The copper eaters
The Democratic Republic of the Congo possesses one of the richest soils on the planet, with, in particular, abundant copper resources. From colonial times to Mobutu’s dictatorship, mining has constituted a significant economic stake for the powers in place. By creating a public company with a monopoly on mining in Katanga, Gécamines, the State was guaranteed an inexhaustible revenue fund for years. But Marshall Mobutu’s predatory management launched a widespread liberalisation of the sector, marking the starting point of an anarchic “copper rush”.
Motivated by economic necessity akin to survival, artisanal miners work with no protection or safety measures and expose themselves to accidents that could cost them their lives every day. Today there are nearly 150 000 of them, including a significant number of woman as well as children, some of whom are very young. Uprisings are frequent but brutally put down by the privileged, a speculator minority close to those in power.
After his studies in management and a Masters in humanitarian aid, Gwenn Dubourthoumieu worked for humanitarian associations mainly in Africa in logistics and project coordination. A freelance photographer since April 2010, he now lives in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he regularly works with Agence France Presse and the magazine Jeune Afrique. He regularly receives awards for his photographic work. In 2012, Turkana warriors, created in Kenya in July 2011, was selected amongst the 10 best series of portraits by the Sony World Photography Awards.
In the same year, his report on Les enfants sorciers de Kinshasa was given the jury’s special award in the 8th International Festival of Photojournalism in Tokyo. The same series received awards twice in 2011: the investigative photo award in the Lille European Festival of Journalism and special honours from the jury of the Roger Pic Awards in Paris. In the same year he also won a grant from the Getty Images Grants for Good for his work Des vies violées, addressing the problem of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2010, he had already reached the finals for the same grant and had received the jury’s special prize in the Scoop Festival in Angers for his work État d’Armes. In October 2011, he joined Myop Diffusion. Gwen Dubourthoumieu has just moved to Paris.