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West of Life

Zied Ben Romdhane

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In Gafsa, a phosphate mining region in the southwest of Tunisia, a state-controlled company called CPG extracts phosphate from the hills. Mining is an important economic resource to the Tunisian economy, and it has been practiced since Roman times. The phosphate mining now accounts for nearly 4 percent of the GDP.

The local mining villages of Redayef, Mettlaoui, and Oumm Laarayes are rich in resources but marginalized by the government. They remain poor and polluted - a conduit for wealth. Meanwhile, coastal towns prosper.

Workers lured from Libya, Morocco, Algeria, and around Tunisia live on this nearly uninhabitable land. Ethnic divisions, exacerbated by life in a harsh landscape, have produced disharmony between the people and nature.

These incompatible parts remain in a state of constant flux and volatility.

This is my testimony of the harshness of the place, balanced, I hope, by the humor of the inhabitants and my affection for them.

Tunisia

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A mountain close to a phosphate mine in Mittlaoui.

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Portriat of a man in Mdhilla.

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Estuary of evacuated chemical waste in Mittlaoui.

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A crack in a local government building.

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An ex-phospate mine worker in Mittlaoui.

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This railway transports phosphate from villages to the chemical factory in the Gulf of Tunisia.

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Construction of a road in the village of Gafsa.

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Sidi Abou Ali, a holy man, performs the rite of exorcism in the Nafta mausoleum.

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A train in Redayef transporting phosphate.

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Chatt Essalam chemical waste is evacuated in the sea.

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Walls of a kitchen in the town of Mittlaoui destroyed by a mine explosion.

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Mine worker with a broken back.

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Mittlaoui.

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An old underground mine in Redayef.

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Zeyda in Mittlaoui.

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Industrial construction in Oumm Laarayes.

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A weekly explosion at the mine site in Mittlaoui.

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Chatt Essalam chemical waste evacuated in the sea.

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A man playing with his donkey in Sagdoud.

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The ground near the chemical manufacturing plant in Chatt Essalam.

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A boy plays with a refrigerator near the chemical plant in Chatt Essalam.

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Amara was a freedom fighter against the French occupation in Mittlaoui.

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Stockpile of phosphate.

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A boy playing in Mdhilla.

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The chemical manufacturing plant in Chatt Essalam.

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Rocks from the phosphate mine are used for building houses.

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Site of phosphate processing.

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Traces of birds close to the chemical manufacture in Chatt Essalam.

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Mittlaoui.

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The final production of phosphate in Thelja.

Zied Ben Romdhane

Tunisia, 29

Zied Ben Romdhane (b. 1981, Tunisia) is a photojournalist and practicing artist. His recent exhibitions include Views of Tunisia (Arles 2013), After the Revolution (White Box, NY 2013), and Zones d’Attente (Clark House, Bombay 2013), kushti (maison de la tunisie, Paris 2013), fotofest biennieal in Houston Center for Photography (Houston, USA 2014), Sahel (1x1 Gallery, Dubai 2014) Trace (MUCEM, Maeseille 2015), he won the POPCAP award (Afric Image, Basel, 2015).

His work has been featured in Irada and Dégage. He is the DOP and producer of Sabaa Chicken (2010), and Fallega (2011), a documentary film about the Arab Spring in Tunisia. Ben Romdhane is a participant in World Press Photo’s 2013 Reporting Change initiative.

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