From 12th June to 20th July, 2022, InfoNile hosted a regional gallery exhibition in Cairo, Egypt to show #EverydayNile photojournalism stories. The exhibition showcased photographs capturing everyday life around the Nile in Kenya, Uganda, DR Congo, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt as captured by 10 InfoNile photojournalists under the #EverydayNile project. The gallery was officially opened on Tuesday 14th June at 7.00 pm at the Goethe Institute in Cairo and closed on 20th July.
The #EverydayNile project
In 2021, with funding from IHE Delft Water and Development Partnership Programme, InfoNile supported 10 photojournalists from nine Nile Basin countries to document everyday water stories around the Nile River and its tributaries.
Each of the stories were published under the hashtag #EverydayNile and captured everyday life in the Nile Basin countries. This outreach project aimed at promoting cooperation and understanding of the water issues around the Nile River as a shared natural resource.
From the stories, we conducted two community exhibitions, where we brought the photos back to the communities where they were originally reported; an exhibition at Rusinga Island in Kenya, showcasing a photo story about fishermen using solar-powered lamps, and an exhibition at Ripon Landing Site in Uganda, showcasing a photo series about the flooding of the lakeside landing site.
The Cairo regional exhibition, however, was the first to bring together works by all of the photojournalists telling the story of the Nile from its most distant source in Burundi all the way up to Egypt. The exhibition was curated by Roger Anis, an Egyptian photographer and artistic director of the #EverydayNile project, and printed in Arabic and English magazines along with the physical showing. 7 of the photographers were able to travel to Cairo to take part in the exhibition opening event that attracted about 200 spectators.
Documenting the stories
According to Emanuele Fantini – the Open Water Diplomacy project leader at IHE-Delft Institute for Water Education, through which #EverydayNile was conceptualized and funded – the use of photography, in combination with the scientific facts about issues such as climate change and water scarcity, helped to convey the many emotions triggered by River Nile. “By sharing these stories on social media, we wanted to experiment with the power of photos and try to use social media to build a conversation.”
The inspiration behind every story was unique. Every journalist had their own way of writing their story and taking photos. Most notably, this photojournalism series required the journalists to take up a human-centered approach as opposed to stories particularly focused on the science of water issues. In the journalists’ own expression, they each got to understand the uses, benefits and threats of the Nile River in different countries.
“Very little is known about the Nile in Burundi as it is in Egypt. We wanted to explore the country and tell untold stories about it. We embarked on a journey following River Nile from the source in Burundi to the border where it leaves and crosses to Tanzania,” explained Helena Kreienseik, a German journalist who worked together with Burundian journalist Selecous Ndihokubwayo to produce The Silent Witness Photo Map.
According to Anthony Ochieng, a Kenyan wildlife photographer who runs the Tony Wild conservation photography platform, his story idea emerged from a reflection about his own community on Rusinga Island, an island on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria, the source of River Nile.
“Over time, I saw the lights in the lake turn from yellow to white. On interacting with the fishermen, I realised they had transitioned from kerosene lamps to solar-powered lights. As a conservationist and environmentalist, I realised this was a story that needed to be told,” he explained.
Many lessons can be drawn from the #EverydayNile initiative, both from the journalists and the communities involved. Photos make the narratives stick to a viewer’s mind, making them a lot more impactful. As Kreienseik explains, “Images attract attention and awareness to many things. Everyone can interpret their own stories from the photos, unlike text where an interpretation is already given.”
“We can connect to the stories by looking at similar topics in different countries. What is evident is that the stories are different but the challenges we face are the same,” said Diing Magot, a journalist from South Sudan who covered the photo story The Drinking Trucks, documenting water trucks and issues of access to clean drinking water in Juba, South Sudan. “This is not the end. There are more stories to be told, to be pictured and to be listened to,” she said.
According to Fantini, this outreach project was meant to transform the narrative about the Nile, the conflicts that often occur around the sharing of the Nile and the various alternative solutions to the problems. “#EverydayNile is meant to surprise and to connect,” he said.
While a lot has been said about the historic River Nile, it is evident that there are many narratives yet to be uncovered and re-visualised about this shared water resource. Through the visual medium of photography and by connecting storytellers across borders, we can document narratives of challenge, hope and cooperation for generations to come.
Read more about #EverydayNile stories.