I went to the island of Santiago in Cape Verde, curious to see what life looks like in this steadily developing nation. Santiago is the largest and the most populated island of the Cape Verdean archipelago. Half of Cape Verde’s 500,000 inhabitants live on this island. These images represent what I saw, inside and outside, on the island.
Cape Verde is on the way to achieving most of the UN Millennium Development Goals. The country has an energy that is palpable and a tentative optimism, despite the on-going hardships that many still endure. Cape Verde has a democratically elected government and its inhabitants enjoy political and social stability and freedom. It has the highest living standards of any country in West Africa, 87% literacy levels, and an average life expectancy of 75 years, which is in the top three of all African countries. There are more Cape Verdeans living abroad than in Cape Verde and they send back much-needed foreign currency.
However Cape Verde is an arid country that has very few natural resources and few employment opportunities. Most of the population lives on less than two dollars a day. Falling mortality rates and stable fertility rates, and declining opportunities for emigration are increasing the pressure on the poor domestic resources. Traditional safety nets, based on extended family structures and social solidarity, are breaking down, especially in the large urban centers, mainly because of high population growth, declining incomes and modern ways of life. Prostitution is legal, but unregulated, a dangerous combination. It’s common for Cape Verdeans to turn to prostitution as a means of survival. Sex tourism is now big business in Cape Verde. Drug-related crime and gang violence are increasingly common, particularly in the capital, Praia. The vast majority of people in Cape Verde live in homes that they have built themselves. These unregulated constructions are poorly built and frequently unstable. Most have no running water and no means of disposing of sewage or waste. Residents frequently steal electricity because they can’t afford to pay for it.
Cape Verde’s greatest resource is it’s vibrant people, but seemingly most of the inhabitants of the archipelago still struggle to make ends meet and their future seems to hang precariously in the balance.
A boy playing in the streets of Calabaceira in the south of Santiago.
A squashed Kingfisher, the national bird of Cape Verde
In a home in the neighbourhood of Castelon in Praia
Near Prainha beach, Praia
Spiders in the mountains in the north of Santiago
Foite (a nickname) is a gang member in the crime-ridden neighbourhood of Ponta d’Agua in Praia. He says he wants to leave the gang and live a peaceful life but the gang leaders won’t allow him to.
Army training in the mountains in the north of Santiago island
A dog with a deformed, but perfectly functioning nose, Praia
A sex worker, who lives and works in Achada Grande, a poor neighbourhood in Praia. She earns 3 or 4 euros per day. She has a severe eye infection that is causing her to lose her eyesight.
A bedroom in a home in Eugenio Lima, Praia
Outside a home in the neighbourhood of Brasil, Praia
Inside a home in Castelon, Praia
Inside a home in Ponta d’Agua, Praia
A sex worker’s bedroom in Castelon, Praia
A gang member who recently had a bullet removed from his leg after being shot by a member of an opposing gang in Varzea, Praia
At the fish market in the port of Praia
A gang member in Castelon, Praia
Siblings in their home in Castelon, Praia
Clothes for sale in the street in Castelon, Praia
Half sisters inside their home in Ponta d’Agua, Praia
Brothers having a bath outside their home in the neighbourhood of Tira-Chapéu, on the outskirts of Praia
A man lies in a rock pool close to Tarrafal in the north of the island of Santiago
Dogs guarding a home in the hills of the interior of Santiago. Like most buildings in Cape Verde, this home has been built by its owners. Houses are built slowly and added to whenever the owners have enough money.
In Safende, on the outskirts of Praia
Jumping off a dilapidated jetty near the port in Praia
A dog sleeping on a pile of cement in the Casa Lata slum, close to the centre of Praia
Climbing onto a dilapidated jetty near the port in Praia
A boy in a Rebelado village in the central hills of Santiago. The Rebelados are a religious community that lives, isolated from the rest of society, in the interior of the island of Santiago.
A gang member with recent scars from drug-related feuds, in the crime-ridden neighbourhood of Ponta d’Agua in Praia
A boy inside his traditional home in a Rebelado village in the central hills of Santiago.
Twins from the neighborhood of Brasil, in Praia
Men work out in the crime-ridden neighborhood of Brasil, in Praia
Dirt roads in the neighbourhood of Ponta d’Agua, Praia
A little girl looks out from her home in Varzea, Praia
Outside a home in Ponta d’Agua, Praia
A baby rat in a bucket of slops in a home in Ponta d’Agua, Praia
A pig, about to be slaughtered, in in the Casa Lata slum, close to the centre of Praia
Selling fish in Fazenda, Praia
Inside a home in Eugenio Lima, Praia