Whether you are a native or you became stranded, nobody chooses to live here. The people I have come to know here call themselves "the survivors". They are futureless, extremely poor and overlooked by the economic "success" of the country. Dreams? Their only dream is to live elsewhere; but this is not an option. No prospects, no future, no hope. Days last forever in the ghetto; time takes on a new meaning. Birth marks the first step of your descent. So how do you remain standing? In the heart of the Slum, many shadows pass. These shadows, souls are very much alive, but the sun doesn’t seem to shine the same way for them as it does for other people.
So how do they survive? They have to eat, sleep, love...
For most of the Survivors, especially the younger ones, anesthesia is a viaticum made up of two major ingredients: a very strong herb and an illicit local production of alcohol, the Shangaa.
These two products are an income for some, enabling them can compensate the almost total lack of work possibilities. Also, it is not uncommon to see men destroyed by their addiction, lying on the ground, where they have fallen, anywhere, but never for long.
Shangaa is made in used drums originally containing various chemical products. It’s a very strong alcohol whose effects are immediate. It may provoke blindness, nervous traumas, and comas. Kerosene, fertilizers and acid from batteries are often added to this product. We can compare this adulterated alcohol to the canned-heat consumed by the poor people in America and to the beverages absorbed by the Russian soldiers in Chechnya.
Survival means to be under constant pressure, and not having the choice.
So lives burn out. Though Life is everywhere, it’s a losing battle. Shanties and alleys littered with humans, most of them totally wasted. And the mothers continue to bring their children up with the little they have. They do the washing, prepare meals…