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Planting a tree with Uncle Benji. Watering Fate. Meet 'Fate'. With his bike. Two Wheels Across. And the projects he finds along the way. Friends in far places.

Zambia- Whilst in Livingstone I met up with friend and internationally renowned photographer Christian Ghammachi who happened to be in the area at the same time as me.

Currently travelling from Cape Town to Dubai as 'one man, his camera and Two Wheels Across’, Christian came out to the Greenpop camp where he planted an Afzelia quanzensis tree with Uncle Benji. He named the tree Fate. Something which means much to him as is evident from his recently tattooed forearm which holds the inscription - “A man’s character is his fate”. 

Catch a glimpse of Christian’s incredible photographs at ChristianGhammachi.comI particularly love his elephant and wildlife features. Actually, I particularly like all of his work and am lucky enough to own a copy of his book 19 years.

Subscribe to his Two Wheels Across YouTube channel right here to keep in touch with Christian’s adventures. Also follow him on Twitter @TwoWheelsAcross. Safe travels friend.

Ilizwi Photo Club. Expression through Photography.

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GreenpopZambia- I now know that we all have an artistic side to us.

Although this is certainly something that took me years to realise about myself. In my mind, I collated art and creativity with the ability, or in my case, inability to draw. Perhaps its a gap in our education, or the rigid way in which life gets hold of us at a young age. But I didn’t always have the confidence of expression and spent too many years stifling my vivid imagination.

Then a few years back, my freedom of expression arrived in the form of a camera. Photos and matching words with which I could express my feelings and share my experiences. Now I write and document my life and travels in the form of an online journal, as though its the most natural thing in the world. Actually I can’t imagine life without this extension of myself and encourage everybody to find their artistic voice. Whatever shape it takes.

All this meant that learning about #TreeForZambia partner Ilizwi Photo Club and the work that they do, thrilled me. Being allowed the opportunity to spend time with them, yet another gift from Zambia.

As a youth development initiative, Ilizwi is driven by the super-talented Anel Wessels and Meghan Daniels with their team of assistants. They ‘work with young people encouraging self-expression through photography.’

Their first two weeks in Zambia was spend running photography workshops with a group of 20-23 year olds who had completed school and were employed in the Livingstone area. The workshop started with exploring self awareness through the lens of a camera. The who am I? What do I believe is good and bad and why? What is my role in my community?

The photographers each chose a story which matter most to them. These varied from arranged marriages, painters funding their education, single parenting, waste management, night welders, local beer culture, the value of water in urban and rural areas and more. Some of the photographers went beyond the photographs to working in their communities to bring about change.

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I was lucky enough to sit with some of the students on one of the mornings, helping them write up the stories behind their photos. Moved by their brave approach to some of the tough topics they selected, I learned a huge amount from their visual minds. This pic by Anel.

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Three of the students waiting to share their stories with me, one more moving than the next. Their photos incredible. What a privilege.

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It wasn’t all photographs and editing though. A team was born, one that found time for some seriously fun and enthused singing too.

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Having selected and edited their best images, Anel, Meghan and team prepared them for the Exhibition on the last night in camp. Printed works, words and videos told us more about their lives in Livingstone, each matched to their portraits as above.

Here is the link to the Exhibition on the Ilizwi Photo Club's Facebook page. Some amazing work which we were able to buy on the night. I came home with six pieces which had each moved me, offered personal insight, history and passion. I was also influenced by a couple of the photographers who I do encourage to keep taking photos.

Natural mastery at its most inspiring.

Thank you Ilizwi and team for introducing me to your powerful work. I’m humbled by you and look forward to seeing how your dynamic talented group of photographers take their dream forward. Also to following your impressive and wonderful projects closer to home.

For more info contact Ilizwi on mail or follow them on twitter.

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasise in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

"And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

- Howard Zinn 

I saw this on a friend’s facebook page and thought it was worth a read and reminder, especially on days like these, when the world needs all the love and positive action we can muster. 

Building with Eco-Bricks. Taking Trash to Treasure.

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GreenpopZambia- I met the remarkable Candice Mostert in Zambia as she taught her simple and effective eco-brick building method to the local residents at Sons of Thunder farm. Another incredible partner of GreenPop and #TreesForZambia.

Supported by a group of volunteers they built a Bench from plastic bottles filled with non recyclable plastic papers and wrappers. Teaching the benefits of this innovative method of building. It’s not as easy at it looks in these pics, but involves seriously getting your hands dirty. Then again, all the most satisfying work does.

