"Voice from Below" Exhibition
A new exhibition revealing the harsh reality of gemstone miners in Kenya was officially opened on Tuesday 25 February 2020 by His Excellency, Mr. Manoah Esipisu, High Commissioner of Kenya to the Court of St. James's. The free exhibition run from the 24 February until 6 March at the Nottingham University Business School Foyer. The exhibition was the first of many events in the UK and Kenya, organised by the Sustainable Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining project (Sust-ASM).
Ruby and blue sapphire are among the gemstones from Kenya that are popular in jewellery, sold in the UK and across the world but the dangerous conditions in which the miners work to ensure their supply is less well documented. The Voices from Below Exhibition was set to change that. Visitors were shown the challenges faced by miners from the Taita Taveta region of Kenya which is the largest producer of gemstones in Kenya with artisanal and small-scale (ASM) mining accounting for 60% of the total production.
On display were pictures of miners working in unsafe mines along with the hand-held tools they use to excavate and extract the gemstones, such as chisels, shovels and buckets. ASM, in Taita Taveta, like in most parts of the world is mostly done outside the law without compliance to industry standards. All the photos, artefacts, and texts in the exhibition have been co-created by the miners who took part in workshops in Kenya and collaborated with several organisations, including academics from the University's International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility.
The aim of the exhibition and overall project is to raise awareness and find solutions to the extreme poverty and risks to health suffered by the miners. Many of them can go for months without being paid and face accidental deaths from the collapse of a roof, or the walls in the tunnels of the mines. The dusts from mines can cause respiratory diseases and other health complications, due to poor hygiene and lack of sanitation in the mines. Most mines are not properly ventilated and this too can lead to deaths.