Ethiopian photographic project to be extended to Africa

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Sébastien Cailleux, is an ardent photo reporter for Africa. He recently returned from Ethiopia, where he mounted an exciting photographic project with children. Under the name, Village Art Schools, the programme features children’s drawings and photographs. Taking a cue from this Ethiopian success, other African countries, as well as some Latin American countries, have invited Mr. Cailleux (pronounced Kayo) to introduce the concept in their countries. Interview.

Fair Photography as in fair trade, is how we have chosen to summarily describe the recent Ethiopian experience of photo-journalist Sébastien Cailleux, which saw a mutual sharing of his generosity with Ethiopian photography students, enthusiasts, teachers, pupils, parents and street children. Eyerusalem Abera and Leikun Nauhusenay, two Fine Arts students from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, joined the photo journalist on an adventure across the country to meet children in some of remotest villages. Their bag packs contained crayons and drawing sheets used by the children in the most inventive manner. After the children had exposed their creativity on paper, the photographers helped make portraits of the budding young artists. Snapshots were superimposed on their drawings to create an aesthetic link between the children and their environment. The project, called village Art Schools, featuring children’s drawings and photographs, will soon be extended to other countries in Africa, beginning with Mali in November 2009, and later to South America. The photographs, which were made last year, 2008, in Ethiopia, will be showcased and sold in September 2009, at the Alliance française in Addis Ababa. A portion of the profits will go to Ethiopian students, parents of pupils, village cooperatives, and all those who helped to shape the dreams of young children in Ethiopia. In your recent project you worked with children in villages across Ethiopia. Can you throw more light on this?

Sébastien Cailleux: This is a collective collaboration. It is a project I undertook with two Ethiopian students, namely; Abera Eyerusalem and Leikun Nahusenay. It was designed to share experiences. On my part, I brought my photographic skills and equipment, while the two came with their know-how. We then focused our energies to take our knowledge to the children. We took crayons and drawing sheets to villages where we met them. The idea was to provide both logistics and expertise to give an essence to this project. Would you say that putting this project together was demanding?

Cailleux Sébastien:
Yes and no. I must admit that I did not find the initial aspect very easy. This is due to the fact that artistic work does not always get the needed support. But it was easy in the sense that the project was achieved from the heart. The Ethiopian institutions were initially taken aback by our demands. But after studying the dossier, the skills used and the fact that their citizens were to participate in a project of this calibre, they became very interested. It was the same with the private sector. When they realised that the deal was fair, they were all too happy to take part. The project was possible because it was good. Everyone is happy …. Tell us about your work with the Ethiopian students…

Sébastien Cailleux: Each person had his/her own activity. The students who accompanied me, Eyerusalem Abera Leikun Nauhusenay, were tasked with providing lessons for the children. From an artistic point of view, we focused on the child and his/her environment, that is; his village, his school or his portrait. It was our way of merging two worlds together. It is our way of establishing an artistic link between the child and his portrait. You are to undertake similar projects in other African countries. Can you tell us more?

Sébastien Cailleux: Indeed, we intend to continue this work in other countries across the continent. The objective is to start inter-continental meetings, and even take the project to other parts of the world. We want to bring students together. We plan to work around the same scheme. It should be noted, however, that the project will not only take place in schools. We are committed to working with children from all walks of social life, including, street children. It is also important to note that we do not only work towards exhibitions, but also to create awareness. We are currently in the process of seeking sponsorship from a number of institutions. We are planning to take this project to Mali, and probably South America. I can not tell you more because it is (the south American project) still in its draft form. But I can assure you that there are very interesting perspectives for further action. Will the Ethiopian project be exhibited?

Sébastien Cailleux: The deigns from the Ethiopian children will be exhibited in September 2009 at the Alliance Française in Addis Ababa, where they will be put on sale. Of course, a significant portion of the benefits will go to their parents, teachers and neighborhood associations, as well as to all those who participated in the project. It is very important that they earn money for their work.

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