DYNAMIC AFRICA

Set up in 2010, Dynamic Africa is diverse multi-media curated blog with a Pan-African outlook that seeks to create an expressive platform for African experiences, stories and African cultures.



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DYNAMIC AFRICANS: Senegal with Amy Sall.

Amy Sall is not a hired travel photographer, nor is she a photojournalist on assignment. Yet, her images of her recent trip to Senegal are far more moving, far more real, far richer and possess more authenticity than any embedded journalist could ever attempt to capture. The difference between Amy Sall and other photo amateurs or professionals? Her attachment to Senegal is personal. She’s a first-generation American, born and bred, but culturally, Senegal has never been far away. Additionally, she’s unburdened with the need or pressure to tell a specific kind of story. The narrative was a story to be told along the way, along her path of self-discovery.

For these reasons, and more, I fell in love with her posts on instagram as she visually documented her emotional visit to a place that isn’t quite home, but isn’t a foreign country as well. Through the story she creates with her images, Amy’s photo-documentation illustrates the need for Africans to tell their own stories through any and whatever medium is at their disposal.

Here’s my interview with Amy Sall as we discussed the emotional journey of her multicultural upbringing:

In about five sentences or less, briefly tell us a little about yourself. Who is Amy Sall? How would you introduce and define yourself to those who don’t know you?

I am a 23-year old, first generation Senegalese-American, born and bred in New York City, trying to navigate my life with my best foot forward, while staying true to my values. I think in all aspects of my life, there’s the inherent nexus of integrity, selflessness, and grit. What I do and who I am are intrinsically linked. Currently, I’m a Masters Candidate in Human Rights at Columbia University, focusing on children’s rights and youth issues in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the past, I’ve worked within a few sectors of fashion where I’ve had experience at Vogue, written for Lurve Magazine, and worked for Rick Owens to name a few.

You’re first generation Senegalese-American, born and raised in the US. What was your experience growing up being a part of two very distinct cultures? 

It was interesting, but not easy, growing up between two cultures. It’s not the easiest experience to sift through because it’s quite layered and muddled with all sorts of intricacies. I can say that there were times where my “Africaness” and my “Americaness” had points of contention. I was born only a year after my parents came to the states, so I grew up in a very culturally Senegalese home. Everything in our home was inherently Senegalese, from the food, to the music, to how daily life was constructed.

However, once I stepped outside my home, I was confronted, daily, with the fact that even though I am, in the literal sense of the word, African-American, I did not fit in with the African-American kids. They saw me as other. They saw me as African. They saw me as a dark African. So, it was difficult to reconcile that tension between two cultures as a child. My being rejected by my classmates (and when you are a child, the approval of your peers means everything) led to the resentment and disavowal of my culture and dark skin.

My childhood in that regard was tricky, and it unfortunately caused some damage during my transition into adolescence. There eventually came a point when I just didn’t care about what people thought, and my parents had a heavy had in getting me to that point. Straddling the line between two cultures became easier, and eventually something I thought less about. The biggest relief was ridding the shame I felt toward my “Africanness” as a child. Being African is absolutely the most beautiful thing to me.

On your blog, you mention that you hadn’t been back to Senegal in ten years. What prompted your visit back home? What was the experience like?

What prompted me to go to Senegal was simply realizing that I no longer had the excuse not to go. The last time I was there, I was 13 or 14. The fact that I was approaching the ten-year mark of not being in Senegal was incredibly important and symbolic to me. I decided that I wouldn’t let another year pass without going to Senegal. The possibility of my grandmother’s dying without a chance to see them again started to weigh heavily on me.

Both my grandfathers died when I was younger. One of them I’ve only seen once, the other I’ve seen twice. I regret that I wasn’t able to get to know my grandfathers. The reasons for the 10- year gap vary, but I will attribute them to the unfortunate ills of migration. It wasn’t always easy for my parents to take my siblings and I to Senegal often. Those opportunities did not always present themselves. It’s a sad realization to know that you can’t go home and see your family as often as you would like to, for reasons beyond your control.

