The global award in photography and sustainability

Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta takes a graphic look at the profound cost of oil exploitation in West Africa. This work traces the fifty-year impact of Nigeria’s relationship to oil interests and the resulting environmental degradation and community conflicts that have plagued the region.

Since the first wellhead was tapped in 1958, more than $500 billion dollars of wealth has been pumped out of the fertile grounds and remote creeks of one of Africa’s largest deltas and the world’s third largest wetland. Petroleum production has caused devastating pollution to the Niger Delta because of uninterrupted gas flaring and oil spillage. These operations have destroyed the traditional livelihoods of the Niger Delta and provided one of the most compelling examples of social and economic injustice on the planet, juxtaposing the phenomenal wealth produced by the oil industry against the abject poverty and lack of development for the local people.

Curse of the Black Gold recounts the daily life of the Niger Delta’s inhabitants and the conditions in which they live. From the impoverished villages of Bayelsa state, to the pot-holed streets of Port Harcourt, to the gleaming offshore oilrigs in the Atlantic Ocean, the work provide glimpses into the disparity and despair of the region. The photographs capture local leaders, armed militants, oil workers, and nameless villagers, all of whose fate is inextricably linked. His exclusive coverage bears witness to the frustrated expectations, widespread indignation and unprecedented restiveness between the local communities and oil companies on the one hand, and the State and Federal Governments on the other. The result has been a general deterioration of both political and social cohesion.

It is critical to make the connection between the consumers and the producers of energy and to educate people about how both are jointly responsible for the future of our energy resources. With each passing day the repercussions of our reliance on oil become increasingly obvious: human rights violations around the world, public health hazards, environmental devastation, war, and climate change. The planet and its citizenry have never been in greater need of the world’s energy consumers to understand the injustices and dismal environmental and human impacts of our current global energy economy.

Ed Kashi