Amazwi Ethu: Speaking Back!
The second Photovoice community gallery event is happening in Pietermaritzburg on 19 August
Jack Heath Gallery | Centre for Visual Arts, University of KwaZulu-Natal | Ridge Road, PMB
3pm | Presentation of Research by HSRC team (John Oxley Lecture Theatre, CVA)
5.30 for 6pm | Opening of the Exhibition and drinks reception (Jack Heath Gallery)
Please RSVP to Sinakekelwe Khumalo by 4pm, 17 July 2017: SKhumalo@hsrc.ac.za
Photovoice is a participatory action research strategy conceived by Caroline Wang and May Ann Burris in the early 1990s. It has characteristically been used in research involving marginalised communities that are left underrepresented and silenced in the political arena (Sutton-Brown 2014). Photography is combined with other largely ethnographic techniques, such as critical dialogue and experiential knowledge to encourage participants to speak to and reflect on social concerns faced by their communities in order to “ignite social change”. The photovoice methodology aims to generate social awareness among stakeholders and policy makers, and in so doing, force an engagement with the concerns of the community.
The HSRC office in Sweetwaters used this photovoice methodology to work with vulnerable youths from the area, and to gain insights into the challenges and risks faced by the community, especially as they are experienced by young men and women. Sweetwaters is a semi-rural community on the outskirts of Pietermartizburg, KwaZulu-Natal, which experiences high unemployment, high rates of HIV, and many live in extreme poverty. The priority of the project was to allow participants to speak back through the camera. If a gallery is a site of inquiry, then choosing to exhibit the photographs in this space is both a presentation of the findings of the research project, and an interrogation of these findings. By taking these photographs, participants engaged in a process of empowered self-representation by which they constructed a picture of themselves and their circumstances for the HSRC team through visual language. This exhibition aims to prioritize the voice of the youth in the Sweetwaters community in the hopes of empowering them to fulfil the potential of such projects to “ignite social change”. Pictures have been chosen with a view to providing a balanced representation of the body as a whole, allowing viewers a glimpse into the harsh realities faced by these young men and women on a daily basis. More than this, however, space has been left to show the prominence of hope and aspiration, with an emphasis on the display of a profound resilience.