MAURO DE BETTIO
Life In Balance
Wearing brightly-colored dresses, children dance through the labyrinth of shacks and narrow alleys in Kibera, the largest urban slum, and one of Africa’s most desperate areas. Nairobi’s slums, with over 2.5 million people, represent more than half of its population, occupying only 5% of its area. Because of their constant population growth, there is an increase in unemployment, poverty, crime, scarcity of water and infections. Due to this heart-breaking scenario, children are the only ones who can afford to dream. Project Elimu, translated from the Swahili word for education or knowledge, is a non-profit organization based in Kibera where the Kenyan founder and trained dance instructor, Michael, has been teaching classical ballet since 2009. He provides a safe space for children, giving them opportunities to fulfill their dreams. The children become accomplished ballerinas, and at the same time discover their strengths. “Most of them didn’t even know what the word ‘ballet” meant, but it didn’t stop them from discovering their great passion,” says Michael. Ballet provides a special path for these children who found “a life in balance” through their craft. Ballet is so much more than learning dance moves. It is mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Ballet provides a great outlet. Ballet has increased their feelings of self-worth, and has helped these children realize they can become anything they want to be. The joy and focus I have seen on their faces tells a story far greater than words could ever express.
Born and raised in a little village in the Italian Alps, now based in Barcelona, Mauro De Bettio already felt from a young age the desire to tell stories. He discovered that the camera was the right tool for him, the eye through which he could speak to the world. Mauro spends his life working on several projects regarding social and human rights issues in India, Bangladesh and Africa. This curiosity for such different cultures and ways of living led him to the country’s most hidden corners to capture the emotion and trauma of human suffering, of several individuals and their unique histories, exploring the fragile balance between those people and their environment. De Bettio reproduces these different feelings into images to evoke emotions in others, to draw public attention to real-life situations and to make people stop and think. His pictures tell a visual story, and he is able to highlight unseen or ignored realities — a vital tool that can help bring about social change. In recent years he has won numerous awards, including: being the ND overall winner 2021 and Portrait of Humanity, 2020. His entry for the AAP Magazine’s issue 11 on the theme of travel won first place. He came in first place at the National Geographic Italy’s 2018 contest and came second overall in the National Geographic’ contest in 2017. He is also a winner at FIIPA 2018, Lensculture Portrait Awards 2018 and American Photography in 2018. De Bettio has been published in numerous magazines including National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveller, Lensculture, Dodho magazine, Lensmagazine, and the Edge of Humanity magazine.