This method of repurposing waste to build homes can potentially change the way of thinking for many. The advantages?

1. Most homes built from mud and wood in rural areas need to be repaired at least three times every decade. 2. The plastic bottles last 1000 years and offer stronger insulated walls. 3. The use of wood is drastically reduced - yay to that! 4. It reduces the piles of waste by taking plastic bottles and other garbage and giving them a useful purpose.

I spoke to Reuben Charles from the farm about his thoughts on this method and he was thrilled by the simplicity of it. Determined to adopt it and show others working on the farm how easily a difference can be made.

Feel good all round. A fabulous bench that will be enjoyed by all, yet also stand tall as an example of how up-cycling and change can benefit all. Especially our fragile environment.

Let this be the future, taking Trash to Treasure.

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Sifting the sand to mix with clay for ‘cement’.

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Volunteers mixing in the sand and mud.

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Sometimes feet are better than hand, both - best.

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Once the consistency of the mud cement is at it’s best, the outer lay is crafted, smoothed and sculpted.

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Until a proud end product is there.

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Team effort. Group shot!

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Learn more at Trash to Treasure Festivals and sign up to stay in touch with Candice on her future projects. 

Colour Ikamva, Libala School and the Gift of Creativity.

GreenpopZambia. 

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Megan King and Ricky Lee Gordon of Colour Ikamva.

Creativity is a gift of life, one that everybody deserves.

As Ricky Lee Gordon of Colour Ikamva said whilst handing over a transformed Libala Primary School to the Headmaster - ‘Creativity should be included in every aspect of our lives; home, work, relationships, learning.’ I couldn’t agree more, whatever form it takes, a creative element makes for a better world.

Colour Ikamva were one of the GreenPop partners in Zambia this year. Headed by inspiring art activist Ricky Lee Gordon aka Freddy Sam and the lovely Megan King, they were joined by various volunteers during their three weeks there. Working with the Grade 8 pupils of Livingstone’s Libala Primary School, they brought about a complete change to the look and feel of the school’s grounds and classrooms.

Starting with creative conversations and planning, they moved outside to paint flower, plants and birds on the walls, large elephant murals taking pride of place on either side of the school.

Other groups worked with bunting and wallpaper, or created stars, elephants and clouds from cardboard for mobile installations. Blackboards became blue, stripes broke monotony and volunteers and students embraced the project with generosity and enthusiasm.

On the last Friday in Zambia there was a formal handing over to the Headmaster, displays of dance and a chance to walk through the classrooms admiring the work and talking to the individuals students who had created on the project. 

I asked Megan for her thoughts on their time in Zambia: 

'Our experience working at Libala Primary School was unforgettable. As an organisation, we pushed our own boundaries of what is possible through a 3 week workshop designed with the assumption that creativity is an essential tool for self-knowledge. The results were five co-created murals and two radically transformed classrooms filled with artwork made from simple materials, paying tribute to the creativity and beauty of each of the 24 students in the programme. 'I wish we could do this for the whole year,' one student told me. So do I. Huge love to Greenpop for inviting us and all those we met for sharing the kindness of the Zambian spirit.

For some background, Colour Ikamva was modelled on the non-profit organisation Ikamva Youth which focusses on the empowerment of youth. Through an expression of love and by working in disadvantaged schools, Ricky and Megan believe that they can inspire genius whilst creating environments that instill a sense of pride and possibility. A re-imagining. And I saw this happen.

Here is a video on some work that they did on the Colour Ikageng project in Cape Town which gives more background

The addition of colour touches the heart, brings to life passion and benefits all. I believe that they can encourage change in anybody.

What a pleasure to have met this talented couple and to have seen and felt first hand the positive impact that they have on the children and people they work with.

It’s true what they say, the world needs art.

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Murals underway, team work.

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Welcome guidance from Megan.

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Circles, stars, spots and squares, on diamonds.

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Creating elephants and clouds out of painted cardboard.

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Mobiles in the making.

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Peace flags and bunting.

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Volunteer Mark Wood of Lusaka on the job.

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One of the beautiful and proud Grade 8 students who showed me around her new-look classroom.

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The transformed classrooms.

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Ricky handing over to the School Headmistress.

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Group pics of the team.

More photos from the Libala School on here