Afrika on My Sleeve is a multi-platform online social enterprise that combines digital storytelling and content with third culture narratives, self-care as a form of resistance and empowerment.
With evidence from literature (Shohat & Stam, 2014; Mahtani, 2001; Silverston & Georgiou, 2005), it becomes evident that there is a need to consider alternative methodologies to address countering negative narratives and balancing the reporting of issues. In order to counter the negative messages with the intent to tell African stories in their full human dimension (Dersso, 2014), it is important to explore the application of participatory action research (PAR). PAR involves collaborative research, education and action activities aimed towards social change. One of the PAR methods that can be applied to counter negative portrayals of Africans in mainstream media is participatory photography.
Participatory photography involves supporting participants in their own photographic work in order to share lived experiences. Having media dedicated to Africans in New Zealand is important but at the same time it is how the content is produced and what space it is occupying that is important too. Therefore, it is a participatory approach to content production that enables voices of Africans in New Zealand to emerge confidently enabling the exploration of alternative spaces and alternative ways of presenting voices of other. Additionally, literature reflects that visual methodologies allow for the investigation of sociocultural understandings of experience and provide an avenue for advocacy (Meadows, 2003).
Visual methodologies (the premise of the ‘I AM’ project) will be used to not only tell the untold stories but to also investigate the ways the community represent and express their experiences of migration. It will allow for an analysis into the exploration of youth, social constructions of cultural identities in relation to their experiences of migration. Additionally, the process will allow for community engagement, as the visual process will enable collecting and telling stories that will empower a community riddled with marginalization as a shared rather than individual experience. By creating an alternative to mainstream narratives and inviting members of the community this will enable the creating of stories by everyone having an input into how they are represented. The community will be able to define how they want to be represented, tell their stories and have control and ownership of their representation.
The overall goal of the project is to facilitate collective awareness raising and collective action through a series of self-empowering processes. In addition to enabling individual and collective narratives through social media, e-activism and photography, the ‘I AM’ campaign aims to:
1. Explore how visual methods can be used as a medium to create a common consciousness among young people of African descent in New Zealand;
2. Illustrate how personal community narratives and knowledge can be incorporated most significantly in researching and designing strategies for social issues in a specific socio-cultural context;
3. Highlight what factors influence stereotypical perceptions and interactions of Africans in New Zealand.
4. Produce a series of photographs
5. Stage an exhibition
6. Use social media and other communication tools to engage with wider public
The project is expected to become or play the role of the catalyst that will provide the impetus to start exploring different participatory and alternative methodologies to countering the one-dimensional representation of people of African descent in the New Zealand context.