What do you mean by “African women are history”? Surely this can be interpreted in a negative way…
We intentionally chose this play on words to get people thinking about the many ways in which African women have been erased from history, both in the past and in the present, and to show how African women must be present in future history. We intend to contribute to this by documenting the stories of African women today so that the future record shows they were/are here now.
Why this project?
Because everyday African women are missing from official narratives and their contributions to everyday history go unrecognised. We aren’t talking about women who grace the covers of international newsmagazines because of their exceptional achievements. We mean the unrecognised African women who toil daily to make their families, their communities, their societies, their countries, and the continent move forward and, without whom, there would be no progress.
Because time is running out to capture the stories of our women whose life expectancy is amongst the lowest in the world.
Why the sea?
The sea has historical, cultural, and economic significance for the people of West Africa. It also has mythical status. Formerly known as the Slave Coast, it is a country of its own. It is also where the impact of climate change is most felt as rising sea levels and coastal flooding reek havoc in communities and threaten livelihoods. (Check out our photographer, Ernest Ankomah‘s images of coastal erosion in Keta, Ghana, in this article from The Guardian).
Why did you choose the countries you chose?
We wanted to focus on the smaller countries that are not as well known outside the region and the continent, and that are geographically spread across the length of the coast. We also wanted countries that represented a good mix of language, religion, culture, socioeconomic development, and the status of women.
What kind of stories are you looking for?
We have no predetermined idea of what we’re looking for but we definitely don’t want to reconfirm stereotypes/biases about what life is like for (West) African women. We are open to hearing all kinds of stories from all kinds of women, whatever they may be.
How will you travel the region?
We will travel primarily by road but, where necessary, we will take alternative modes of transport.
Who is funding this work?
The National Geographic Society is supporting the first phase of the project. Sennheiser is also contributing support.
Who are you?
We are a journalist and a documentary photographer of Ghanaian heritage, so we definitely have skin in the game! To find out more about who we are and what we do, visit here (Sylvia Arthur) and here (Ernest Ankomah).