Reportage and Documentary 2019
Mauro De Bettio
RUST AND SWEAT
Char Kaliganj, slum and home to one of the largest shipyards in Asia.
Giant skeletons submerged with tireless workers intent on dismantling them, relentless like ants while attacking a sugar cube. Air filled with the strong odor of diesel fuel, feet dipped in the mud, faces embraced by the cutting torch gas and hands that for years, or perhaps since forever, have been impregnated with oil and rust. Up above, against the sun, the silhouette of funambulists strolling along the high sides of the ship decks. The only protection they can rely on is their own balance. The noise is incredibly loud. Looks like time is marked by thousands of hammers banging incessantly against the bodies of these huge ships to remove the rust. Rusty, old supertanker ships come to die in this place when their lives as vessels on the ocean expire.
Char Kaliganj employ around 15 thousand souls like Shihab that work to both break down massive shipping vessels as well as create new ships from the parts. The majority live in filthy and hazardous circumstances, but for them it is in any case a livelihood, an opportunity. They have skinny bodies. Bones barely covered by tendons and skin. The age of labourers ranges from 8 to 80 and they all work together. The work is hard, crude, dirty and dangerous but it gives thousands of them employment and wages to feed their families. Children are missing out on formal education, but there aren’t any other options other than work for money and help their families.