West Africa Visual Journalism Fellowship projects online

Presenting the West Africa Visual Journalism Fellowship stories 

The World Press Photo Foundation is pleased to present the work of the three recipients of the West Africa Visual Journalism Fellowship: Ofoe Amegavie, Ghana; Adrien Bitibaly, Burkina Faso; and Nuits Balnéaires, Côte d'Ivoire.

The West Africa Visual Journalism Fellowship is a World Press Photo Foundation education program in partnership with the Chocolonely Foundation, to support emerging talent and connect them to the international community. The fellowship supported three emerging photographers to produce a visual storytelling project of their choice in West Africa.

The three projects tell stories of West African communities told by West African emerging photographers, ranging from mythology and witchcraft, the importance of social cohesion, and the restoration and preservation of coastal ecosystems.

We asked the three fellows about their projects and how they evolved during the fellowship.

How has your project evolved, from conception to the final result?

Ofoe: My project has evolved to the point where it isn’t just my voice highlighting problems being faced by communities in Ada. It’s not just about focusing on the effects of coastal erosion and climate change but exploring the resilience and currently existing solutions that coastal communities are putting in place to deal with those issues.

Adrien: The mentors helped me, through discussions, to formalize a project that was just an idea at the start. I was able to take a point of view in relation to my subject. In the process, it helped me to make the link between my story and my creation.

Nuits Balnéaires: In the process of understanding the values shared within the community of Grand-Bassam, I discovered that their communities were based on alliances between seven families, which later became the subject of my work. The first part of my process was focused on research through books, families archives, and discussions with elders from the village. Then, I came up with a concept for each family and I had the support of the mentors to orient me when I had some challenges in the production process. I styled and designed the outfits, props, and sculpture pieces myself. I already had a clear picture of what I wanted to develop in my mind and the entire production process convinced me to explore and experiment with more mediums that interest me.

Credit: Ofoe Amegavie.

What was the most challenging aspect of making your project?

Ofoe: Going through the selection process at each stage of production. My work is documentary-based, so I was working with a large collection of images that I had to edit to create a poignant story. It was also challenging to translate images without necessarily illustrating them through text.

Adrien: I had to abandon the project I presented about the Ouagadougou-Abidjan train because I didn’t get permission to take pictures on the trains. So I had to propose, on a short deadline, my new project on witchcraft. I already had it in mind for several years, however, I still did not consider it mature enough to pursue it. When I was working on the project, it was very difficult to approach the traditional priests and convince them to participate.

Nuits Balnéaires: The production of my project started in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was imagining scenes with groups of people and families for my different concepts, and it was a bit challenging to make it safe. This context forced me to adapt and approach some of my visual concepts differently.

Credit:  Adrien Bitibaly

What was your favourite aspect of the fellowship?

Ofoe: The online workshops where we went through the projects, breaking down the specific aspects of each one and receiving feedback from the mentors, and looking at how the other fellows were able to overcome their individual challenges to put together these powerful stories. In particular, the first in-person workshop in Accra was an eye-opening and educational introduction to visual literacy where we looked at some interesting photo books and storytelling processes.

Adrien: I really enjoyed meeting the fellows and mentors in Ghana. Concerning my project, I was marked by the meetings and the exchanges that I was able to have with the traditional priests.

Nuits Balnéaires: The fellowship was a space in which I could fully be honest with the doubts and challenges I face in my everyday work. I was very much encouraged by the mentors to overcome them. I appreciated the fact that the mentors were very much present and dedicated to uplifting my potential. I really felt accompanied, entirely it was an enriching process and experience for me.

Could you tell us something you have learned from the fellowship?

Ofoe: Not to just focus and highlight the problems but also highlight solutions. I am happy to be equipped with the skill to critically look at my own work and be able to spread out the story and see and connect the missing dots. I think I have left this fellowship with a heightened appreciation for visual literacy.

Adrien: I strengthened editing skills and refined my ability to build a coherent discourse around my work.

Nuits Balnéaires: As fashion and styling always play an important role in my work, the fellowship was an occasion to learn how to merge my fashion and conceptual background into a more documentary and research-based project.

Credit: Nuits Balnaires

What do you hope people will take away from your project?

Ofoe: I hope my project further exposes people to the realities of climate change, how it is affecting people in real life. Every single measure taken is important and the strengthening and acknowledgement of the resilience of coastal communities worldwide are important. Every single individual positive change we make in our personal life taking into consideration the effects of climate change goes a long way to positively affect the lives of people feeling the direct effects.

Adrien: I do not know if witchcraft really exists, but I would like that, thanks to my work, people question the role played by conventional or traditional religions around witchcraft.

Nuits Balnéaires: By illustrating the values carried by the seven N'zima families of Grand-Bassam, I want my work to shed light on the foundation of a solid and rich social structure that has spanned several centuries. I also would like to foster awareness of important cultural and historical patrimonies of Côte d'Ivoire.

Ofoe Amegavie is a Ghanaian photographer known for capturing the intimacy in his culture and heritage. Since 2011, he has been working both as a documentary and fashion photographer. He has been able to create his own unique style by applying a curious approach and a spiritual perspective to fine art, fashion and documentary photography. In Between Sand and Water, he explores the everyday life and resilience of several coastal communities around the Volta Delta in Ghana in the face of environmental and man-made challenges. See the story

Adrien Bitibaly is a self-taught documentary photographer. He uses photography as a way of expressing his relationship to the world through emotions, sensations and the need to document social transformations. In Quatre Yeux (Four Eyes), Bitibaly explores the realities that can trigger witchcraft accusations, a traditional social practice that can result in the social exclusion of those accused. Growing up in Burkina Faso, he was able to observe the importance of traditional religions in Burkinabé society from an early age. Among the manifestations of these beliefs, accusations of witchcraft have always caught the attention of the photographer. See the story

Nuits Balnéaires is a visual artist and Ivorian creative director based in Grand Bassam in Ivory Coast. He is inspired by poetry, the spirit of water, nature, the sea, the night, the study and observation of civilizations. The Power of Alliances attempts to foster a dialogue on the importance of the values of unity, solidarity and sharing in Côte d'Ivoire, a country that is slowly recovering from the wounds inherited from decades of political instability. By illustrating the seven great families of the N'zima Kotokô tribe of Grand-Bassam, the project sheds light on the social structures that have spanned several centuries. See the story

The West Africa Visual Journalism Fellowship supported three emerging photographers to produce a visual storytelling project of their choice in West Africa. The stories were produced during 2019 and 2020, after a short pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The three fellows received a production fee of €5000 and a grant of €5000 to help cover their expenses while they were producing their story. Additionally, the fellows took part in workshops and received mentorship through the development of their projects. Three mentors supported and advised the fellows along the way: Emilie Regnier, photographer; Nii Obodai, photographer and educator; and Marc Prüst, visual story editor.

Learn more about the West Africa Visual Journalism Fellowship