of the rock. Sweat drips on the cave walls, it is dark, stuffy, scary. Everyone knows the stories of dead buddies. Those who had slipped on the raw timber beam on the descent into the shaft, the underground, who were surprised by flash floods. Those who suffered sudden headaches and shortness of breath, their faces swollen, expressing dreadful inhuman pain. And all for the dazzling symbol of wealth: gold.

Equipped only with a small headlamp, just like the gold diggers in East Africa, the visitors of the multimedia exhibition experience the work underground. On the way through the 20-meter-long mine shaft, the visitor encounters a spillage of workers or a following scene, the men hacking rocks from the walls.

Today, around 15 million people work in rudimentary gold mines across the globe, including 4.5 million women and 600,000 children. One-fifth of the annual gold production goes onto their account. And 80% of the world’s gold is consumed by the jewelry industry. Few other fads can look back on such a long and global history of suffering. Gold has a special place in almost every society since the early days of mankind, always symbolizing wealth, beauty and power. The pharaohs used it to decorate their temples, wedding rings are made of it, such as the Oscars and the FIFA Cup.

The dark mine shaft exhibits sound samples and video sequences from East Africa, showing the hard work underground people go through to produce a few grams of gold a day. Visitors are able to experience the exhibition set in a desert-like clay court. In video sequences the visitors see how women and children crush the stones with simple hammers and then use mercury to wash the gold out of the rock dust.

Worldwide an estimated 727 tons of mercury are released in to the environment through gold mining in informal mines, making gold production the largest mercury polluter, far ahead of 474 tons released through coal power generation. The toxic chemical reaches the soil, the groundwater and the plant world. It is found in the blood of animals, workers and people living in the mining areas. The women breastfeed their children directly at their workplaces, where they handle the poisonous chemical without protective equipment.

Bringing props from the gold mines from East Africa, atmospheric lighting, impressive and high-quality video recordings in combination with interviews of workers and those affected make the exhibition a near real-life experience.

The visitor will be presented with facts and photos upon entering the exhibition, while the multi-media installation shockingly exposes the conditions of informal gold mining. Probably motivated to seek alternatives to these conditions, the visitor enters the last room of the exhibition and finds action alternatives: Recycling or Fairtrade Gold for the wedding ring or for the next smartphone, demands for a transparent supply chain, consumption restriction, gold as an investment?

The multimedia exhibition can be requested for multi-day events. We also offer lectures on the topic of gold mining in East Africa and opportunities for change through certifications such as Fairtrade.