Wiki Loves Africa’s international winners capture universal experiences through African lenses

Wiki Loves Africa’s 2021 international winners were announced during the GLAM in the Global South session at Wikimania 2021. Since then, the winning photographers were invited onto the September episode of WikiAfrica Hour to share the often heartbreaking, yet affirming, stories behind each of the winning images.

Their stories and explanations emphasised why each image resonated so deeply with the judges. Collectively, the images showed our vulnerability as humans (and the vast range of situations and emotions being human entails), especially when cast against the backdrop of a global pandemic. They also displayed hope, determination, beauty, and resilience as experienced across the African continent.

1st prize goes to the image Crazy Love by Ewien van Bergeijk-Kwant, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 4.0. Download link

Wiki In Africa (www.wikiinafrica.org), the international organisers of the Wiki Loves Africa (www.wikilovesafrica.net) challenges the global photographic community each year to respond to a call for photographs of life in Africa along a specific theme.

Since the collection began in January 2016, over 72,300 images have been loaded to the platform under a Creative Commons licence and have been viewed 787 million times since. Each of these 787 million views has, for that each individual reader, challenged the negative stereotypes and visual narratives that continue to persist about Africa.

In 2021, the Wiki Loves Africa competition called for photographers to contribute images that visually interrogated the theme of Health + Wellness within the African context but looking at the positive aspects within that sector of African life.

The 2021 competition called for photographers to contribute images that visually interrogated the theme of Health + Wellness within the African context. 2020 was a year filled with sickness, illness and loss. The 2021 theme, chosen by Africa’s Wikipedia community, was a call to focus on the more positive aspects of the Health + Wellness of people across the continent. 

The 2021 Wiki Loves Africa winners across the six prize categories hail from six different countries. The 1st prize of USD1000 went to Ewien van Bergeijk-Kwant for the poignant image of a mother’s stoic persistent love: Crazy Love (featured above).

Van Bergeijk-Kwant told Ceslause Ogbonnaya, host of WikiAfrica Hour: 

I love to share the image about Africa that most of the Europeans don’t know. I was looking for particular images that show diversity about hope and beauty, resilience and persistence that Africans show everyday.”

 The winning image was of a situation that had her spellbound for a few days, she told the Wiki Loves Africa organisers:

“This image of a mum spending days faithfully sitting next to her very sick son – day in day out – just hit me. She had a certain calm and determination to her. Despite (hospital) life being hard in West-Africa, she envisioned a certain dignity and hope I could not take my eyes off.”

International Juror and Wikimedia Commonist, Benoît Prieur, said: 

“Crazy Love is a real artistic composition that is really successful, while being completely in the subject of this edition (health, etc.). The long wait can be seen in the image and in the gaze. The worry and hope for recovery. It’s very touching.”

2nd Prize is for Malaria microscopy training (Nigeria) taken by Ozavogu Abdulsalam Khalid under contract to
eHealth Africa EHA Clinics and uploaded by User:Nirmalravi2.
Download link

The second prize (USD800) went to Malaria microscopy training (Nigeria) taken by Ozavogu Abdulsalam Khalid under contract to eHealth Africa EHA Clinics. The image was uploaded by Dr Nirmal Ravi who works at the eHealth Africa EHA Clinic in Nigeria after a training session in malaria microscopy.

“It was important to take that photograph for several reasons. I was surprised and amused to see her peering through the microscope with her baby sleeping on her back. The photo captures the enthusiasm for learning that I frequently see in Nigerians. They have to overcome challenges that we don’t face in high income countries, such as unreliable electricity, unreliable transportation, stifling bureaucracy, slow or absent internet, and inadequate child care as with this laboratorian. She beautifully demonstrates her resolve and ingenuity by bringing her young baby along to our free malaria microscopy training.”

Dr Nirmal Ravi

The award came as a surprise for photographer, Ozavogu Abdulsalam Khalid, as it was the employer that submitted the image to the contest. The experience has been nothing but positive, he told us during his WikiAfrica Hour interview:

“When I was told the photo won 2nd prize, I realised that what I saw while taking the photo resonated with the guys at Wiki. And not only the guys at Wiki, at this point. Because it means that people could see my thought while I was taking the photograph.

“Photography can change narratives. There is need to tell unique stories, hence the reason Wiki Loves Africa is a great idea!”

Ozavogu Abdulsalam Khalid
3rd Prize goes to Pupil (Ghana) by User:Amuzujoe. Download link

Third prize (USD500) was awarded to Gabriel Joe Amuzu, a long-term Wikipedia photographic contributor and Wikimedia community member in Ghana. The vibrancy of his image ‘Pupil’ encapsulated a simple, yet life-sustaining truth: 

“Seeing the little girl washing her hands in this COVID-19 era without anybody telling her to do so just made me understand how determined the girl is to live in this COVID -19 pandemic. 

While on WikiAfrica Hour, Gabriel Joe Amuzu spoke about how he had learnt his photographic skills on the street, and that it was important to pass these skills on to those who are also interested.

“I learnt photography the street-way … Taking a good picture is a practical work. I was even teaching one lady how to take pictures when I took the photo that won the 3rd prize!”

Traditional Culture Prize: Oldest Healing Dance (Botswana) by Kgara Kevin Rack. Download link.

