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Mário Macilau’s Portraits of the “Forgotten” Elderly

On display this month at the Centro Cultural Franco-Moçambicano in Maputo are Mozambican photographer Mário Macilau’s portraits he made of elderly people all over the continent (Nigeria, Congo, Mozambique, Cameroon, Kenya, Mali, etc.) during the year 2012. The title of the series is “Esquecidos” (Forgotten). In a short email, Mário Macilau explained his project:

A number of studies indicate that the average life expectancy has increased in the last decades. The implementation of technology, agriculture, medicine and sanitation have contributed to this phenomenon. As a result, this significant part of the population is reaching an age that does not permit this population to participate in labour nor to contribute to the production of everyday activities and self-maintenance. The growth of the population over sixty-five years – the age of retirement – is only increasing to such an extent that the elderly population might constitute half of the entire European population in the coming twenty years. Could ageing thus be understood as a blessing?

In affluent societies, the demands of the high-performance labour that is paired with the increasing life expectancy, a culture of care homes has been put in place. Elderly members of the family are placed in these homes under care of professionals who are often strangers to these vulnerable groups. Care homes are part social club, dispensaries and hospices.

This culture of displacement stands in contrast with social values of the traditions of living together and growing old in one homestead, whereby senior members of the family were cared for by their offspring. Such cultures can still be found in rural areas and some parts of African countries.

“Esquecidos” runs until 5 March 2013 at the Centro Cultural Franco-Moçambicano.

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