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Julio Etchart

There is an area of life in some societies when work and play blend with each other. Children and young people learn survival skills at a very early age. Hunting birds with a sling provides food and trains the user in good target practice, an essential skill in hunting-gathering social groups.

I took this picture in a village in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and included it in Toys, my photo-book on global play. The book does not pretend to be an A-Z of toys and games around the world. I am rather trying to show that children and young people have not lost the ability to imagine and to improvise games, despite the relentless assault by the toy and electronics transnationals designed to convert them into cyber-nerds!

*Julio Etchart*, Chile, from the book _Toys_- (Mets & Schilt, Amsterdam 2006, distributed in the UK by Pluto).

Julio Etchart

I photographed this boy in the playground of a youth centre run by Nicaragua’s YMCA – supported by the London-based charity Y Care International – in Managua. Located in the Acahualinca area of Managua, a very poor neighbourhood near the municipal garbage dump, the centre offers training and recreational activities for disadvantaged and working youth. They are encouraged to run their own facilities and the workshop makes among other things, swings and playground equipment like the one enjoyed by the boy in the picture.

This image is part of ‘The Playing Fields’, a long-term photographic project which I have been developing for more than five years.

As a photographer who has covered development issues for many years, I have witnessed a fair amount of injustice and poverty around the world.

It became my personal crusade to document the world of toys and games, from the factory to the playground via the shopping mall, from rich kids to humble shantytown and rural children.

Play is precious to children. It is a time for growing and learning or just having fun.

The toys children play with tell us much about their lives. Many poorer children can’t take their toys for granted. They may have to work, or fight a war, or they are refugees on the run. Yet even in the worst situations you find children making do with wonderfully improvised toys made from tin cans, wire or wood – whatever they can lay their hands on.

*Julio Etchart*, a Uruguayan photographer currently based in London, Britain.