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.
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.
Three of the students waiting to share their stories with me, one more moving than the next. Their photos incredible. What a privilege.
It wasn’t all photographs and editing though. A team was born, one that found time for some seriously fun and enthused singing too.
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.