Worth its Weight in Gold (2013 – 2015)

Worth its weight in gold, is the name of a compilation of initiatives, comments and artistic products that have been the result of an ongoing inquiry around the subject of gold mining in the Amazon region of Peru.

A Gram of Gold (2013)

Image and text produced for the book Navigation – A Publication for a Place without a Historical Center, Created Continuously Anew in Meetings and Events That Occur in Empowered Spaces, Simultaneously, edited by  Hinrich Sachs, Kirke Hundevad Meng, Samuel Richter and Rikard Heberling.

Medium: One gram of gold purchased on the 10th of April, 2013, Puerto Maldonado, Peru

Gold extracted illegally from the Tambopata Natural Reserve in the amazon region of Peru. Purchased in the raw gold sellers street: Av. Ernesto Rivero in Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios, Peru. The transaction was made as part of the Worth its Weight in GOLD research project and it was documented with a hidden camera.

The Peruvian region of Madre de Dios shelters more than sixty percent of the illegal gold extraction activity of South America. This has created a sustainable microsystem in the area where the normalcy has been slowly altered to the dramatic point where child prostitution, slavery and human trafficking are in a sense ‘socially accepted’. 

If we raise the question: How much does a gram of gold cost? The answer to that could easily navigate among diverse parameters, and that can most likely transform our question to: What does 380 SEK (44.11 USD), which is what is needed in order to purchase a gram of gold, really represent? A fair answer to that question will depend on how deep we dare to go with our analysis, but let’s try to line up some simple facts that could shape the picture here. 

By April 2014, the known cases of infants who were prostituted in the area according to the Department of Crime of the Public Ministry of Peru, were approximately 2250 girls, and it is recognized that that figure differs significantlyfrom real numbers. 

The illegal mining area has hundreds of mining camps and each of them has in average fifty ‘prostibars’ (bar-brothels). According to the NGO Huarayo, in a ‘prostibar’ the regular number of sexually exploited girls is twenty, up to sixty percent of whom are minors. 

So here we go again. We raise the question: How much does a gram of gold cost?

Missing in the Amazon Desert (2016)

Photographs hacked from the archives of the Puerto Maldonado’s police station in the amazon region of Peru.

The work intends to function as a way of highlighting the soundless and apolitical circumstances that surround the missing people as a consequence of the illegal extraction of gold. 

The region of Madre de Dios, the Peruvian jungle where most of the illegal mining activity is concentrated, could have the highest rate of missing people in Peru. If we were to average the number of missing people by population density then maybe not even the city of Lima with its more than ten million inhabitants would exceed Madre de Dios’numbers. And thinking that a large number of cases are not even part of the comparison as they are never reported,then we could say that the disappearance of a human being has became a part of normality for the Madre de Dios inhabitants. 

Ironically, such a disturbing reality is not and has never been on the Peruvian state’s political agenda for repercussions of gold mining. The power of human trafficking mafias, or maybe just the insignificance that missing people from the lowest economical stratum have for politics, seem to have managed to keep this phenomenon out of the radar. 

“What happens is that these are not the only ones missing in these circumstances, the problem is that people are very afraid”

[…] On the 10th of January was the last time that her family knew about her. Two months before, the young girl of 21 years of age, traveled to Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios. A considered relative assures that she has been assassinated by a human trafficking mafia in revenge for rescuing a raped child from an illegal mining camp. 

The nightmare started on the 5th of November when the young girl left her home saying that she was on her way to Brazil, but a few days after her family found out that she was in Puerto Maldonado working in a bar by a mining camp area. On the 10th of January, they received a phone call from the young mother where she apologised for not telling the truth and she promised that she would be back by the 21st of January, but that never happened.

“That always happens here, but nobody knows and nobody wants to know” […]

Worth its Weight in Gold (2014)

“I am sixteen. They kept pressing me to do what they called: To serve customers”

Anita, Mazuko, Peru, 2014