Ibali: (more than) a story to tell

On Friday, our intern Gaia joined Dave Fisher as he visited Muizenberg High School in preparation for our upcoming photography workshops. Gaia shares how the project will take shape, and how the initiative is being received at the school. – By Gaia Rovelli

“Ibali” is a word in Xhosa that means story, a word that perfectly describes the goal of our upcoming photography workshop program. In collaboration with photographer Dave Fisher, we’ll be teaching photography and self-expression skills to a group of students at two high schools in communities of Cape Town that are afflicted by numerous social challenges. The workshops will take a proactive and pragmatic approach, encouraging an open-mind and the willingness to take action. Accordingly, the management of these schools has accepted to take on the initiative with great enthusiasm.

Read more about the project here! 

What is the project about?

This 10-week project will work with a group of young men and women aged 16-18. The purpose is to encourage these soon-to-be adults through photography and self-expression, tackling those more exposed to the risk of getting lost in a context where they might lack positive role models. Not only will the initiative provide them with a dedicated mentorship in a formative activity; also, it will endow them with a new language through which to communicate important stories. 

The method

The project is structured in three main phases.
1. Teaching technical photography skills and engaging participants in the project;
2. Providing a space for discussion for identified social challenges and issues and use it as the basis for an introspective reflection on the participants’ personal development, and the environment they are facing;
3. Using the participants’ work to raise awareness and spread the identified issues to a wider audience, making individual narratives a source of inspiration for larger communities.

The project constitutes the pilot for an ongoing, long-term program. Thanks to interviews to participants and to the community, and to the work produced in the initiative, the partners sponsoring the activity will be able to measure the results accomplished. 

The roots of Ibali project

The Ibali project benefits from the support of different actors, and the convergence of different people on a common plan. However, the identification of this peculiar schools and programs is to be traced back to Dave Fisher. A Cape Town based photographer and educator, Dave Fisher had previously worked at Muizenberg Highschool, both as a history teacher as well as in courses dealing with the personal development and career consultancy for students. After seven years of experiences and work, he has decided to put all his efforts in making a project that he had been thinking about for a long time come true. He went back to the school he was familiar with, and he encountered the determination of the most encouraging principal and the support from Penda Trust. 

Find out more about Dave Fisher in this interview by our friends at Cameraland!

A day at Muizenberg Highschool

Meeting the headmistress, Leoni Jacobsen, was inspiring. Mrs Jacobsen is enthusiastic, determined and charismatic. As you enter the school, a poem welcomes you from the wall at the entrance: “Capitain, my Capitain”. Though it is not addressed at her, you somehow feel under the guide of a pirate ship. Meeting her is also a chance to understand how the project will not overlook two crucial aspects: the continuity of the initiative and using storytelling to build resilience. Indeed, on one hand she insists on having kids from to become photographers, maybe journalists. Because this project will have made them discover and consider a possibility; it will have enlarged their perspectives.

At the beginning of the weekly student assembly she called the name of the participants, and a bunch of selected students walked outside the room to follow us. In a class, Dave started explaining the project, the goals and objectives, his own hopes and expectations. He has a serious approach, he treats the kids for what they are: adults, with stories to tell and the willingness to develop what he describes to the group as “visual literacy”. He wants the students to converge in a reflection on social issues they will deem to be important, and he wants them to have a say on that: not necessarily with words. Any narrative looks obvious for us, till the moment that we set up our reality for the scene. There storytelling begins, and there change may take a leap.

This first day at Muizenberg was a chance to pave the way for a long-term relationship. It will be up to students to prove their interest and commitment to be involved on a constant basis on a project. And it will be up to the partners to guarantee this opportunity to the highest number of students possible. New faces and names asked to be added to the list, and all the organizers immediately considered any strategy that might permit to extend the project to more participants. A challenge within the challenge, but the best start for an initiative that will live on the enthusiasm and initiatives of those building upon it.

A reason to stay tuned

In the next few weeks, after the consent of the parents is granted and the determination of the kids is assessed, the project will be officially launched. Different platforms and blogs have already announced the initiative, as the great interview that Dave had at the radio with Cape Talk. As part of the Penda Trust team, I will follow the tracks of these young narrators, focusing on the best story that they can provide us with: their own.

Want to get involved?

We need support! You can help us either with cash donations and/or in-kind contributions (old cameras, old laptops, camera bags)! Shoot us an email at info@pendatrust.org if you’re keen to get involved!