A photo competition called for urban residents in African countries to portray how they use media to change the narrative on their environment. Slum Dwellers International presents some beautiful results of the #ChangeOurPicture competition.
The CoHabitat Network in partnership with Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and The Bartlett Development Planning Unit announced a photo competition for urban citizens across Africa, aimed at documenting how they make media to make change.
Presented with a theme and using a cell phone camera, the competition portrays the innovative ways in which communities document their history as well as the histories of how homes and cities are built. Communication through media thus becomes instrumental to approaches to development and social change.
The power of grassroots movements is reflected in the structure of the competition: “Federations” from informal settlements organise around collective goals they identify. Having agreed on the need of a platform for creative storytellers to document their lives, the Federations, in partnership with the CoHabitat Network, initiated the competition.
Own Your Narratives
“Nothing for us, without us” is a slogan of the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) across the SDI network. This slogan serves as a reminder that grassroots must remain at the forefront of planning and that it is essential for residents to own the narratives that emerge from their communities.
Informal settlements are hubs of resilience and innovation. When media emerges as a key mode of communication, it highlights the dynamic lives of those living in informal settlements, constituting an opportunity to shift the conversation.
All across Africa, people are building their cities and are documenting the social production of habitat. Documentation –for example through photography – recognises these processes as meaningful, thus acknowledging these people’s actions as contributions to society.
Pictures Telling Stories
To make media to make change, it is essential to recognise the power media has across languages and cultures. As a photography competition relying on cell phones, #ChangeOurPicture is open to anyone, including those living in informal settlements, across Africa. Photos serve as a tool of storytelling; they capture informal spaces as spaces full of innovation and resilience.
Small teams across Africa submitted photographs with captions that were taken with cell phones. They focus on themes that speak to the varied landscapes and most pertinent issues of those living informally. These captions serve as snapshots of a larger story of their lives, challenges, and their perseverance within urban slum environments.
In order to encourage diversity of submissions, when the competition was first announced, there was no theme. The process of establishing themes emerged from a consultative process with youth media makers from across the SDI network. The below photographs are a sampling of the submissions – and of the immense talent of media makers across Africa, narrating the beauty and the pain of life within informal settlements.
Money & Livelihoods
Courage & Heroism
All submissions to the #ChangeOurPicture competition can be viewed here.
Slums Made Better Together: Impact and Continued Learning
With innovative media being published by grassroots communities, this competition seeks to continue learning and encourage this type of knowledge dissemination.
A selection committee working on civic urban media will engage those with the most creative photography, identifying the finalists that will move forward in the competition process. The grand prize to be won in this competition is the opportunity to participate in an exchange with other media makers from across the continent. The finalists will receive the training and the resources needed to develop their photo series into a documentary.
The work will continue to be shared with partners and stakeholders around the world, as a traveling exhibition that engages the world with pertinent issues such as climate, informal slum upgrading, livelihoods – and the shared, social production of communities.