Richard Mosse – The Enclave, inspiration for ethical Jewellery brand
If there is a more fascinating photograph than the one above I would like to see it. I first came across it on ACF’s Tumblr, itself one of the best curated, colour grouped and interesting streams of photographs you’re likely to see. Seeing the image for the first time, isolated from the rest in its series, gave me a chance to explore its origin and only added to its intrigue. The answers to these questions are as amazing as the photos themselves, some surprising, and a testament to originality and the desire to explore and uncover. I feel lucky to have had to do a little searching of my own to find them and share a little in that sense of exploration. Its true that the discover of the ‘ The Enclave’ by Richard Mosse served as inspiration for our ethical Jewellery brand, Mask Jewellery.
Art is supposed to ask questions, encourage thought and this photo seems to bring an endless stream of questions to mind. Which plant are the red leaves from?, which war are they fighting? what happened to them and what happened to the guy behind the lens?
There are so many points of interest, most poignantly for me, that amazing look of tired disdain staring down the lens. There’s fear and aggression from the gunman and it posses so many questions in itself. Its a ‘what the fuck are you doing here’ look, he’s certainly growing weary of the camera man’s presence and one wonders at first if the camera man survived this seemingly tense stand-off. Pointing anything at an armed man in the undergrowth can easily end badly, although the poses of the guy in the background does suggest some kind of staging.
Then there’s the otherworldly colours that encapsulate you, a vision of the world through rose tinted glasses, literal – not idealogical.
The all red leaves, and seemingly colour matched head wear of the armed figures, is it staged? or a filter? The depth and variation suggests not. For the technically minded photographers I am sure there is plenty to admire in terms of composition and so on, however this is a medium I am somewhat ignorant in.
The photo, and all the others in this blog post are from ‘The Enclave’ an exhibition by Irish photographer Richard Mosse. It was created as a video and as still photographs using a discontinued, military anti-surveillance film, Kodak Aero chrome. There is some amazing, in depth information about the film here and here but from my limited knowledge it interacts with chlorophyll and turns anything green into a hazy mix of reds,pink, browns and purples. Used for aerial photography it was a early anti-surveillance tool.
To here an extended interview with Richard Mosse, click here.
So no sadly, in reality there are not forests, fields and whole landscapes in the DRC in these amazing colours. The location, the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in the heart of Africa, has been torn apart by a brutal civil war for over a decade. Its a on-going, brutal and complex conflict which receives little coverage in mainstream media and Mosse as a photo journalist and artist looks to shine a critical light on it using infra-red film. Using an anti-surveillance film to highlight a forgotten conflict. The psychedelic imagery will encapsulate you but the intelligence behind the photographs is as impressive.
The human tragedy of this conflict cannot be over-stated, systematic rape of whole communities, men, women and children is common and it has been dubbed by some, as Africa’s world war drawing in fighters from many neighbouring countries. John Green on Crash Course World History offers an upbeat but informative review of the situation to see it Click here,
At times the images are as disturbing as they are beautiful and the exhibition has been shown around the world, won many accolades and the images have gone viral.
On an artistic level The Enclave has encouraged me explore themes related to a hidden evil, a malevolent intend that lurks just beneath the surface. One that’s totally invisible to the naked eye but under some conditions becomes apparent. The theme for our collection in the making, Mask Jewellery.
The photographs reveal, sometimes overtly but often subtly, a dark edge to the intoxicating landscape imagery. The anti-surveillance film, developed to illuminate foreign objects, reminds us of one of diamonds natural, stunning yet often overlooked properties. Around a third of diamonds are naturally fluorescent and this is the medium that we use to hide the message within our pieces of jewellery.
The subject matter itself forced us to look again our own industry and products in the jewellery trade. Its no secret that conflict minerals have helped to fuel the conflict in the DRC, and amongst those are diamonds and gold. The DRC is one of the most mineral rich countries in the world and raw materials extracted there are used around the world in everyday consumer products, although conflict or blood diamonds are the best known, mobile phones, laptops and many cheaply manufactured goods from China will contain raw materials from questionable sources.
‘Conflict minerals‘ are materials that are mined in war zones and the profits from their sale go towards funding armed insurgents, or conflict in general. ‘ Conflict or Blood’ diamonds are probably the most widely known of these, mainly because of the film ‘Blood diamond’ but actually account for a very small percentage of the conflict minerals in the DRC.
With the DRC enbroiled in what turned into a regional conflict and being one of the most mineral rich countries in the world, there’s no doubt that conflict diamonds from the DRC entered the international market. Its worth noting that conflict minerals are not the cause of these conflicts but money from their sale does contribute to their continuation and brutality. The Kimberley process was adopted in the year 2000 and the process aims to ensure that ‘conflict diamonds’ from places like the DRC, Sierra Leone and Angola did not enter the international diamond market.
Well intentioned, and initially successful the Kimberley process is no longer considered effective in stemming the flow of conflict diamonds and closed pipeline operations by diamond producers are the only way to ensure provenance.
As of 2010 the conflict mineral most responsible fuelling the conflict in the DRC is gold.
As we create our business and products we are mindful of the obligation we have, not to contribute to the funding of these conflicts and actively involve ourselves in efforts to improve the lives of those affected by these issues. As a small business we are registered with fairgold, a fairtrade initiative to ensure small artisanal miners have better access to international markets, prices and conditions.
At present this fairgold only deal with one mining community in South America but has been working hard to develop ties with small miners in Africa alongside fairtrade Africa. A lot of the work that fairtrade does is to identify and help people to ensure they can meet the requirements to become part of the programme. Its not simply a case of taking on board those who qualify and dis-guarding those who don’t.
Becoming part of fair trade at the ‘retail ‘ end is important, generating income through jewellery sales and increasing awareness, but we are able to contribute at the other end too. We will soon be officially announcing the appointment of our ethical and development consultant based in Mozambique, who’s duties will include investigating how the communities he has been working within could possibly meet the standards to be a fair trade supplier.
Mozambique is a typical example of a mineral rich African country who’s people have not benefited from their countries natural wealth because of factors such as war, corruption and lack of infrastructure. Its home to rich deposits of Ruby, gold and other semi-precious stones and is soon to be the location of a pilot project by RESP.CH to trace coloured gemstones.
The still unstable political climate in the DRC has meant that the conditions required to become fairtrade suppliers are not close to being met, although efforts are ongoing both directly and indirectly to develop infrastructure, human rights and the economy so that small scale miners in the DRC can become fair trade suppliers in the future. In the same way that conflict minerals are not the cause of these conflicts, fair trade initiatives on their own cannot solves these problems. They can however be an important part of solving them and creating better future for the people in those communities.