The misfortune of mineral wealth

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Pamela Tulizo, a Congolese photographer, is one of the artists taking part in the exhibition Charging Myths at the Z33 Art Museum in Hasselt. Through her photography and the works of other members of the On-Trade-Off art collective, this exhibition reveals the reality behind the extraction of minerals and the production of new technologies, while encouraging us to reflect on alternatives in search of a more humane and sustainable world.

Could you tell me who you are and what you do?

My artistic name is Pamela Tulizo. I am a documentary photographer based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the city of Goma, where I work as a freelance photographer.

I mainly work with subjects like women's identity and their place in society nowadays. This has been influenced by my personal story as my father didn't really agree with me being a photographer because I’m a woman. Having to deal with this situation made me angry. I wanted to understand my role and my place in society. 

Through my work, I explore women’s stories and I try to rediscover myself through them. I am also sensitive to matters related to social injustice, especially when it’s linked to gender and colour.

Through my work, I explore women’s stories and I try to rediscover myself through them

What's your connection with Belgium?

Belgium is like a second home to me. I came to Belgium for the first time in 2020 for an artistic residence at Wiels and spent 8 months in this country. Brussels made me feel at home and presented a big opportunity for me as a woman artist.

Belgium is an opportunity for me as a woman artist

On-Trade-Off is a collective of artists you are also part of. What brought you together?

What brings us together is this battle regarding electricity, energy, and the exploitation of minerals. It’s a very important matter to us. This project is personally interesting for me since I come from Congo and, more precisely, from the north, a very unstable area because of its wealth of minerals. For me, it was imperative to be part of this project, as a woman and also as a Congolese person. 

How did you come across this Z33?

It happened through the On-Trade-Off project. At the Lubumbashi Biennale, I met Maarten Vanden Eynde and Marjolijn Dijkman. They were very interested in the mise en scène technique I use in my photos, which allows me to tell stories as if they were a movie.  

They contacted me for this project and I accepted to participate. I then ended up at Z33 with this series called Matriz made of 4 exhibited photos and 13 portraits, which are not exhibited. For me, Z33 is a great opportunity to show my work to new audiences. 


In this exhibition, can we see different types of art?

It's a collective exhibition with several artists. What’s interesting in this collective construction is that the subject can be approached in several ways. In my pictures, I use the mise en scène, as I told you earlier. At the same time, other photographers make a different types of documentary work, like the photos of Georges Senga, for example.  

This exhibition is very rich. It’s made of not only photos but installations and performances as well. We can find several disciplines and mediums there. 

What do you find so interesting about the topic of this exhibition?

The topic of this exhibition is extremely relevant to me. It all starts in Manono, a city in my home country of Congo. The matter of mineral wealth in Congo is one of the leading elements of political instability in this country. All Congolese are victims of this wealth and for us, the mineral wealth became a misfortune. 

As women take an important place in my work, telling their story in this specific context seemed right; it is my duty to do that.


What kind of photography can we expect from you? Will it be different from your other work?

Like in some of my other photos, I use collages and strong colours in this series. The difference between my past works and this one is that there is strong documentation behind the photos that are exhibited. These are documentary photos made through the mise en scène technique. 


In those pictures, I tell the story of one woman through several women. She is a mother of 3 children and has been working washing minerals since very young. All women working with mineral washing are forced to work in water, which is very dirty and almost reaches their chest. They go into this extremely dirty water every day of the year. With time, they end up developing diseases and some of them can no longer have children. Those women lose something over the years and that's what I'm showing through those pictures.

Those women lose something over the years and that's what I'm showing through those pictures

If you could describe Charging Myths in one sentence, what would it be?

It is an exhibition with a rich variety of disciplines.

What do you want to communicate through the work we can see at Charging Myths? 

I want to communicate the reality regarding all those people who manipulate minerals and are part of this energy and new technologies matter somehow. It is also a plea to those in charge, the authorities, so they are aware of this reality. I expect people to become aware of the damage caused to the lives of those communities. My goal is to highlight this reality so that efforts can be made to achieve social justice. 

Through my photos, I create a link between these women’s lives and the lives of those who benefit from the minerals coming from Congo: their luxury cars, their phones and computers ... These women are at the source of essential elements allowing the production of technologies we use nowadays. In the end, the only thing these women gain from all this, is the loss of their being, their ‘Matriz’.


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