Valeria Mongelli: The Steel Plant Mothers

Wilfully ignoring the pleas of the local and national population, the Ilva plant, Europe’s largest steel plant, is portrayed as prioritising profit over people's lives.

Valeria Mongelli: The Steel Plant Mothers
© Valeria Mongelli / Hans Lucas | The Steel Plant Mothers

The last 18 months or so have been nothing short of extraordinarily unimaginable. The world as we know it and our daily lives have been turned upside down and back to front due to a deadly and highly contagious virus. It’s hard to imagine that something as microscopic and invisible as this can render a simple handshake - a social gesture we once took for granted and perceived to be the trait of good manners - as no longer acceptable. The COVID-19 pandemic opened a dialogue about our own mortality and what humankind can do to come together and help one another in the face of a biological disaster.

Valeria Mongelli’s body of work The Steel Plant Mothers is timely and pertinent in the context of the sacrifices we have made and the suffering we have all recently endured, yet the angle of her story is different. These are not deaths caused by an unknown-until-now pathogen, one we are all helpless against, but they are instead caused by a corporation.

Tiziana Semeraro carries the coffin of his son Vincenzo, 11, who died of bone cancer on November 29, 2020. Vincenzo lived in the Tamburi district, a few kilometers away from the Ilva steel plant. Many link this death to the emissions of the nearby steel plant. © Valeria Mongelli / Hans Lucas | The Steel Plant Mothers

Wilfully ignoring the pleas of the local and national population, the Ilva plant, Europe’s largest steel plant, is portrayed as prioritising profit over people. It is linked not only to terminal illnesses such as leukemia and cardiovascular diseases, but also to a myriad of at-work accidents that happen behind its walls.

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