The Traditional culture or practice prize went to Kgara Kevin Rack from South Africa for his image that captured the Giraffe Group Dance in the image Oldest Healing Dance that was captured during a trip to Botswana. Kgara Kevin Rack is a trainee Igqirha (African Traditional Medicine) on ukuthwasa to the Dlamini Clan and a wannabe Shaman. When discussing the photograph during WikiAfrica Hour, Kevin acknowledged the contested spaces that exist across Africa.  

I thank my African brothers and sisters for allowing me into this space, considering the history we (Europeans and Africans) have had in the past.

“Traditional medicine has a big role to play. The vast majority of people on the continent do consult traditional medicine and use herbs. We should never forget our traditions, this is really important … it’s the basis of who we are, hence why I submitted the entry.”

Best Video Prize went to Santé et Bien-être created by Aboubacar Kamaté User:Bouba Kam’s. Download link.

From an ancient healing practice to a daily ritual that is as old as time, yet takes place in a contemporary setting … The video prize goes to User:Bouba Kam’s Santé et Bien-être réalisé par Bouba Kam’s that follows a daily exercise routine through the streets of Abidjan. The winning video was chosen by the competition organisers for its quality imagery and the simple, contemporary way of displaying health and wellness through a daily exercise routine.

Two-times Wiki Loves Africa winner, Aboubacar Kamaté (Bouba Kam’s), shared how he came to discover the power of submitting content to Wikimedia Commons:

“I always aim to use my films/videos to tell stories … Winning the Wiki Loves Africa prize two years in a row has impacted my life a lot. It was helped me to equip myself better as a videographer. A lot of people probably don’t know they can upload a video on Wikimedia Commons. I, myself, found out while reading the Wiki Loves Africa instructions

Finally, the organisers were excited to announce an additional prize category that has been sponsored by Ynternet.org.

The Special Collection prize (USD500) was awarded to three photographers who together collated an exceptional photo essay depicting the everyday professional and personal experiences at the Laquintinie Hospital in Douala, Cameroon during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Special Collection: Laquintinie Hospital in Douala, Cameroon by Max MBAKOP, Happi Raphael, and Destiny Deffo, coordinated by Minette Lontsie (User:Serieminou). Download link.

The collection is a series of images from Max Mbakop, Happi Raphael, and Destiny Deffo, coordinated by Minette Lontsie (User:Serieminou) that were taken as part of a Wiki-takes event for the Nos Jardins training initiative. Professional photographer Max Mbakop said that the trip and the training has been life altering – it challenged his previously held beliefs and made him view his profession and photographs in a different light:

“Being part of the Nos Jardins initiative gave me the desire to share. Nos Jardins and Wiki Loves Africa taught me to give freely. Imagine spending your money to get something done, then end up giving it up for free. Nos Jardins training reconnected me to my Wikipedia skills. It was enlightening.”

Max Mbakop, one of the three photographers that won the Special Collection prize

Every year, Wiki Loves Africa provides a platform for thousands of Africa’s photographers to take back the visual narrative by celebrating Africa’s cultural diversity and contemporary reality on Wikipedia. This year the competition coincides with the 20 year birthday celebrations of Wikipedia and ran from the 15th February to 30th April 2021. 

Jury facilitator, Isla Haddow-Flood, was moved by the range of experiences shown through the collection of entries submitted:   

“Almost every one of the 8,319 images and 56 video files that were contributed by 1,149 photographers display an incredible range of those precious moments that add to the delicate complexity and universal experience of living – from heart breaking pain to unfettered joy, from stoic determination to unrelenting hope, and from the necessity for sterile, clinical procedures to the wonder of a newborn’s very first breath. As a collection it is an exhaustive expression of what it is to be human, all set against a myriad African backdrops.”

After an initial review of all the entries by a volunteer team of Wiki Loves Africa organisers and Wikipedians, the international jury of twelve professional photographers from across Africa and Wikimedia photographic specialists from around the world considered and deliberated on the collection. The quality of images was a key criterion in the selection, as was the encyclopedic value of each image, and whether an image was visually arresting and well framed. It was equally important to unearth the unexpected. 

Read the full Wiki Loves Africa 2021 International Jury report. Download link.

ABOUT WIKI LOVES AFRICA 

At its heart, Wiki Loves Africa is a drive for Africans to document Africa. Both amateur and professional photographers and filmmakers are called to share the world that they view every day; life recorded and observed from within their own communities. Their contributions form a collection of royalty-free images about Africa, a continent that is often subject to a condemning external gaze and many subsequent stereotypes.  

Through the competition’s seven editions 72,375 images have been added to Wikipedia’s media library, Wikimedia Commons, by 9,269 photographers from across the continent. The images have a life beyond the competition, with these images being placed in articles on Wikipedia, and thus being viewed over 787 million times since 2016; with 23 million views of the images in July 2021 alone.

Wiki Loves Africa is activated by the Wikimedia community that created Wikipedia in support of the WikiAfrica movement. The competition was conceptualised and is managed by Florence Devouard and Isla Haddow-Flood of Wiki In Africa as a fun and engaging way to bridge the digital divide by rebalancing the lack of visual representations and relevant content that exists about Africa on Wikipedia. The competition is funded by the Wikimedia Foundation and supported in-kind by UNESCO and a host of local partners in individual countries. The images donated are available for use on the internet and beyond, under the Creative Commons license CC BY SA 4.0. 

IMAGES AVAILABLE AT WIKI LOVES AFRICA 2021/WINNERS