So I decided, now that I’m older, nothing was to stop me from going back home and seeing my family. I wanted to get closer to my family, especially with my grandmothers, and develop a real relationship. I wanted to deepen my sense of self and rediscover my roots. It was also important for me to make this trip so that I could see the socio-economic issues of the country with my own eyes, especially as they pertain to children and youth. Much of my graduate research is centered particularly on Senegal, so being on the ground was necessary for the work I’m doing academically, and aim to do professionally.

During your trip back to Senegal you visually documented your stay there by taking and sharing photos on instagram. Was this something you decided before travelling, or was it done on more of a whim? 

I definitely knew I wanted many photos to have as keepsakes, but there were many times where I didn’t bring a camera with me because I just wanted to truly feel Senegal and be immersed in it. When I did have my camera, all I was trying to do was simply capture the country in the truest way possible. I did not want to glamorize or romanticize Senegal. It is an incredibly beautiful, rich and vibrant country, with beautiful people, however there are very real problems that I felt were not to be excluded.  I wanted to share a holistic view of Senegal, from the colors of Gorée to the talibés begging in the streets.

You’ve been blogging for quite some time now so you’re no stranger to sharing bits and pieces of your life online, something I enjoy doing myself. How important was it for you to share this part of your personal life online? How has the response been?

I like the idea that with the Internet, I can carve a space for myself, curate it however I please, engage in a dialogue, and maybe even teach someone something new. I had no expectations when I posted my photos on social media. I was surprised that they garnered the response that they did. People really took a liking to them. I know absolutely nothing about photography. A country as beautiful as Senegal makes it quite easy to photograph. It made me happy that people were appreciating and enjoying my journey, and were able to take part in it. They were discovering Senegal as I was rediscovering it, so it became this shared experience. 

This trip was personal, but it was one that so many can relate to. I am not the only person that has been away from their home country for so long. I am not the only person that hasn’t seen their aunts and uncles in years, or hasn’t hugged their grandmothers in a long time. As personal as this experience was, there were those who were able to connect to it on varying levels. That is what probably surprised me the most, because I didn’t think sharing my trip through these photos could have that effect. I realize that sharing them was much bigger than me, and it was much bigger than a series of Instagram posts. I am really humbled by that. I don’t care about having a large number of followers because I don’t seek validation through that kind of stuff, but I value when someone can take something positive away from what I have shared, whether on the Internet or in real life.

Would you ever consider compiling and publishing your photographs and experience into a photo-book of some sort?

Working on it!

That’s faboulous! Can’t wait ‘til it’s published. Lastly, what are three words you’d use to describe Senegal?

Vibrant, beautiful, home.

Thank you so much, Amy! 

All images via Amy Sall’s instagram.
Amy Sall’s site.

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All Africa, All the time.

Photography Feature: ‘Snap it Oga’.

Lagos is not an easy city to photograph. Living in Lagos itself is not an easy thing to do. But the city is always alive, teeming with life and bustling to the brim with electricity (in the figurative sense) as feet, hands, bodies and hearts go about their daily hustle in a city that resembles nowhere else on this earth.

Lagos, Lasgidi, Eko, City of Excellence, or whatever name you use to refer to one of Africa’s leading cities, is a place that gives life to a photographer’s lens. But we all know that same old drill of having to see images in foreign media sensationalize an almost sadistic relationship they have in highlighting the negative aspects of African environments and showcasing our sufferings. 

As a self-described “photography enthusiast” from India currently residing in Lagos, based on images found through a simple Google search, Devesh did not know what exactly to expect when moving to the city. He just knew it didn’t look enthralling in any sense of the word. Now, however, after being in Lagos for several months he has become a keen photographer of his new temporary home. From motorcyle taxis to market women, art works to artisans, he chronicles his image-taking adventures in a blog titled ‘Snap it, Oga!' that shows a Lagos that is more than familiar to anyone native Lagosian.

