The Uganda Press Photo Award shines a light on the thrills and fears of our new realities.
The digital era proposes that in order to live a productive life, you must first cater to your mental, physical and spiritual well-being. But what happens when this is not an option for you, your neighbour, and your neighbour’s neighbour? The images featured in this exhibition weave a story of change and the (im)possibilities that result from a time when we can only speak of our dreams of productivity.
The reality is that we are all grappling with change; at an individual, community and even an environmental level. There is tension, as cities push to modernise at the expense of those on the fringes. Mother Nature prioritises herself without regard to those who rely on her for their lives, while kin turns against kin in what could be one of the worst genocide of our time.
The photographers shown here, selected from all over the East African region, eloquently share a true narrative of Africa at a time when we are seeking to merge ideas of individuality as showcased by the Global North, and those that were the glue for communities that have been the foundations of many countries in the Global South.
In her image, About Introspection XII, Margaret Njeri Ngigi invites us to examine what grounds us amidst this chaos. Her image asks us to journey to familiarity in order to feel grounded, while also asking how one can identify home when there is an interference.
In Searching for Peace Amidst Chaos, Amanuel Sileshi shares a glimpse of wrenching scenes of displacement and disruption brought about as a result of the violence that has plagued Tigray, Ethiopia since the civil war erupted not long after the onset of the COVID19 pandemic in 2020. While many of us were faced with new realities because of the multiple lockdowns in many countries around the world, Tigrayans’ reality was, and continues to be a triple dose of displacement, isolation, and disruption.
Meanwhile Gordwin Odhiambo’s photo story A Changing Community and the Fears Ahead, though situated in Nairobi, reflects a broader failure by many African governments to properly shield their citizens against the atrocities of displacement and the consequences thereafter.
The far reaching effects can be seen in this year’s winner of the East African Photography Award in the singles category, Man with Nobody, submitted by Ammar Abdallah Osman. In this image, an elderly man sits cross legged on a blue plastic chair amidst several other similar empty chairs. Set in Sudan, the image foretells a chilling possibility of the isolation, much like in Tigray, that we could potentially experience should we fail to collectively negotiate a future that is productive for the self, community, and environment.
So, how do we think about home when those who are supposed to protect us have a part to play in the upending of our groundedness? Metche Jaafer’s 40 Nights of Darkness proposes that (be)holding the product of change does not equate to stepping into the boldness of the newness that escorts the product of change.
Change requires transformation but the more we hide from the tensions that arise within us, the harder it becomes for us to assimilate to our new realities. However like Robert, the ironmonger in Andrew Kartende’s photo series titled Next Life about recycling and regeneration in Kampala’s suburbs, we ought to take the deadness and create new life, purposefully connecting it to those around us until we form a tapestry we can call home.
Carol Kagezi is an Arts Journalist with a keen interest in writing about the creative ecosystem in Uganda. She has worked for Cue Media, an annual Arts Magazine covering the National Arts Festival, in South Africa in the capacities of writer, editor and photographer. She is also the Creative Director of an online based magazine and platform, AfroToned.
About the Uganda Press Photo Award
Over the past 11 years, the UPPA has not only celebrated Ugandan photojournalism but also created a platform where Ugandan photographers can connect with other professionals, locally and internationally, as well as exchange and learn varied photography styles and perspectives through different programmes. As the competition has steadily increased in its international presence, it now presents an opportunity for participating photographers to showcase their work on the world stage. Our mission is to see more homegrown talent taking centre stage in the press world. Many of our previous winners have gone on to achieve great success, winning awards, commissions and opportunities, making their voices heard, and as we continue to pursue this aim we continue to expand our reach in the East African region.
The winners of the Uganda Press Photo Award, the East African Photography Award and the Young Photographer Award all receive professional-level camera equipment The prizes awarded are tools of the trade that enable the winners to continue their work and hone their skills. The winners also get exposure through the annual month-long exhibition, as well as in media both online and in print.