Everyday Africa is an Instagram-based project aiming to document moments from daily life. It was founded in 2012 by the American photojournalist Peter DiCampo and writer Austin Merrill. Initially featuring the work of mostly American foreign correspondents, it now also includes the work of a number of African photographers, like Nana Kofi Acquah (featured before on Africa is a Country), Emeka Okereke and Andrew Esiebo. Chances are you’ve heard of it already as Everyday Africa has received a lot of positive press. Everyday Africa is definitely an important initiative in the north where one-dimensional, highly constructed images of Africans are the norm and so, a while back, I sent Peter some questions (a number of AIAC’ers pitched in too), which he answered. The exchange is below.
In 1993 Mahmood Mamdani first went to South Africa to study apartheid as a form of the state: ‘I realized that basic institutions of apartheid had been created long before the name and the state came into being. The ethnic cleansing of the African population of South Africa began as early as 1913 when the Natives Land Act declared 87% of the land for whites and divided the remaining 13% into so tribal homelands into which to herd the native population. These homelands were called “reserves.” I wondered why the name sounded so uncannily like the American “reservation.” ‘
As a very little girl, I remember shrinking from a particular sound, a hoarsely sharp, guttural rasp, because it often meant a nasty glob of grey spittle upon my coat or shoe an instant later. My mother wiped it off with little pieces of newspaper she always carried in her purse. Sometimes she fussed about low-class people who had no better sense nor manners than to spit into the wind no matter where they went, impressing upon me that this humiliation was totally random. It never occurred to me to doubt her.
The Best Picture win for 12 Years A Slave in the 2014 Academy Awards last weekend has not gone by unnoticed in the Netherlands. Not because of the thematic of the film but because ‘our Steve McQueen’–as the Dutch now call him–lives in Amsterdam together with his Dutch wife, journalist Bianca Stigter. So that makes this Oscar a ‘bit Dutch too.’
Every February here schools, McDonald’s, television, corporations, the advertising industry, celebrate Black History Month. The whole thing is a charade. That black people don’t get a break from police brutality, red lining, profiling or plain neglect, doesn’t matter. In 20o7, Gary Younge (he is an ally) suggested that what we needed was a White History Month. So, dear readers–in the service of good sense, this year March is the inaugural White History Month on Africa is a Country. Yes, we’re a few days late, we know, but good things take time sometime. Stay tuned.
I find Nicholas Eppel’s photographs of Elizabeth Barrett striking because it reveals the intimate details of the on-going, ordinary life of a woman in urban Cape Town. That she dedicated herself and her meagre resources to philanthropic work of caring for orphaned children makes her story particularly heart-warming. But it’s the way the images bring home the frailty and sensitivity of her world, of her home, that quietly stood as a buffer against apartheid and later, the grand schemes of ‘improvement through creative design’ that is the vogue in contemporary Cape Town, that make for compelling viewing. Having been incinerated, raised tragically before Christmas, the images hark hauntingly to a world, a home that is no longer there.
It’s beginning to seem that with every major pride event in South Africa comes an accompanying discussion of the country’s underlying racial fault lines. In 2012, Johannesburg Pride infamously erupted in clashes between groups who wanted to use pride as a space to advocate for local LGBTI issues, particularly misogynist and homophobic violence directed at queer black women, and those who saw Pride as an apolitical space celebrating an ostensibly larger queer ‘unity.’