Here’s what he had to say about his photographic journey in Lagos, thus far: 

I came here seven months back and before coming here I Googled about Lagos and Nigeria. I am afraid, I didn’t find a lot of positive stories and pictures in search results that time. 

Once I reached here and started to move around Lagos, I realized there are lot of positives here which everyone conveniently ignores.

There is art here almost everywhere…on Danfos, on streets, on shop signboards, on school walls and so on.

The Nigerian love for food, football and music is just infectious. I thought it would be great to capture all of this and showcase it online. 

I decided to start a blog for my Nigerian pictures to showcase that this country is so much more than the negative P.R. it gets  The first few people I photographed in Lagos would say “Snap it, Oga” when I was looking at them through my camera’s viewfinder. The name stayed on and I named my blog ‘Snap It Oga’!

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All Africa, All the time.

just-wanna-travel:

Maputo, Mozambique

habibasproject:

299/365

odetodailyadventures:

Side road mitumba, Nairobi, Kenya. Fall 2013

joburgcalling:

 Gandhi Square, Marshalltown- Johannesburg 

[PHOTO BY @garethpon via INSTAGRAM]

snapitoga:

Puma three wheeler! #lagos #lagosnigeria #streetphotography #naija #puma #nigerian #nigeria #snapitoga #africa

gimmemomajic:

Hawker, Accra

(via thefemaletyrant)

DYNAMIC AFRICANS: Habiba of Habiba’s Project

When travelling to a different country, there’s no better way to get a fulfilling and non-commercialised experience by understanding and navigating terrain that is new and foreign to you with the help of an insider - someone who knows and is sensitive to the intricacies of the culture there.

We’ve all seen tourist images of Egypt and really, they’re the same ol’, same ol’: relics of Ancient Egypt - the Syphnx, pyramids, monuments. and other bastions of this period in history. But the truth is, Egypt is so much more than it’s past and it seems that many still see it as a country that reached its peak in centuries gone by. For this very reason, the work of Egyptian-based photographer Habiba sheds an intimate and important insiders perspective of life in parts of Egypt, mostly Cairo, firsthand.

As part of this month’s focus on ‘Travel & Exploration’, I spoke to Habiba about her experiences photographing sights, sounds and scenes in her own country.

In about five sentences or less, can you tell us a little about yourself. Who is the person behind the blog?

I am Habiba, a self-taught Egyptian photographer who’s absolutely fascinated by Art & travel. I live in busy Cairo where my inspiration comes from. I try to show the beauty in the simple things I see while adding a touch of my identity even when I travel. I love Architecture and things that bring dynamism to the eye, and that’s what I try to capture.

What are the main objectives of your blog? What led or inspired you to create it?

I have always wanted to study photography but never really got a chance to, so I decided I need to keep doing what I love and teach myself somehow. Photography is all about practice and trying new things and so a yearly project seemed like a perfect idea to challenge myself and keep up with my progress. I also consider it a way to document special moments and the wonderful underestimated things I see in daily life.

Since starting this blog, what has kept you motivated and/or what new things have you learned along the way?

The project is really helping me figure out my own style in photography. It pushes me to try new techniques and shoot new things and therefore get better as a photographer. 

In my experience, I learned to shoot with whatever camera I’ve got, whether it’s a phone, digital or film camera, and I learned that good cameras don’t make you a good photographer. Of course, better cameras help with quality but It’s really all about showing the world things from your own creative perspective rather than depending on advanced technology.

Most of all, I learned that the best shots are natural spontaneous ones. Anyone can get a pretty model and ask her to fake a smile but it takes a true photographer to freeze real moments and turn them into Art.

You never accompany your photos with captions, can you explain the reason behind this?

