Portraits from Cameroon

Chemical Application Workers on a banana plantation inCameroon © Jan Nimmo

Chemical Application Workers on a banana plantation in Fako, Cameroon, Central Africa © Jan Nimmo

I have been working with banana workers since around 2000 on a project called Green Gold where I have collaborated with Latin America Banana workers who labour on the large, extensively farmed plantations of Central and South America. The project is a mixture of portrait, documentary film, installation and testimony.

When the opportunity arose to go and film workers’ testimonies in Cameroon for Banana Link I was keen to see what the differences and similarities where between the two continents…

Portraits from Cameroon is a series of short workers’ testimonies filmed both on the plantations and in workers’ homes. I think they speak for themselves, but in brief, workers earn a third of what they need to survive, are exposed to harmful chemicals and work long hours.

The film was subtitled into Spanish so that workers in Latin America could learn about working conditions in Central Africa.

PfC was premiered at Document 10 International Human Rights Film Festival and will be screened at Workers Unite Film Festival in New York, May 2014.

© Jan Nimmo 2014


Jan Nimmo

Jan and Chaparro. Photo: Paul Barham ©

Jan and Chaparro. Photo: Paul Barham ©

I am a Glasgow based artist and filmmaker. My work is essentially about sharing peoples’ stories through artwork, film and writing. I am especially interested in agriculture, the lives of working people and Latin American popular culture.

I have worked with banana and pineapple workers in Latin America and Central Africa since 2000. I want workers’ testimony to help us, the consumers, to understand that the work is backbreaking, that a 12 hour day may be routine and that workers are often exposed to harmful, toxic chemicals. It is often difficult or impossible for workers to join a trade union in order to defend the most basic of rights so international solidarity is important. My work has been to make portraits (both woodcuts prints and photographs), installations, documentary films and to write about the experiences of banana workers.

Deleafer, Banana Plantation, Cameroon. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Deleafer, Banana Plantation, Cameroon. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

I have travelled extensively in Latin America and am interested in Mexican and Guatemalan popular art and Cuban traditional music. Because I have a great affection for Mexico and am concerned about human right violations so I make artwork in solidarity with people and campaigns there. Since 2014 I have been making portraits in solidarity with the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero Mexico. These took a year to make and I continue to make work about Ayotzinapa. The portraits have been exhibited in the Scottish Parliament and thanks to human rights activist, Eréndira Sandoval Carrillo, my has work reached the parents of the missing students. The work has almost taken on a life of its own in Mexico and is frequently seen in the hands of the families at meetings and marches or decorating the Normalista college in Ayotzinapa, where the students were studying to become primary teachers. Recently I have made work in collaboration with with the families of miners who worked in a coal mine in northern Mexico, Pasta de Conchos, where 65 miners were killed in an underground explosion. Their bodies have never been recovered so the work is about naming them and remembering them.


Yo, Jan Nimmo,Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Giovanni Galindrez Guerrero. Artwork: Jan Nimmo ©

I am making portraits and gathering the testimonies of the agricultural workers in the Sierra de Huelva, a place I know like the back of my hand, thanks to my horse, Chaparro. Cork oaks are the backdrop to my rides there so I have gradually become involved in gathering moving and still images of cork, cork oaks and the people who work in this slow burning, sustainable but precarious industry. More drawings here:

Rafael, Cork Harvester, Sierra de Huelva. Drawing: jan Nimmo ©

Rafael, Cork Harvester, Sierra de Huelva. Drawing: jan Nimmo ©

Closer to home, I have been involved in an oral history project “The Road to Drumleman” about the coal mine in Kintyre where my father worked as a young man. I made a film but want to continue to gather people’s stories about the Argyll Colliery. I have made a series of portraits of people associated with the mine and am currently leading a heritage/arts project in Kintyre. Here is the blog and you can view the drawings here:

Neil Nimmo, Shot-firer, Argyll Colliery. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

Neil Nimmo, Shot-firer, Argyll Colliery. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

I am interested in sustainable growing and food. I share an allotment, “Plot 16” with my husband. We also like to forage both in Scotland and in Spain.

My “bread and butter” work is facilitating community arts projects, educational work and graphic design. One of the most recent projects that I facilitated here in Scotland was A View From Here with Scottish Refugee Council, where I worked as Visual Arts Coordinator.