In February 2020, Celia Ruiz de Castilla during one of her expeditions journeyed through the land of Dhaka in Bangladesh, the Land of the Bandals, where she came across a stock of smallholder rice millers on the outskirts of the region of Dhamri. Dhamri is well known for its copper workshop (Petit Futé 2020)
Bangladesh is a country whose economy is dependent on agriculture with rice cultivation accounting for more than 70% of the total cropped area (Begum, 1997). The people of Bangladesh consume a lot of rice on a daily basis. The per capita rice consumption stood at 196.3 kilograms (The University of Arkansas, 2017).
Three types of rice, namely: aus (summer), aman (winter), and boro (spring) are grown in Bangladesh. When the rice paddy is harvested from fields, it undergoes processing (Parboiling, drying, and milling) before it can be consumed. Rice millers comprising men and women participate every day in the production of this very important staple food. Many families live and work in the mills. While parents work, their children run freely- generating a community of support among them.
In Bangladesh, there are approximately 40,000 rice mills. Rice mills are very much dependent on human labor, and almost 5 million (if not more) unorganized workers are working in different rice mills. Female workers are responsible for drying and husking paddy and packing the husked rice into sacks while male workers are responsible for carrying the sacks of rice, firing the boiler machine, piling the rice, and some other duties.
The work is hard under a hot sun. The workers have little or no health protection. They do not have masks, gloves, or shoes with which they can protect themselves. Although they receive a minimum salary well below what is supposed to cover basic needs, they continue to do this job with joy and hope.
This story is a contribution by Celia Ruiz de Castilla, a travel and nature documentary photographer born in Lima-Peru. For much of her adult life, she has been traveling, seeking adventure and ways to learn and interact with different cultures. Photography became her great excuse to look deeper and make her experiences more intense.
Her main objective is to create the kind of images that combine a strong sense of history, to convey and inform what it feels like to be with the people she met and the places she visited. She is a graduate of TAFE technological school where she obtained a diploma in Photography. Among other distinctions, she obtained first place in Behind The Lens, was a finalist in Head On Photo Festival, Tokyo International Photo Awards, Urban dotART among others. She has participated in several group exhibitions in countries such as Australia, Italy, and Greece.
She has lived and worked in Sydney, Australia for over twenty years. Celia RDC can be contacted via her website: www.celiardcphotography.com.au.