I was walking back to my hostel on the outskirts of Kampala when I first saw the brick kilns smoking. At first I did not know what it was, because the factory was about 400 meters down the hill and I had never seen one before, but I decided to go and investigate. When I got down there I discovered that it was a brick factory where several dozen men were working here and there, doing different tasks. Charles was the first one I saw, and I did not hesitate to go down to the big hole were he was working and talk to him after shaking his arm (he didn’t offered me his muddy hands).
Charles works making mud bricks by hand. He gets 15 UGX (0.004USD$) per each brick he makes. If he works hard, he may get 2,5 to 3 USD$ for a whole day of hard work under the sun or the rain, which takes turns at this time of the year in the capital of Uganda. Difficult to believe or not, Charles has a teaching degree at an Ugandan university, but he never got a job in that field. Unemployment rates in the country are around 80%, he told me, and he considered himself lucky enough because he, at least, had that job and a daily income. Business was not going that well though, and he wasn’t sure about the future. It was very weird to talk with him about deep topics as politic corruption in his country in comparison with Spain, social behaviours or immigration policies in Europe while he continued making bricks covered in mud… I suffered a cognitive dissonance that day.
Charles filled the mold with mud, handful after handful, and then compacted it making pressure with his hands. Then he would deposit the clay bricks in rows behind him. Meanwhile, another college can be seen in the background of the photograph, digging the earth with a shovel and tossing it in a wheelbarrow that he would later approach to Charles. Looking at the wall on the left side you can also notice how much they had already went down from the original level of the ground.
After the clay bricks have taken shape, they must be cooked in ovens as the one in the photo, filled inside with wood set on fire. The smoke can be seen from miles away. This man was just controlling the fire, which seemed like a rather boring job. As I felt a little hungry while I was there, I took some bananas that I carried in the backpack and shared one with him, who accepted it delighted. I found it interesting that no one said no to food in these countries: whenever I offered something, whatever it was, everyone accepted it and ate it immediately.