Moving calls to action expressed in Wiki Loves Africa’s “Climate & Weather“ competition winners
Cape Town, South Africa, September 2023 – Emotive calls to action in the fight against climate change, as well as beautiful portrayals of the mercurial, and often devastating, nature of Africa’s weather were captured by the prize-winning images, videos and audios of this year’s Wiki Loves Africa competition around the theme of Climate & Weather.
In its ninth year, the competition now attracts professional photojournalists and filmmakers, as well as amateurs and Wikimedians, intent on adding African content to Wikipedia, thus elevating the standard for the competition’s international awards. This has spurred Wiki in Africa, the international organisers of Wiki Loves Africa, to reward the community spirit of African Wikimedians with the African Environment Special Collection Prize, a prize to acknowledge their collaborative efforts.. Another prize category added this year is the African Environment Video Prize. Both categories were sponsored by the African Environment WikiFocus, which Wiki in Africa, in collaboration with Wikimedia Community User Group Côte d’Ivoire, was tasked with organising and ran alongside Wiki Loves Africa 2023.
Each year, Wiki In Africa (www.wikiinafrica.org), the international organisers of Wiki Loves Africa (www.wikilovesafrica.net) sets a thematic challenge for the global photographic community – to submit photographs representing the everyday reality of Africa. The competition has been running since 2014. Since then, the competition has encouraged the contribution of nearly 101,601 images to Wikipedia’s image bank under a free licence. Since January 2017, these images have been collectively viewed 1.3 billion times on Wikipedia articles.
This year, the Wiki Loves Africa competition called for photographers to contribute images that reflected its 2023 theme of Climate & Weather as it exists within the African context. The continent-wide call and events resulted in 12,961 entries from 784 media specialists and photographers from 46 countries, 57% of which were entirely new to the Wikimedia projects.
Once the competition closed in April 2023, it was the incredible task of the five-tier jury process to pick out the winners.
After an initial review of all the entries by a volunteer team of Wiki Loves Africa organisers and Wikipedians, the international jury of 11 professional photographers and 5 filmmakers from across Africa and Wikimedia, photographic specialists from around the world considered and deliberated on the collections. The quality of images was a key criterion in the photographic selection, as was the encyclopaedic value of each image and whether an image was visually arresting, well-framed and related to the theme. It was equally important to unearth the unexpected. The film jury was tasked with selecting a winner from the 228 videos uploaded during the contest. The process first commenced with a first review that saw the number reduced to 51 after which the jury began voting using Google Forms all through the rest of the process. In the end, 2 videos were identified for the available categories of Best Video and the African Environment Best Video prizes, with a collective submission of videos being awarded the Special Collection prize. It is worth noting here that this Video jury was the very first of its kind in the Wikimedia / Wiki Loves X space.
The 2023 Wiki Loves Africa winners across five prize categories hail from four different countries – Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, and Côte d’Ivoire.
The 1st prize of USD$2000 goes to Sani Maikatanga, (Nigeria), a renowned freelance documentary photographer and photojournalist, for his image of a man salvaging what he can from his shop in the 2020 floods in Auyo, Jigawa State, Nigeria. His win has created a storm of publicity in the Nigerian news cycle.
International juror and long-time Wikimedia contributor Michael Maggs, said of Maikatanga’s winning image:
“This striking photograph captures the stark reality of communities engulfed by floodwaters. The vibrant colours and clarity heighten the emotional intensity and visual impact of the image.”
Maikatanga showed his appreciation of the recognition Wiki Loves Africa has given his work by saying:
“ Let me express that it is a true honour to attain this special recognition from you. Words cannot express enough how honoured I am for this prize you have given me.”
Rachel Zadok, International juror and Wiki in Africa board member feels it is the organisation who is honoured:
“It is us as the organisers who are honoured by the calibre of photographers who now mark the competition — and support our aims of decolonising narratives about Africa on Wikipedia by ensuring that African content is created by Africans — as an important date on their calendars.”
Announced alongside Maikatanga are the two runners up for best picture, and the four additional prize categories for Best Video, Best Audio, The African Environment Video Prize and The African Environment Special Collection Prize.
The 2nd prize (USD1500) went to Stormy Day in Somalia by Mohamed Nageeb Nasr, a photojournalist from Qatar, a first-time entrant.
