Plastic, politics and the pandemic: Photographs from East Africa
In a year still blighted by a raging pandemic, shuttered cities, political upheavals and citizen discontent, photography continues to be an important window into how our world evolves. For the ninth year in a row, the Ugandan Press Photo Award (UPPA) is recognising those carrying out this duty: the courageous, passionate photographers and storytellers documenting communities, experiences, and important events in the East Africa region.
Below is a special selection of African Arguments’ favourite photographs from the shortlisted entries, followed by the three winners of the Uganda Press Photo Award, East African Photography Award, and Young Photographers Award.
Mask Off – Abubakar Lubowa
Female police officers drag prominent Ugandan academic Dr Stella Nyanzi to a waiting police van near Buganda Road court in Kampala during a protest against the conditions of the government-mandated lockdown. The protesters were calling for the removal of a number of restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Nyanzi said that the measures have created an apartheid state and led to avoidable suffering upon many Ugandans, especially women, low-income earners and ordinary citizens. Nyanzi was arrested with four others.
Securing the ball – Denise Namale
Scott Oluch (in green) struggles to secure the rugby ball against pressure from the opponent team during a rugby 15s league game at Legends sports ground in Naguru, Kampala.
Black Lives Matter – DeLovie Kwagala
A young protestor is pictured at the only Black Lives Matter protest held in Uganda. The protests were dispersed by the police, who arrested a number of participants on the basis that they were flouting directives aimed at halting the spread of COVID-19. The arrested protesters were interrogated at length before being released.
Sleeping at the market – Katumba Badru
A police officer beats vendors found working on the streets of Kampala defying the directive in March which asked people to stay home for 32 days and all vendors to work in markets in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
My trash, your trash – Katumba Badru
19-year old Egunyu Mark sorts through a mound of plastic bottles in order to get them ready for recycling. Thousands of tonnes have been dumped in Bweyogerere because the industry is working far beyond its capacity. The recycling of plastics has greatly reduced the amount of plastics in the city, mainly in the main water channels.
East African Photography Award: Reinventing and Adapting Through Coronavirus – Gordwin Odhiambo
“This photography project shows the efforts made by the Kibera community amidst the pandemic. Despite the imminent threats of coronavirus faced due to population size, local organizations and individual acts of kindness made sure that we were not going to face the
worst of the situation. Faced with a pandemic, lockdowns, and the thoughts of where to get the next meal, individuals came together, organizations restructured and adopted new ways of serving its community. And when individual efforts were needed, fashion designers, philanthropists, artists, and midwives stepped up. Temporarily leaving their usual stamping grounds and willingly serving their skills for the better good and mostly without pay. The project is geared towards showing how a community has been over the years poorly narrated when there are occurrences of national and global social issues, acting as a hotpot for hyped photos of suffering. Born and raised in Kibera we’ve never seen this community coming together like now.”
– Gordwin Odhiambo
Uganda Press Photography Award: The Salt Farmer – Kubola Peter Tera
“Hanifah Niwagaba, who is also known as Mukyala, stands next to one of the salt pans from which she harvests salt. Hanifah is a resident of Katwe town, a town named for its neighbouring Lake Katwe, Uganda’s biggest saltlake. Salt farmers tend to their salt pans daily, monitoring and creating the conditions that prepare salt for harvest. A combination of high temperatures and saline water make the lake perfect for salt farming, but because of the water’s salinity the farmers must dress in extra clothing and take care to remain hydrated as they go about their work.
Salt mining, which is the main commercial activity in Katwe, has been an industry in the area for generations. The salt is mined in rock form from the lake’s floor, while the refined salt crystals are farmed from the salt pans. Salt pans are family-owned and can be passed down from generation to generation. The farming employs whole families, although women and children are the main workforce and men help packing, carrying packed salt, refilling the pans with brine or construction and repair of the pans.”
– Kubola Peter Tera
Young Photographer Award – Monica Ahairwebyona
The Young Photographer Award rewards visual storytellers in the early stage of their careers working in documentary photography or photojournalism. Monica is currently an architecture student at Kyambogo University in Kampala whose photography examines the effects of continued urbanisation.