Africa Center of the World
June 02, 2010
When the 2010 World Cup kicks off this month in South Africa, 107 African photo, print and radio journalists from 34 countries will be working to tell the story of the African experience of the World Cup.
The journalists are part of a program established by Dutch journalism organizations World Press Photo, Free Voice and lokaalmondiaal, and African wire service Africa Media Online. Dubbed "Twenty Ten: African Media on the Road to 2010" and supported by a 2.3 million Euro grant from the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the program provides training, funding and a distribution platform to African journalists, one third of them working in photography, during a period when all the world's eyes will be focused on the first-ever World Cup hosted by an African nation.
"We felt that the image of Africa in the west and western media is very much dominated by misery, war, hunger and those kinds of issues," says Ruth de Vries, who coordinates the project for World Press Photo. "We felt that through this project we could give people another image of Africa, of a continent full of talent both in journalism and in football [soccer]."
In the lead up to the World Cup, the journalists have produced hundreds of stories, which are being distributed internationally by Africa Media Online, and which were assembled into a book, Africa United: The Road to Twenty Ten, published in April. The photographs will also be part of an exhibition in the Netherlands, which will later travel to Africa.
Called the "All Stars," the participants were selected from a pool of 500 applicants from all over the continent. To kick off the program, each of the All Stars was flown to weeklong workshops in four countries, where they trained in their medium with top journalists. Each participant produced one story during the course of his or her workshop, which were focused on improving storytelling skills.
"Most African media work on staff and are just sent on assignments," de Vries relates. "There's hardly any space for long-term stories and projects that people would like to work on, so this gives them that chance and also that push to start thinking in a creative way about how they could deal with that angle of football and make their own stories. The model of the project is very much Africans telling Africa's story."
After the workshops the journalists returned home to work on two more stories, and the 18 journalists who produced the best stories, dubbed the "Dream Team," were invited to travel to South Africa for the World Cup, where they will work with an editorial team headed by award-winning South African photojournalist Greg Marinovich. The other All Stars will work on assignments in their home countries.
Marinovich and the editorial team are evaluating story ideas and handing out both individual and collective assignments. For one collective project, which Marinovich calls "Roots," journalists will travel to the childhood homes of top African soccer players all over the continent to tell the stories of their upbringings and the impact they've had on their communities. For another assignment, the "Dream Team" journalists will report from The Vaal, a region of more than a million people south of Johannesburg, before, during and after the tournament, using the communities there "as a touchstone for South Africa."
Marinovich, who calls Twenty Ten the "most fabulous project I've ever been involved with," says the editors are encouraging the journalists to take inspiration from novels in telling their stories. "Fiction frees an author to tell the essential truths of a situation or person," reads a statement of ethics sent by Marinovich to the participating journalists. "Sadly, fiction is not available to us as journalists, but we can be guided by the power of its storytelling. We can use the freedom of fiction to help us tell great stories."
The project, Marinovich says, aspires to "be one of the seminal moments in African journalism. . . . Hopefully these people will become famous journalists in their various media, and this is where they got exposed and guided and encouraged to find their own unique voices."
How the project advances the careers of the journalists will be a major measure of its success, de Vries agrees, but says it's likely to take a few years to assess whether the journalists' voices will be heard more, whether they will receive more assignments and awards. The level of distribution will be a more immediate indication of the project's success, and all of the project's sponsors, with World Press Photo as the coordinating organization, are working to distribute the work worldwide.
The journalists will receive 50 percent of the proceeds from the sale of photo, multimedia, text and radio stories. Each journalist will also receive fees for each assignment they work on during the competition.
World Press Photo views the Twenty Ten project as a continuation of their 20-year mission to improve journalism education around the world. "We want to do justice to the term 'World' in our World Press Photo title," de Vries says of their education programs. "When you look at the contest winners it's dominated by people from the West, so we feel part of our mission is to help photojournalists from countries where there are fewer opportunities."
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