The African Lens project is an inspired project designed to tell the story of Africa. It is based on the premise that Africa is a complex, multi-faceted environment with rich and varying cultures which too often get very short coverage in journalistic work out of there. We want to present, if possible, a balanced view of Africa. Of course, we won't shy or run away from stories of the human condition that needs to be told to bring attention to issues which otherwise won't get any coverage.
What is the perception about Africa today in the world? It is very easy to visualize Africa the way it is portrayed - a backward continent with stories of human tragedy which requires the help and sympathy of international donors. A sprawling geographic area with incompetent and corrupt leaders, famine ravished citizens and extreme poverty. Certainly, these stories are not made up. They are true. And they are forcibly thrust into the media limelight in developed countries with pictures of starving kids, genocidal marauding gangs of soldiers, dirty looking villagers living in extreme poverty and news of constantly unending wars. There are so many aid agencies , relief groups and NGOs operating in Africa than I care to count. Clearly, this is one continent in crisis. It has always been in crisis.
I found myself conflicted after thinking about this project. Should I attempt to correct the perception that all Africa is like this? Does showing an alternate view of life in Africa deal with the perception problem? Is such an effort an attempt to deny what is? Is there any merit in calling attention to these horrific conditions, as told by others, and in effect tell the same stories I am looking to recast ?
What is the story that needs to be told about Africa? Asking this question in itself is a testament to the problems of the continent. But there is a story to be told. It is an ever unfolding epic of the ability of a people to rise above all kinds of hardships to survive. It is a story about the resiliency and resourcefulness of its people. It is a story about the the richness of their culture and ways of life. It is a story about how the new generation of well educated Africans are using their entrepreneurial skills to transform their societies. It is the story about all the positive aspects of Africa lost in the current portrayal of the place.
What about the other story? The stories of genocide, wars , poverty etc ? In my opinion, telling them plays an important role in creating awareness to the problem. I intend to use African Lens as a platform of advocacy to tell such stories. However, that's not all you are going to get here. It is my hope that African Lens will portray the complete picture about the people of Africa - their hardships, challenges and triumphs. It is my hope that western news media will move away from the singular and shock inspiring news of Africa they have been peddling, to a more balanced rendition of the story of its people. Hopefully, it can help in a small way to correct the perception of a hopeless continent to one with a people who have no less an aspiration to live richer lives than any other people in developed countries.
Friday, May 28, 2010Author:
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Added Tue, Nov 29, 2011 - 08:58 am by Victor Acquah
I want to start this discussion by quoting from Robin’s response:
“Bad stuff happens in Africa - as it happens in other parts of the world - should we not document it?”
This question has been on my mind for awhile. Is there a way to portray the problems of Africa without being stereotypical? Is that an unavoidable consequence of the severity of some of these issues? For those of us who are not photojournalists, we will appreciate examples of how hard subjects like this can be covered in a non-stereotypical way - something, perhaps to set a benchmark for how stories from Africa should be approached. ( Do we need a benchmark at all?).1
Added Fri, Jul 16, 2010 - 08:50 am by Victor Acquah
Steve - the point about the NGOs - So are they really helping to perpetuate this “desperate” need of Africa? The question is, is that the only tool they’ve got to raise money effectively?
This reminds me of countless TV adverts I have seen soliciting help ( a dollar a day ) of helpless and needy children2
Added Thu, Jun 10, 2010 - 06:43 pm by Steve Forrest
Photographers on the whole need to make money to survive. The only organizations usually willing to pay for their services are NGOs, most of whose needs are to raise money (within the capitalist framework) by showing the desperate state of the African majority. Their aim (the NGOs) is to help the poorest while not challenging the status quo (rich west, poor Africa). So, nothing changes….Africa, stereotypes, most photo stories….I could go on.3
Added Tue, Jun 01, 2010 - 06:01 pm by Bernhard Rearden
Beautiful site!!! Job well done. I have shared this site with a few of my native African friends and I am sure this is going to spread worldwide.4
Added Sun, May 30, 2010 - 10:08 pm by Victor Acquah
Thanks John! You have the honor of being the first to comment on the new site! Looking forward to your submission too!5
Added Sun, May 30, 2010 - 05:17 pm by John Edwin Mason
Congratulations, Victor! African Lens is off to a great start.6