I feel like this helps my audience interact with me and, in a way, get involved in the project. I want them to wonder what this photograph is all about and trigger their imagination. I also really encourage and appreciate questions about my work as well as feedback.

African women photographers seem very hard to come by, something I find incredibly frustrating as both a woman and lover of photography. Do you share these frustrations or have you ever felt that being a woman has ever restricted you in some way from areas in the world of art/photography that men can more easily access?

That is so true! I get so frustrated for the same reason. Of course, it depends on what kind of work the photographer wants to do. For example, I find Travel and Street photography harder for females. It’s no secret that women have not been exactly looked at as equals in many societies for many reasons, so it can be odd for a woman to go out shooting alone in some areas. I also have to admit that I sometimes worry about other people’s reactions to me taking photos of them or something around them, whereas men are usually more brave in cases like these.

To be fair though, it does have its advantages such as shooting sensitive or intimate cases that involve women, or even in wedding photography since the bride can feel more comfortable.

In the end, sexism is an issue suffered around the world in most fields and not just in photography. I am personally not worried because a lot of actions have been taken against this issue so far and more people are becoming aware of it everyday.

Who and or what inspires/motivates you/your work? Any fellow African photographers?

I am always checking Art blogs and websites such as mymodernmet & colossal, nothing inspires me more than seeing good Art by amazing artists around the world.

I can’t think of a specific photographer or artist right now but I have met amazing photographers around where I live that truly inspire me. As for motivation, it’s enough knowing someone appreciates or relates to my work.

Lastly, where else can you be found online? 
I’m one of the few people who are not on Facebook but you can find me on:
Tumblr: habibasproject (365) & bebba (main blog)
DeviantArt & Behance: habibaelg
Thank you for reading! :)

habibasproject:

258/365
Cairo.

(via fuckyeahmiddleeast)

Having been born in the Middle East and growing up in London, Admas Habtelasie has made regular visits to his parent’s homeland, Eritrea, since childhood.

After receiving his MA from the London College of Communication (formerly the London College of Printing) in photojournalism and documentary photography, he traveled to Eritrea in 2005 to begin work on what was to become “Limbo”, an examination the country’s past, future and present. Admas traveled to Eritrea again in 2008 to complete the project, which culminated in an exhibition at Light Work, where he had been an artist-in-residence.

(source)

September: Highlighting African Photographers

In just 24 hours, whilst on a visit to Cape Town, US-based designers Megan & Mike Gilger of The Fresh Exchange together with Over founder and designer Aaron Marshall joined forces on a collaborative effort to design a unique app that celebrates one of South Africa’s - and Africa’s - most visited cities - Cape Town.

Recently downloaded the app (it’s free!), called ‘Cape Town Love’, on my iphone and what it does is allow you to add ‘handcrafted, city-inspired and city-specific artwork to your photographs of Cape Town’, and make it look something like the photos above.

A great way to both encourage more folks to take photos in the city, and create a unique collection of images and scenes taken all over Cape Town, whether for personal use or otherwise.

And in case you’re wondering whereabouts to go in Cape Town to get snapping, Miss Moss’ Cape Town City Guide is a great start.

Watch a short video by the creators about the story behind this app.

Discovered this neat piece of info via missmoss & we-are-awesome.

Photographs from InLagos - a collection of everyday images of life in Nigeria’s most populous city, taken by Michael Odusanya.

September: Highlighting African Photographers

Q&A with Nigerian photographer Michael Odusanya of ‘In Lagos’

Lagos - centre of excellence, city of hustle.

For those of us who’ve either lived in or visited the hubbub that is the former capital of Nigeria, we all know that Lagos is a grimy and gritty place where, daily, just about everyone is struggling and hustling to survive in some way amidst the contrast of crumbling infrastructure and on-going new developments. But despite this quotidian routine of hustle and bustle, Lagos is anything but mundane. It’s a one-of-a-kind incredibly diverse city that is home to Nigerians from all around the country, as well as other Africans from neighbouring states, that has a unique atmosphere not found any where else. 

