New initiative to strengthen south-south exchange within contemporary photography discourse in Africa
What is the future of photography and photography training on the continent? How does photography enable knowledge producers to develop contextually relevant images? How have ethics and image-politics shifted on a continent where photography has historically contributed to hostile representations of its people? These are some of the questions that photography learning and training institutions work with every day.
A new initiative aims to engage with these questions and strengthen the south-south exchange within contemporary photography discourse. In its first phase, the Survey of Photography Learning Initiatives on the African Continent plots a map of the photography training and learning initiatives that are currently operating in Africa. These institutions, amongst many others, have been identified as part of a larger survey to assess the landscape of photography training on the continent, with the aim of creating a framework of support, exchange and building critical skills for trainers and institutions. The map/survey, conducted by Photo: and commissioned by the Goethe-Institut as part of the initiative, Centres of Learning for Photography in Africa, is an ongoing project.
There has been a huge increase in photography activity on the African continent in the past decade. As in the rest of the world, this is the result of a growing accessibility of digital and mobile technology. In Africa, social and political shifts towards visual languages, the growth of emerging economies and the formation and definition of platforms of art and photography for the continent have further played a critical role in this growth.
By collating information of structures, operations, curriculum, students and environments the survey has developed a broad overview of training and learning institutions. By internet, questionnaire and in Skype interview sessions 40 institutions have been surveyed.
The immense diversity of operations and structures reflects the diversity of circumstances. Institutions fluidly function as informal, non-formal and formal operations in spaces that are marked by typically low resources, uncertain funding and income, but at the same time strong determination and passion. Typically, institutions are driven by one or two individuals, often photographers themselves, who want to share. It is in the ethos of these institutions that one can start to develop a sense of the criticality of training, and positioning of the role and nature of photography. Generational gaps are often narrowed by this ethos, but in many cases reflect the pacing shifts of new societies who have gained global exposures. Curriculum is seldom recorded and other than some formal and non-formal institutions where curriculum is critically reviewed, much of the training on the continent is a dynamic play between needs and offers. Perhaps mentorship-based training remains the most effective strategy towards learning in the complex conditions between, in some cases, state restrictions and material conditions, lacks and leaps in secondary education, fragility of local photography industries.
The next phase of the survey will be launched in 2017, including an ongoing and wider search of photography institutions, an annual audit of photography training of the previous year, but also extending to individual trainers and mentors, and looking at international players in photography learning on the continent.
The launch of the map:
The interactive map is launched via a digital-conversation between Johannesburg and Lagos, where Lagos Photo is taking place from 22 October until 21 November 2016. Photo:, who conducted the survey, will electronically join our colleagues in Lagos who are attending a meeting for the Centres of Learning for Photography In Africa on 28 Oct 10h30 South African time.
This virtual-launch starts to think about the south-south exchanges that are important when operating on the continent and the heightened connectivity and connectedness that photography enjoys.
Photo: is a photography platform that develops photography projects and photographers. By engaging with photography and its place in society and with a particular focus on photography of South Africa and Africa, Photo: promotes and encourages emerging photographers and photography through exhibitions, publications, research, dialogue, exchange, learning and participation. Photo: was founded in 2016 by John Fleetwood.
About Centers of Learning for Photography in Africa (CLPA):
Centers of Learning for Photography in Africa is a growing network of independent photography training structures. Its aim is to promote and facilitate exchange, especially in the fields of curriculum development, teaching methods and contemporary photography discourse. The CLPA collective consists of representatives from across the continent and the African Diaspora, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal, Sudan, Nigeria, South Africa and Germany. The Goethe-Institut’s role of an incubator for CLPA entails providing financial, intellectual and infrastructural support during the first project phase.
About the Goethe-Institut:
The Goethe-Institut is the Federal Republic of Germany’s cultural institute, active worldwide. We promote the study of German abroad and encourage international cultural exchange. The Johannesburg branch of the Goethe-Institut regulates the work in the Sub- Saharan countries including 11 institutes and 14 Goethe reading/cultural centers. Our Cultural Programmes Department focuses on a variety of different artistic approaches from the visual arts to drama, dance, literature, film, and others. Our goal is to support the local cultural scenes and strengthen pan-African dialogue through the arts. www.goethe.de/joburg