2016 / Editorial / Photo Essay

The City of Flies

  • Photographer
    Riccardo Bononi

Antananarivo, capital of Madagascar, is home to one of the largest dumpsites of the African continent, operative since the ‘60s . The dumpsite, which now covers over 45 acres and is still expanding, receives between 350 and 550 tons of new waste each day. Fire burns endlessly in the midst of the hills of garbage, which can reach up to 15 meters in height, and the unnatural landscape is constantly imbued with a toxic fog. Around 3000 people currently live and work here, collecting plastic (sold for 0,05 $/ Kg) and metals (0,50 $/Kg). Many of them came to Antananarivo hoping to find better living conditions and fortune, now they live in one of the place on Earth with more unreported cases of pneumonic plague, the most infective type of the so called Black Death. The core of the dumpsite is scattered with small tombs, marking the bodies of fetuses and unwanted newborns. The ones who managed to survive, live permanently in the dumpsite as a community of orphaned children. Residents of the capital commonly refer to this place as “Ralalitra”: the City of Flies. This work took place from June to August 2015, while I was working along with the Health Ministry of Madagascar on a project about the plague outbreak that stroke the country. During this time span, despite the warm welcome of the dumpsite’s dwellers, I was severely threatened by the private company responsible for the waste disposal in the capital on behalf of the government, which had political and economic convenience in keeping what happens inside the dumpsite a secret. Nowadays they keep deny the presence and the very existence of a “dumpsite folk”.