18 September 2012

The Stone Merchants of Moatize

It is truly amazing what people will do and what measures will be taken in order to survive in this great world. What you do to put food on your table and ensure the continuation of life? The other day, I was driving along on the main road, wishing that I was on my Vespa, when a perculiar type of cart caught my attention. I was passing an area called 'Pedrera' (a misspelled 'predreira', meaning quarry) that is the working area for quite a few destitute people that make their meagre income from breaking granite rock into gravel sized pieces. All day, under the scorching sun, with only a hessian bag sprung up between four thin poles for shade, these people sit along the side of an embankment, and break down the rock using their bare hands and small chipping hammers! Then, they carry the gravel down the embankment and create heaps approximately 1m3, on the verge of the main road, and wait to make a sale. How much you may ask? "oh, about R 115.00 per m3"! The question is how long and what energy is required to break down a m3 of granite! Still, these 'stone merchants' are in business because the local quarry is not the most reliable and the concrete has to be supplied. I digress, the cart.

Amazing simple in design, robust in construction, easy to maintain – sounds like the attributes for another vehicle that I'm fond of. The 'merchants' tell me that they will wheel the cart and its contents another kilometre down the road to the informal market, where they hope to get a better selling price for their product. They see me pull out the camera and they immediately pose for the shot. I look at their faces. They are smiling. I look at their bodies and their worn out clothing. I reflect on the hardships of their work, let out a silent "phew", and promise to make them a copy of the picture before getting back on the road once again.

(Posted by Paulo)


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