Did you know Congolese women as young as 12 years old are paid less than $5 a day to strip copper mines for internationally-demanded cobalt? More than half of the world’s supply of cobalt comes from this poverty-stricken country where tens of thousands of young women and children toil at the mines under dangerous and indecent conditions and face physical and sexual abuse at the site. UNICEF estimates that at least 40,000 teenagers and children are working at these mines for pennies a day.
HEAR Congo, an organization focused on empowering Congolese women, is holding a week-long exhibition from March 15-22 at Design Arts Concept in Miami to honor Women’s History Month and fundraise for their efforts in the DRC. Titled “Out of the Mines,” the event will showcase the extraordinary artistry of young Congolese women, including features of their magnificent garments, hair ornaments, crafts, art, music and dance.
The exhibit showcases several Congolese women and children photographed by world renowned Barry Harley, including two Congolese girls, Eliane and Niclette, modeling some of the colorful clothes that they both designed and produced. Because of the HEAR Congo program, Eliane and Niclette were able to develop real skills (such as design and needlework) to escape not only the heinous work conditions in the cobalt mines but also the risk of sexual abuse from miners.
On Wednesday, March 20, the photographer and artist Barry Harley will be available for a special day of interpreting the photos of the two women who did successfully leave the dangerous artisanal mines. He will also be offering portraits of guests coming to the exhibit that day. The portrait fee is $250, or $300 including hair and make-up, and Miami arts patrons will come away with an original portrait for framing like the ones from “Out of the Mines!” #HearCongo @HearCongo1