InLagos is a collection of images that captures this reality in all its different forms, as seen by part-time Lagos-based Nigerian photographer Michael Odusanya.

Here he opens up about his feelings on life in Lagos through a lens:

In about 5 sentences or less, briefly tell us about who you are, where you live and are from, and what it is that you do:

I live in Lagos Nigeria where I currently work as a designer / developer in an advertising agency- I’m Nigerian but I essentially behave like a citizen of the whole world.

How, and when, did your relationship with photography begin?

Most of us like cameras and pictures for some reason. I got my first DSLR in 2010 and studied a bit to understand the fundamentals of photography. I never want to be a pro but then I wanted to shoot manual. Photography soon became another creative outlet for me and now I shoot with the convenience of a 50mm lens and carry my camera almost everywhere.

What was it that made you decide to concentrate on urban photography - specifically photographing life on the streets of Lagos?

Lagos. Sometimes we ignore the extra-ordinary details in the most ordinary place or in the interactions of people and these places. But you know - art like nature will happen nonetheless – whether or not it will be noticed.

Initially I was taking pictures with my iphone - I’d be on the road or driving and I’ll see a moment I had to capture. I was beginning to allow myself see the details and beauty in my environment. Lagos is where I am hence Inlagos.

You have a very specific and unique style of photography. Many of your photographs seem to have an almost grey-ish haze over them, and there often seems to be some distance between you and the individuals in your photos. How well do you think your photographs represent what it is that you wish to portray through them?

Inlagos.tumblr.com has evolved and has generally affected itself and my photography. Things are the way they are - but I now want my art to - as art can - inspire or exalt the ordinary by showing more dimensions to or an amplification of the same thing. You know - like it appears in music, the movies, architecture, fashion etc. None of my photos are planned and I shoot from a distance leaving objects oblivious.

Usually I stop when I feel something special about the photo - and then hope people can feel the same thing too – or something more.

What is/are the most rewarding or challenging things about photographing Lagos?

I have noticed that Nigerians abroad who haven’t been home in a while connect with these photos. I’m very glad about that.
I’m also excited that I’m able to contribute original content to the internet. There aren’t any challenges really - it is only a pet project that I’m passionate about.

Lastly, since you’re out and about quite a bit in Lagos, could you share some of your favourite places in the city with us?

I like the early morning view - approaching the island before descending the 3mb - one can see the whole thing spread out - from Lagos mainland to Lekki to the sand and then back to the water.

The view standing on the pedestrian bridge in Ojota is timeless. It looks like historical Lagos and today’s Lagos at the same time, looking towards Maryland or the opposite direction - Ikorodu.

Under the Marina bridge there is graffiti, most likely done by dwellers, that I would love to capture. Goodness! The things written on those pillars.

September: Highlighting African Photographers

Inspired by the now well-known photoblogger Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York, similarly named Humans of Accra is a brand new on-going project by Yaw Biney, a 19-year-old IT student at the Ghana Technology University College who merges his hobby of photography with social media and the love he has of Ghana’s capital city.

Although he doesn’t have a camera of his own, that doesn’t stop Yaw from taking to the streets in his spare time and capturing the people of Accra, engaging with them and sharing short stories of their lives. Despite his enthusiasm, it is not the easiest of missions. As Yaw says:

"My first day experience, I will never forget. I had the impression that it would be easy getting photos of people out there, but it wasn’t. I had a lot of people rejecting me because either they didn’t like the idea of being photographed by a stranger or they didn’t want to be on the internet for any reason. It really got to me but I had to psych myself up for the future because it is not everybody who will want the photo taken.

I have met many great people who have shared amazing stories and experiences with me. One was about a man who was homeless. Another favourite is the encounter I had with an old man who has been selling used clothes for over 18 years. It really humbled me I should say.

I hope I continue to meet great people who will keep sharing great stories with me.”

September: Highlighting African Photographers