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Young photographers from Niger and Mali document the problems facing their communities

By Anne Boher

BAMAKO, Mali, 6 December 2011 – “This child looks very mean, and it’s a consequence of life on the street,” said 17-year-old Rachida Aboubacar, gazing at a photograph taken by one of her friends.

VIDEO: 6 December 2011 - UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on a photo exhibit that features the work of young people from Niger and Mali. Videographer: François Therrien.  Watch in RealPlayer


Rachida is one of several children and adolescents selected from some of the most vulnerable communities in Niger to participate in a UNICEF-supported photography workshop.

Photography workshops are part of UNICEF’s efforts to ensure all children, especially those marginalized or living in poverty, are empowered to express themselves.

The children’s best photographs, including several by Rachida, were featured in an exhibition on vulnerable children. After touring Niger, the exhibition has been brought to Mali to take part in the African Photography Biennial. Rachida and several others have come along.

‘They leave us thinking’

The children’s photographs are being displayed alongside the work of young Malian photographers, who were also trained through a UNICEF-supported workshop. The children from both countries were able to meet and share their concerns and hopes.

© UNICEF Niger/2011/Sani
A boy contemplates a photograph at the Mali National Museum in Bamako, Mali, during the African Photography Biennial.

Mali and Niger are among the poorest countries in the world, and many of the young photographers live on less than $1.25 per day. Together, their photographs offer a striking portrait of poverty and resilience.

“These images are so powerful, through them you can perfectly understand the kind of difficulties our people are facing. They leave us thinking,” said Rachida.

The exhibition was launched in Bamako, on 5 November, at the Cité des enfants (Children’s City). UNICEF Representative in Mali Marcel Rudasingwa and Malian Minister for the Promotion of Women, Children and Family Affairs Konaré Kalapo both attended the launch event.

“Child expression should be encouraged and promoted to ensure that children act and think responsibly in favor of the development of their country,” said Ms. Kalapo.

© UNICEF Niger/2011/Therrien
Young photographers from Malia and Niger pose in Bamako, Mali. They contributed photographs to the African Photography Biennial.

‘For a sustainable world’

The children did not focus only on their own struggles. They also documented the problems facing their communities, including environmental degradation – which ties in with the African Photography Biennial’s theme, ‘for a sustainable world’.

“The pictures show that pollution is a widespread problem in Africa,” said Rachida. “With pollution comes sickness: malaria, cholera and typhoid fever.”

“And you know that children bear the brunt of this situation,” said Amadou Roufai Ibrahim, 14, also from Niger. “Like the metals and the plastics we produce, we think we’ll last longer. In fact we are destroying our present.”

They also made sure to voice the issues facing their friends and neighbours.

“Most of our friends live in the streets,” said Amadou. “We are very concerned for them. They wanted to be here, with us. Thanks to the photos, we can hear them; they can talk.”



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