New here

The girl in this picture was the helping hand of my colleague and friend Arnob Chakrabarty in his new home in Dhaka. In October 2010 she had just arrived from the countryside of Bangladesh with her husband. They live in the vast slums of this city.

This is her first job as a maid. She was very curious about me and my things and started rummaging in my bag, took out some clothes, books and my case with pens, pencils and make up. We took pictures of each other. She is wearing my earrings and lipstick.

Working together

‘I am not a fool, I don’t want to pay taxes from my cleaning wages,’ says Junilla. She is looking for work and lives of an unmeployments benefit.For about eighteen months she works for Lili. Usually they work together. They sit and have a coffee and a talk. Later, Lili helps Junilla folding the laundry and cleaning the bathroom, the conversation continues. They speak about the small and the big things in life: holidays, men, children who have grown up and the football supporter who was recently shot by a police officer.

‘If you love legal rights and security, then this is not your job,’ says Junilla. “But I love my freedom. If I don’t feel like working, I don’t do it. Sometimes I am too tired. It is really hard work. If I have to clean two or more houses on one day  I no longer have the energy to clean up my own house.’ Lees verder

Dreaming

These two workers are born in Indonesia. They work as a team. She misses her children a lot. One of their employers lives in the center of Amsterdam. They call her Mama Dear. ‘Usually we have coffee together,’ Mama Dear says. ‘We chat, I ask how they are doing.’ Usually they clean at Friday, every week. She pays 82 Euro for three hours work and a bonus for winter and summer holidays. Lees verder

Life as it is

Elena loves cooking. She feeds the old lady East European delicacies. Elena has been hired by the lady’s daughter to take care of her. Elena and her good friend Maria work in shifts. The old lady can hardly move and Elena and Maria lift her from her bed into a chair, from the chair onto a plastic chair to take a shower, into a wheelchair to take a walk. They both live in a small apartment in a small village on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

The house is quiet but for the TV set which shows Russian movies from the old lady’s collection. Sometimes they sing or cry together, watching.Elena was born in what used to be the USSR, the old lady was born there too. They speak Russian to her. The old lady tries to speak, but the sounds she makes are not discernible as words, let alone sentences. It’s not clear what she understands. Her ex-husband, who visits every day, is worried. ‘You shouldn’t let her watch detective series on the telly. We can’t tell if she wants to watch those. All that blood,’ he says. Lees verder

Independence

This friendly woman was born in Afghanistan, fled her country, waited for many years in asylum seekers centers, tried to ask for asylum in Sweden, got sent back to the Netherlands.After waiting ten years she and her husband and children are allowed to stay.She likes her employer because this women thinks it’s normal to make her some tea. She appreciates acknowledgement of the fact she’s human too. In other houses she was sometimes forced to clean toilets with her bare hands. She refused, lost her job.

Now she is happy to earn some money. It makes her feel more independent. She works hard, hardly ever touches the tea cup her employer put on the table for her. Now that she and her family have the right to stay in the Netherlands, she would like to get a legal job and pay taxes. She is  happy she never has to be afraid again. She is studying and hopes to get a job in a nursing home. Lees verder

Invisible Hands Photo Exhibition

On the 24th of June 2011 a one-day photo exhibition of the project Crossing the Lines was held at Wereldhuis, Amsterdam. The conference ‘’Illegal help’’  hosted seven pictures of the pilot project. This project by Jonge Sla is supported by several Dutch organizations, such as the Workers Union and United Migrant Domestic Workers.One of the Dutch characteristics is cleanliness. Nowadays in the big cities this is mainly provided by either illegal or undocumented migrant workers. Their work isn’t taken into account in the government statistics, even though it contributes to the economic growth. The project Crossing the Lines aims to show the people behind those ‘invisible hands’, as well as their employers.Where Attic Van Limmikhof, Nieuwe Keizersgracht 1A, AmsterdamWhen Friday 24th of June 2011,12-5 pmContact Nies Medema, +31 (0)6 51 98 62 44, jongesla@xs4all.nl