Many people who visit France are drawn to the romantic banks of the Seine, the river that flows through the northern part of the country, inspiring artists and lovers with its glistening waters. The Seine has retained its beauty through history, however, these days it hides the improperly discarded waste of city dwellers in its depths.
Fortunately, there is one young Parisienne that decided that he could not sit by and do nothing while the river suffers under the weight of human-generated pollution. On any given Saturday, 11-year-old Rafael Marinho, together with his father, can be found on the banks of the famous river, pulling out an assortment of metal waste.
“This is a magnet that can lift up to one ton,” he explains to DW, holding the unconventional fishing line in his hands before tossing it into the water. Not long after, the magnet attracts an impressive catch: a shopping cart.
“I started doing this because I thought it would be fun to do,” he says, “but it quickly became some kind of hobby, or rather, a job. Now we are doing this almost every weekend. We have to do it as… adults are doing nothing,” he adds.
Rafael’s father is not surprised that his son has taken up such an activity.
“Rafael has always been close to nature and animals, so if someone does something bad to nature, like polluting it, he will of course step in,” he says.
Over the course of two years, Rafael and his father have fished out almost 20 tons of discarded metal, including 50 bicycles. From this large array of items, Rafael has a selection of favorite finds on exhibition in a pop-up museum next to the river. Every object is accompanied by a little story that Rafael had imagined for each piece.
“There’s a safe that we’ve fished out next to a revolver and a motorbike,” he says, motioning towards the items. “We imagine it belonged to a gangster on the run who crashed with his motorbike, pistol in hand.”
Rafael, who has now garnered over 20,000 followers on Instagram, hopes that the public attention coupled with his exhibition will inspire others to go out and take action, too.
Even French President Emmanuel Macron has extended his congratulations to Rafael on his river cleaning initiative.
Image Source: Raf Sur Seine