Ibali Photo Collective: Getting ready to launch

We’re getting close to launching our pilot program of the Ibali Photo Collective, and our intern Gaia Rovelli joined photographer Dave Fisher on another visit to Muizenberg High School to talk to (and photograph) our participants. – By Gaia Rovelli

Muizenberg Highschool, Second Round

Friday, August 4th. Here we are again in Muizenberg for the Ibali Photo Collective, a collaborative project by Dave Fisher and Penda Trust, that will see photography workshops taught to students at Muizenberg and Masiphumelele High Schools in Cape Town. After last week’s preliminary meet-up, the moment had come for us to get to know the final participants. In fact, this week we met the girls and boys that will give a face to the 12-weeks photography workshop that will start this month.

Find out how to get involved in this project!

We had left the school last week with many possibly interested participants. During the past week, we narrowed the group down to our final group of ten very enthusiast students, who are now ready to face an exciting and challenging project. In the following weeks you will have the opportunity to know them better on our blog, as a result of the afternoon we spent together, learning about what this project means to them. Even though the day was scheduled as to organize individual interviews with each one of them, I am absolutely sure that their gestures and attitudes were worth more than a thousand words, and nobody could ever raise a doubt on their commitment to the initiative.

Meeting the Finalists

Dave and I met the participants in the hall of the school, and this Friday most of them could make it to our informal meeting: Kaylynn, Courtney, Kyra, Ethan, Colby and Joshua. We led them (or better, they led us) in their geography laboratory and we prepared to take profiles images of the students, as well as short videos while chatting with them about their motives and expectations. I asked the group: “ready to become famous?”. They looked back raising their eyebrows, and with a smile the immediate and obvious reply followed. “No”.  The first student to be photographed smiles nervously; she worries about being ugly in pictures. But all the others silence her complaints in a chorus of “You look fiiiiine!”. One after the other, they try to relax,to smile, not to smile, be as natural as they can. Some friends tell another girl “you don’t have to smile” and the girl: “But I don’t want to!”. Still, while the camera points at her she cannot help laughing. They are nervous, some cross their arms to gain confidence, others just stand, waiting for the pictures to be taken- and that will do.

Time for an interview

We started the interviews calling them one by one in the lab, with a specific goal in mind. Familiarizing with them, knowing a bit of their background and their relationship with photography, and exploring what their perception of the social issues surrounding them is. Indeed, in the Ibali project the students will go through a process of self-development and self-realization that is essential for them to gain confidence in their preferred means of communication. Through photography their sensitivity to the surrounding environment and its challenges will finally find a proper channel to be expressed.

All the girls and boys were nervous but excited to take part in the initiative. And while I was sitting in the room watching their interviews I could really feel it: some did not really want to be on the “wrong” side of the camera, others enjoyed that moment as part of the experience. I am sure that these attitudes will emerge in the way they will take their shots, and I can’t wait to see their works.

 
Framing social challenges

As part of the interviews, we asked the participants what the most important challenges in their communities are. Some hesitated and took their time to reflect on the question, others didn’t even need to think about it. Most of them agreed in identifying poverty as the most dramatic issue affecting the country. Joshua recalled during our chat, “Last week I was here in Muizenberg and I saw a man, with his family, on the streets- living there. I gave him two rands. But this week, he was still there”. You would want to do something again, but there’s not much you can do. However, poverty stays just one of the serious emergencies affecting the nation. The other recurrent ones  the kids mention are kidnapping, the frequent stories of children disappearing, episodes of violence and harassment that continuously show up in daily talks and newspapers. Cases of rape and murder, to continue the list. Pollution, as someone mentions.

The kids believe in Ibali and photography as a way to denounce these facts and try to take action against them. Ethan states that he does believe in the power of photography to act against these aspects of the world: “I feel that we could do something with it, and then maybe the world could become a better place”. Gaining skills in photography has a purpose. As Kyra states, through this project she wants to gain skills, that she could later use to make people see issues surrounding them, things that not everybody sees. Kaylynn backs up this perspective: “What I like the most about photography is that when you look at pictures most of them mean something, but not everybody can see what their real significance is!”.

Ready to take off

The project will officially start on August 18th, but in the meantime participants will have another informal meeting with Dave. It is crucial to build strong bases for a long-term relationship that we need to root in this delicate phase. WhatsApp groups, e-mails and smiles sealed the pact between group members. For some of them it will be one of many activities, others underline how this field is their specific focus of interest. As Colby states, it’s not about adding just another optional curricular experience with this photography workshop. “As my past involvement with video-making projects witnesses, I specifically like this field. That’s it.

In the following couple of weeks, we will present the kids that we met with the great shots that Dave took last Friday. We’ll provide a full profile of all our students in the following weeks, and introduce the many collaborators involved. The team is full of enthusiasm, and the support towards the initiative has been great so far. These kids have proven their determination and are ready to start moving their first steps.

Want to get involved?

We still need funding! Any cash donations (small or big) are welcome, and you can contribute through our online fundraising campaign. We also need cameras! If you have an old camera lying around that you would like us to put to good use, please get in touch