Art
Image courtesy of Ley Uwera.

What’s in a Photo? We Go Behind the Lens With Congolese Photographer Ley Uwera

Ley Uwera gives us the backstory on some of the most riveting images she's taken of life in DR Congo.

Ley Uwera has a gift.

With a single flash of a camera, the radio reporter turned photojournalist has the ability to tell stories that both preserve and shift the narrative of what it means to be Congolese; specifically life in Eastern Congo, wrought with misleading tropes and stereotypes perpetuated by a Western lens.

A graduate of the Université de Cipromad in Goma, Uwera always knew she wanted to find a career that married her passion for creativity and her interest in humanity. In her fifth year of photojournalism, she has curated a body of work that captures the soul of her people beautifully. And sometimes, painfully. It's storytelling, she explained to OkayAfrica, and it's necessary in order to see the full picture.


"The thing that brings me joy in my work is when I meet new people on the ground and share their stories," she says. "Some good or bad. I love to work in Africa." More than that, it's her advocacy for the women in DR CONGO that sets her work apart from other creatives in her lane.

"Every day... I stand for the rights of women and especially the Congolese woman who for years suffers because of insecurity in eastern Congo," she says. "Youth can dream, have good initiatives and do something positive. I believe they can see all this through my work."

With a loyal legion on Instagram followers, Uwera continues to change hearts and minds through her riveting images. In acknowledgement of Women's History Month (and for her dedication to standing up for women), we've asked Uwera to give us a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most women-centric images she's snapped. Here, she gives us the story behind the lens.

"This image was taken in Beni North Kivu. I remember that I was on a trial of the rebels (the Allied Democratic Forces Ugandan rebels) after a mass killing of civilians in the region. What we can see is the contrast; it looks like a beautiful day [for] a wedding despite the insecurity."

"This portrait of a young girl was taken also in Beni, North Kivu Eastern Congo and was in the same period August 2016. The village had been attacked by Ugandan rebels. I [found] the little girl in front of her house. She was smiling. I think that people can be happy; even if there are some bad conditions, people can still keep hope alive."

"This happened in Masisi territory, North Kivu Province. I was en route for an assignment, then I [found] these beautiful girls in their village. I asked if I [could] photograph them. (They said yes.) There's not a big story behind this, just two beautiful persons."

"This is a self-portrait in Goma. I love African culture and making braids like this always reminds me who I am. It's a part of my identity."

"A portrait of Mave Grace, 12 years old in Bunia. She fled during a clash between the two communities, the Hema and Lendu. The majority of the displaced found shelter with host families; others settled organized spontaneous sites. She lost everything. It's a broken community. We have to rebuild and live together for a better future."

"This photograph was taken in Goma at Santé Mentale "Tulizo Letu" In North Kivu. There is only one structure that treats people with mental illness in the city of Goma and Province, so I wanted to show the difficulties of patients and doctors."

"These ladies are from Sud Kivu Province and came to visit and to see a family member who was suffering from mental illness (in Goma at the Tulizo's Letu hospital). Love matters."

*All photos have been embedded with the photographer's permission.

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Photo by Luxolo Witvoet.

'Journey With Me' Is a Window Into the Ups and Downs of Traveling by Train In South Africa

In his new photo series, South African artist Luxolo Witvoet, speaks to everyday people in Cape Town about their experiences commuting via the city's fragile, yet vital train system.

Luxolo Witvoet is a 25-year-old multidisciplinary artist and photographer from Cape Town. In his latest series "Journey With Me," Witvoet set out to document the stories of South Africans commuting to and from work, school, and job hunting. While simply riding on the train might seem like a mundane, everyday act, the train holds special significance in South African history. "During apartheid, the train was the choice of transport that our forefathers & mothers used to travel long distances from one province or state to the next in search of work and a better tomorrow for their offspring—us," says Witvoet. His connection to the train is a personal one, directly linked to his family lineage. "My nineteen year old late grandmother travelled from her birthplace, Aliwal North to relocate to Cape Town using the train. While in Cape Town, she would eventually find work as a maid and she would meet her husband on the train en route to work," he adds.

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Arts + Culture
"La valse des mailles" by Noella Elloh

Photos: 'Weaving Generations' Confronts Environmental Destruction in Côte d'Ivoire

The photo series, by artist Noella Elloh, advocates for collective responsibility around the "environmental question" across the continent by highlighting the threat it poses to a village of fishermen in Abidjan.

Noella Elloh is an Ivorian photographer and contemporary visual artist whose work contemplates identity, culture, environment and the role each play's in the stories of people across the continent.

Her latest work "Weaving Generations" centers on members of the fishing village of Blokosso, located in the center of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire's largest city. According to the artist, its themes include familial ties, urbanization, and the hazardous effects of environmental degradation, an issue that directly impacts the fishermen's livelihoods. "Today, instead of fishes, the fishermen's nets thrown in the water come back up with waste," says Elloh. "The Ebrie fishermen find themselves with the mesh of their nets torn down by scrap metal. Domestic, chemical, and Industrial wastes are also found in their nets. The depth of the lagoon decreases due to sedimentation. Rising waters are gradually making pieces of the land disappear."

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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

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