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Images of a Paradise Lost: Oil boom, Delta burns: photographs by George Osodi
George Osodi, Land Pollution, 2004. © George Osodi. A local youth scoops crude oil from the ground as he assesses the damage done to farmland by the oil spill in Rukpokwu, near the oil-rich city of Port Harcourt . The ruptured oil pipeline, belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company exploded, damaging about 300 hectares of community farmlands.

LIVERPOOL.- A photographic exhibition looking at the impact of the oil industry on the lives of people in Niger Delta opens at Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum.

Oil boom, Delta burns: photographs by George Osodi opens on Friday 15 June.

The Nigerian born photo-journalist, 37, witnessed first hand the exploitation of one of Africa’s largest deltas by multi-national companies.

People who live in the oil rich state have had to live with environmental catastrophes for decades. Since the 1950s oil spill after oil spill in this part of Nigeria have left areas polluted and seen traditional livelihoods destroyed.

Severe economic deprivation within communities stands in sharp contrast to the enormous oil wealth of the area.

George Osodi photographed people living in the Niger Delta from 2003 to 2007 to highlight the brutal conditions they were living in.

The free exhibition of 10 large scale images will be accompanied by a continual slideshow of 200 photographs.

Graphic images show people badly burned by gas flares or families living against a backdrop of destroyed houses.

George Osodi said: “Most people tend to take oil and petrol for granted. Few people ever question where it comes from and what impact it has on people and communities.

“Nigeria is the sixth largest oil supplier in the world which generates immense wealth for the oil companies and the government. But 70% of the population live on less than one dollar a day.

“My photographs document daily life in Niger Delta, its people and the conditions in which they live. They put a human cost on a paradise lost.”

Dr Richard Benjamin, Head of International Slavery Museum said: “We are pleased to exhibit George Osodi’s thought provoking images. The story of the Niger Delta and its relationship with oil is one of environmental destruction, injustice and activism. These images of the many difficulties of everyday life in the region are in sharp contrast to the enormous oil wealth which the land has generated.

“In Britain we might associate oil with high fuel prices or potential strikes but less with catastrophic environment damage in the pursuit of profit and the activism which challenges that. I believe these powerful images on display will change this."

George Osodi added: "I want to show the duality of life in the region: children playing football in a field with gas flaring in the background, women fishing in polluted waters. It is amazing how people carry on with their daily routines with a smile against all the odds.”

The International Slavery Museum is situated on the third floor of the Merseyside Maritime Museum at Albert Dock, Liverpool. It is free entry.

George Osodi was born in Lagos in 1974. He worked as a photojournalist for the Comet Newspaper in Lagos from 1999 before joining the Associated Press News Agency in 2001. He has covered many assignments for international media including the New York Times, The Guardian and USA Today. In 2004 he won First Prize in the Fuji African Photojournalist of the Year award. His photographs have been exhibited in museums around the globe.

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