Wednesday, April 7, 2010
T-Shirt Travels: Film by Shantha Bloemen
Shantha Bloemen volunteered with a community development initiative in a remote part of Northern Zambia: 50 miles from the nearest town with running water and electricity. While adjusting to living in a different culture, learning how to cook "mealie meal" the local cuisine and carrying water on her head which was located a mile from her home.
Something struck her as oddly familiar: almost everyone in the village wore second hand clothing from the west, from the village elder sporting a CHANEL knockoff jacket to women in AC/DC t-shirts. She began thinking if the original owners had any idea that their cast-offs they had given to charities ended up being sold to Africans (at a 400% mark-up) half way around the world. The T-shirt that left the most profound mark on her was a white tattered T worn by an elder chiefdom that read "I danced at Elijah's Bar Mitzvah 1986." The T probably came from NYC and is now worn by a born-again Christian village elder in Africa.
An export agent from Brooklyn told Shantha that The Salvation Army doesn't even unpack most of the donated clothing but sells it to companies for export to third-world countries. Since 1992 when Zambia opened it's doors to free trade within 8 years the clothing manufacturers have gone out of business. Not a single one left in the country. In 2001 Shantha finished the film "T-Shirt Travels" which was aired on public television. We westerners think that dropping off our clothing donations is a good thing. Maybe we should think twice of where our unwanted cast-offs actually go and the impact of those goods and the communities that receive them...
Posted by robin weiss at 9:03 AM