We are visual beings: our perspectives and our world is shaped by the images we consume, often subconsciously. Photography captures a story in a moment. It is used to present a debilitating, repetitive, negative single story of our continent. Conversely, it can positively alter our viewpoints by sharing powerful moments steeped in our specific cultures, shared humanity, and universal reality, all the while presenting multiple African contexts.
Wiki Loves Africa reclaims Africa’s visual narrative with photos that illustrate alternative African perspectives and cultural living interpretations of universal and human realities on Wikipedia articles.
“Photography continues to play a key role in how we are seen, not just as Africans, but as black people from every corner of the world. Stereotypes and prejudice are incited by images, and if it’s used, yet again, to undermine those of us who are truly doing the difficult work, then we need to have some uncomfortable conversations.”
— Aida Muluneh, Ethiopian photographerThe problem with photojournalism and Africa, Al Jazeera, 2017
Wiki Loves Africa is one of the largest annual photographic contests in Africa. Since 2014 it has spearheaded alternative ways for 9,000+ photographers to share their Africa with the world. Its success is remarkable given that World Press Photos reports only 3% of their 2021 annual submission came from Africa].
When Florence and Isla launched Wiki Loves Africa in 2014, there was a significant and noticeable lack of images representing Africa on Wikimedia Commons. But it was also apparent that there was a lack of participation from Africa. There were hardly any African Usergroups and one Chapter in South Africa. In most countries, the Wikipedians were only a handful, sometimes only one known person, sometimes no one. When there are only 1-2 Wikipedians in a country, it is difficult to organise activities from scratch. As the Wikimedia Foundation has since demonstrated, awareness of Wikimedia in Africa was extremely limited. As a consequence, our goal in launching Wiki Loves Africa was not just about getting awesome pictures. It was also about:
- providing a general framework for small local groups to use to run local activities that would not be too demanding, and in the process, get more informed about, and involved in, the Wikimedia ecosystem,
- raising local awareness about Wikipedia, Commons, free licences, and the need for local culture to be seen on global platforms;
- facilitating the recruitment of editors,
- training new participants in different ways of contributing,
- and finally about getting pictures to illustrate articles.
Local groups can address the contest in the way they want, with the level of involvement they desire (and can handle). If it is only organizing one-afternoon event, then so be it. Many former participants report they learned new skills from their participation.
But the contest also takes place in countries with no team whatsoever, and since Wiki Loves Africa launched in 2014 we have seen the exciting emergence of new Wikipedians across Africa. In the past eight years, some tiny groups grew up to become strong and solid Usergroups with lots of members and partners, and some isolated individuals are now part of a small team. And some countries with absolutely no one, now host known Wikipedians. Over the course of 8 years, over 337 events have been organized, and in 2022 alone, 25 local community teams are officially taking part.
The central organising team has fostered the emergence of new groups and helped them to walk the path to becoming informed members of the Wikimedia community. There is a strong synergy for associations to run Wiki Loves Africa. Wiki Loves Africa has been run by Wiki in Africa at the global level, but this would not have been possible without the involvement and partnership of dozen of others, in particular, the Wikimedia UserGroups in Africa. The project has also received support from Wikimedia France, Wikimedia CH, Wikimedia Foundation, Orange Foundation, Ynternet.org, UNESCO, Goethe Institute, and several others locally.
Using these images
The images submitted to Wiki Loves Africa are freely licenced, but with all licences there are conditions. To see how you can use these image, please view this blog: https://foter.com/blog/how-to-attribute-creative-commons-photos/