The Disposable Project
One of our favorite initiatives promoting children’s arts and education in Africa, The Disposable Project, was started by Raul Guerrero in 2011 when he handed over 100 disposable cameras to 9 children in a village near Moshi, Tanzania. Collaborating with Born to Learn, a program that gives disadvantaged youth the opportunity to receive an education, Raul provided the disposable cameras to Alex Charles, Jenifer Wilson, John Leo, Kamili Kalist, Peter Michael, Petro Ngowi, Samson Modest, Sebastian Simon, and Stanley Felix. Teaching the students basic photography skills, Raul developed creative methods for them to share their stories by documenting their everyday experiences.
The photographs are aesthetically stunning, beautiful and truly artistic. Explore them below together with a new video that Raul released this week and read our Q&A with him on the The Disposable Project. Raul is now based in Morocco working on another youth-centered photography project which we look forward to following. He will also be returning to Tanzania next year so get in touch with him if you can help facilitate the exhibition of the photos in Tanzania, the rest of East Africa or abroad. The project, Raul and the 9 children truly deserve it.
How did the idea to The Disposable Project emerge?
Being a long time photographer/visual artist prior to this project, the idea to approach photography differently with this travel opportunity came to me a bit before taking off to Tanzania. Rather than playing the role of the traditional observer, documenting my own personal experience and stories from behind the lens, I was hoping that sharing my passion for photography with the community I was going to be working with, was going to lead to rewarding and memorable interactions.
What kind of photographic guidance, if any, did you give to the children?
At the beginning of the project, the guidance was pretty laxed. As the weeks went on and the novelty aspect of the cameras lessened, I was able to teach basic photography concepts, began giving assignments, and held short critiques, all with the help of the local teachers/counterparts working at Born To Learn.
How was the project received in the community? Has the photos been exhibited there or anywhere else in Tanzania?
The project was quite the event with the community. It wasn’t only about the 9 kids learning about photography. Whenever I’d come to school with the 4 x 6 sized prints to pass out to the corresponding photographer, we would go over the photographs together. Once the critiques were wrapped up, the 9 photographers would hand out the photos to the subjects in the images – the other kids at BTL. I was also told by our Tanzanian counterparts that the same thing was occurring around the community. In this sense, the project was a shared experience with the community as a whole.
The project has been received well by the international community. While I’ve been working on having the project exhibited in Tanzania, we’ve yet to get there. It’s my hope to have this happen when I return next April.
You’re now based in Morocco and will be organizing a youth-centered photography workshop early next year there. Is your approach different in Morocco than in Tanzania? And is there a difference in the understanding of the potential of children’s art in Morocco compared to in Tanzania?
Although The Disposable Project and the youth-focused photography workshop both revolve around the same art form, the approaches are very different. To begin, Tanzania and Morocco are 2 very different countries, with distinct cultural values, sensitivities, infrastructure, etc. On a more micro-level, the needs within the Newlands community are specific to their living situation, as are the needs in the Outat El Haj community. As a Youth Development Peace Corps volunteer, I’ve been working with Moroccan counterparts, on implementing participatory-style needs assessments to determine appropriate projects centered on improving a set of youth-focused objectives (i.e. Youth Life Skills, Employability Skills, Entrepreneurial Skills, etc.).
Having lived in rural Morocco now for about 2 years, my grasp on the Moroccan Arabic language is much stronger than it was with Swahili. With this being the case, and through my interactions with the youth, we’ve noticed art education could be a way to help facilitate certain concerns expressed by the younger generation. As a result, we’re working with the local youth center on making available the resources needed to build a long-standing photography program.
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