During the week of Nov 23- Nov 28, 2009, 5 students between the age of 14-20 from a rural village in the Kibungo region participated in a very special photography workshop. They were selected among a group of marginalized youth-headed households from the village, some are living with HIV themselves and some are living with family members who are HIV positive. The classroom was a simple local church (without any signs or interior decoration such as the crucifix) with crumbling mud walls and a leaky tin roof, instructions were give each morning and critique was made as each day progressed. The students each chose a topic of their personal interest to explore, which include HIV/AIDS, the environment, and the village’s daily activities. Throughout the course of the 5 days, they worked uninterruptedly in their surroundings to capture images that best illustrate their topics. On the 5th day, for the first time ever, the students had an opportunity to visit Akagera National Park where animals such as leopard, spotted hyena, buffalo, giraffe, zebra and antelopes roam freely in woodlands and the savannah. At one point, I remember, Anthony (one of the students) turned to me and said ” Rwanda is a very beautiful country”. On the last day, we put together an exhibition for the community which drew more than 100 guests including the local government authority. The students each took turn to present their topic and their experience to the audience in front of a series of colourful prints hung on the mud wall. The students had to select 5 of their best images by voting for each other and the prints were produced using a portable printer the night before the exhibition.The objective of the workshop is to empower youth to pursue their original ideas and tell their stories through the medium of photography. The goal of the project is to raise awareness on some of the most universally concerned issues, such as AIDS and the environment, and to generate a funding program to further promote similar workshop nationally, and continentally.
The five students, left to right, Olivier 18, Princess 14, Claudine 15, Anthony 20 and Germaine 14.
Day zero, exploring personal interests and choosing a topic to photograph.
Our classroom inside the local church.
Esparance, our most excellent translator, demonstrating as she translates instructions from English to Kinyarwanda.
Princess, one of five students, learning how the camera operates.
Field trip to Akagera National park, it was everyone’s first Giraffe encounter !
Printing using a portable printer on the eve of the exhibition.
Members of the local village at the exhibition opening.
A group of women villagers captivated by the colourful display of the students work.
Exhibition reception at the local church.
A senior member of the community giving an opening speech.
Big round of applause to the five very talented young photographers !
This is Anthony, his topic was the daily activities of his village.
This is Claudine and her topic was the women sewing co-op.
This is Olivier, his topic was to photograph his mother who is suffering from HIV.
This is Germaine, her topic was the environment.
This is Princess, she wants to photograph the people who have been supporting her and caring for her. Her mother, baby sister and herself are HIV positive.
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