In focus: The child photographers of Magoanine
MAGOANINE, Mozambique, 30 March 2011 – On a quiet Sunday afternoon in the neighborhood of Magoanine, on the outskirts of Maputo, the sun is still high in the sky as we walk along a deserted pathway that slowly winds its way through houses of brick and sheet metal, walls and vegetation.
‘Click, click, click!’ The shutter is open and the screen is clear, manual mode is on, white balance is checked, zebra is checked, timing is set… the flash ignites! We are suddenly surrounded by the child photographers of Magoanine. We find ourselves lying on the ground, with heavy feet and barely able to see or to understand what has just happened. All we hear are loud and joyful shouts from an excited crowd of children. Not one, not two, but twenty! There is red dust and sand flying in the air and a gentle mix of scents – of coconut, matapa, spices, and fried chicken – that sooths our spirit and enables us, just for one moment, to escape the brouhaha of life. One after another, the children tirelessly try to grasp and activate the camera lens with their small hands in order to extend their own perception, to find that new focus where everything seems to be in place, where everything seems to make sense… click, click, click.
With boundless curiosity towards photography and, by all means, towards life, little is more exciting for a child than taking photos. The Romanian dramatist Eugene Ionesco once said that “childhood is the world of miracle or of magic: it is as if creation rose luminously out of the night, all new and fresh and astonishing.” Childhood is over when things are no longer astonishing.
A few years back, UNICEF Mozambique organized a project with Venice-Arts, a photo workshop, that put cameras in children’s hands, and the results were astonishing (see: http://www.unicef.org/mozambique/media_2885.html for some photos made by the children). Media literacy, in general and through photography specifically, and media awareness are mechanisms to enhance children’s creativity, capacity, participation and understanding of reality. As the photos from the children photographers show, the latent creativity in children is a powerful force waiting to be unleashed, and one of UNICEF’s key objectives is to help unleash it, to the benefit of the individual and society.
This reflection was written by Sébastien Taylor, a post-graduate student at the Institut des Hautes Etudes des Communications Sociales (IHECS) in Belgium and an intern at UNICEF Mozambique.