As International Juror Rachel Zadok said:
“For me, this image captures so much about climate change, there is a sense of an apocalyptic wasteland captured here and a story of the human cost of environmental degradation. The struggle for resources driving war, displacing people, refugee camps, the loss of homeland for indigenous peoples, and loss of habitat for fauna and flora.
Visually, the muted colours convey the same desolate feeling as dust bowl farmland images in the great depression, yet it is so skillfully and beautifully lit. The composition of the mother staring into the distance while the child stares directly into the camera holding a panga as if his fate has been sealed is emotionally rending. This image tells a global, local and personal heartbreaking story.”
Summer Kamal, last year’s best picture winner, said of the poignant photo:
“A wonderful natural scene in terms of composition, lighting, and colours. On the other hand, we find these boys standing looking at their future and the negative effects that await them as a result of evaporation and the drying up of rivers as a result of climate changes.”
Video and Audio Prizes
For the second year in a row, this year’s USD$1000 Best Video prize went to videographer Green Wilfred Somoni for creating a narrative short film around the Climate & Weather theme. Good Yesterdays tells the story of a family driven apart by the pollution of their land and the resulting impact on their health. The film feels tragic, and the ending when the grown daughter returns to take over the farm on the death of her father drives the film’s message home; the effects of climate change and environmental degradation have the greatest impact on those with fewest choices, the poor.
Somoni said of his video, “The clips seen in this video were taken in the city of Port Harcourt. To drive the message home, I built a story around the theme for Wiki Loves Africa 2023, Climate and Weather, to illustrate how climate change affects people and their personal relationships, especially those living below the poverty line.”
When speaking about his work, the artist said: “Change Immersion describes how global warming affects future generations. Using SFXs some dialogue, Change Immersion tells the story of what is happening and how it will only get worse if we don’t change direction about global warming, from landslides to earthquakes, unprovoked animal attacks to over flooding, civil unrest.changes.”
Fellow 2023 winner Green Wilfred Somoni said of Change Immersion, “Simply wow! ... I could see it all. You took me on a journey around Africa – the calm, highs, lows, joy and pain, I felt it all.”
The African Environment Video prize went to Last Stand by Alamin Mohammed – a documentary photographer from Kano State, Nigeria, who said, “The future needs action, not words, to have a conducive earth away from natural disasters that have increased in numbers and ravaged the planet on many fronts.”
International Juror Fayçal Rezkallah said Last Stand was “A video that stands out. Very well filmed, beautiful image quality, well-calibrated that tells a story. The emotional component is very important and very present throughout the video.”
The African Environment Special Collection prize of USD$500 went to Wiki Loves Africa Côte d’Ivoire Fan Club for their collaborative effort in creating, editing and uploading a collection of 13 videos for this year’s competition. The collective was led by past winner Aboubacar Kamaté who said, “We submitted those videos as a local organiser of Wiki Loves Africa 2023 in Cote d’Ivoire. When organising the event, I had in mind to submit the very best videos that could speak of this year theme.”
Every year, Wiki Loves Africa provides a platform for thousands of Africa’s photographers and media specialists to take back the visual narrative by celebrating Africa’s cultural diversity and contemporary reality on Wikipedia.
At its heart, Wiki Loves Africa encourages Africans to document Africa. Both amateur and professional photographers and filmmakers are called to share the world that they view every day; life recorded and observed from within their own communities. Their contributions form a collection of royalty-free images about Africa, a continent that is often subject to a condemning external gaze and many subsequent stereotypes.
Through the competition’s nine editions, 101,601 images have been added to Wikipedia’s media library, Wikimedia Commons, by 11,4470 photographers from across the continent. The images have a life beyond the competition, with these images being placed in articles on Wikipedia, and thus being viewed over 1.3 billion times since January 2016; with 26 million views of the images in September 2022 alone.
Wiki Loves Africa is a Wiki In Africa initiative that is activated by the Wikimedia community that created Wikipedia in support of the WikiAfrica movement. The competition was conceptualised and is managed by Florence Devouard and Isla Haddow-Flood of Wiki In Africa as a fun and engaging way to bridge the digital divide by rebalancing the lack of visual representations and relevant content that exists about Africa on Wikipedia. The competition is funded by the Wikimedia Foundation and supported in kind by UNESCO and a host of local partners in individual countries. The images donated are available for use on the internet and beyond, under the Creative Commons license CC BY SA 4.0.
A special edition of WikiAfrica Hour introducing the Wiki Loves Africa 2023 Winners aired on 29 September 2023.