Inspiring youth activism in South Africa

There’s a water shortage in Diepsloot (Johannesburg), and stolen taps are not easily replaced. A young photographer from Umuzi Photo Club brings attention to this issue by posting a picture of a gushing tap on the group’s Facebook page. Umuzi Photo Club works in under-resource communities, teaching young people to produce art (mostly photographs) about their environment.

The pictures on the Umuzi site show three important sides of the photographers’ communities. One collection displays the lives of people in the community, from baby baths to weddings. Another explores the different aspects of “community”, drawing on abstract ideas and family ties. The third focuses on raising awareness around issues important to the community, be it recycling or homelessness.

It’s the emphasis on this third category that is most striking about the Umuzi project. The group says it aims to use mulitmedia to inspire engaged citizenry and change. The focus here is not simply on communication to an audience, but on the transformative process of producing art on the young photographers. Umuzi recently ran the “I am an Activist” campaign, which in their own words “highlights the new era of creative youth activism in South Africa”.

Creative youth activism. What about creative peace activism? Too often in peacebuilding we focus on communicating peace messages (creatively or not), and not enough on the process of creating these messages. Umuzi’s approach is a reminder that taking pride in activism or peace work through creativity can be a change in itself. Could an “I am a peace builder” campaign successfully shift conflict dynamics? Food for thought.

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