JOHANNESBURG, JUNE 26 – The ruby mines of Mozambique, the red beaches in Ghana, poverty in South African slums and townships, Malawi jails and ‘sex-workers’ in Congo: Stimela, a project by the Italian documentary photographer Luca Sola, aims to describe the routes used by thousands of African migrants who choose to travel Southwards, especially towards South Africa, instead of towards Europe. “Opposite direction. Same reasons. Same risks and difficulties. Same pain,” the Johannesburg based photographer explained.
Stimela, in Zulu, means steam train. South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela wrote a song entitled Stimela, which references the train that brought thousands of people to the gold and platinum mines of South Africa in the early 1900’s. ”We must provide different points of view, since we tend to lose our sense of objectivity when we are directly affected by a phenomenon,” said Sola said, an assignment photographer for several UN family agencies and international NGOs:”Leaving aside Syria, in general more migrants head south than they do north towards Europe. This has never been analyzed at the documentary level.”
The project ”is a story that began three years ago when I decided to leave the Middle East and go to South Africa,” Sola said, and ”I noted this movement of people and the centrality of migration in the southern hemisphere.” Stimela will result in a photographic documentary on southbound migration on the African continent that focuses especially on South Africa. The project will also include the publication of a photographic essay in book form with photographs and text, the creation of a permanent online archive and a travelling exhibition in European and world capitals. ”My mapping will not only be photographic,” Sola said. ”By working with the UN and NGOs, research publications based on this project will be created as well.”
Stimela is an occasion to reflect and observe the phenomenon of migration from another point of view less linked to an Eurocentric vision of the word, Sola said. “A point of view that is not so easy to simplify into ‘us and them.’ Because, reflecting on the importance of the word ‘we’, it is clear that one of its meanings represent the very human desire and the very human illusion to deserve a better future”. So far the photographer has accumulated sufficient documentation on migrant flows in seven countries but intends to do so with nine others as well. ”There are still such countries as Nigeria, the Belgian Congo and Chad, where security conditions discourage media coverage. This is why crowdfunding is necessary, since it is the only way possible to finish the project in a reasonable amount of time,” Sola said. ”I believe it is very important to speak about migration while trying to free ourselves of our Europe-centered vision.’
Luca Sola was born in Collestatte Piano (Umbria, Italy) in 1977. Documentary photographer, he studied Contemporary Literature at Perugia University and took the Photojournalism Master Course at ISFCI in Rome. Professional photojournalist since 2009, his work is focused on social, humanitarian and geopolitical subjects with particular reference to Italy, Africa and Middle East. He is currently represented by Contrasto photo agency. (@OnuItalia)