Channel / 19 Apr 2021

Ffotogallery / PAWA 254 - Where's My Space?

Welsh and Kenyan creatives lead a pioneering digital collaboration which asks young people in both countries “Where’s my space?”

We are delighted to announce the launch of Where’s my space? a collaborative digital project that has brought together Ffotogallery, the national photography agency for Wales, and PAWA254 in Kenya, a dynamic arts and cultural collaborative hub that houses, fosters and catalyses creative and community-driven projects for social change. The project is made possible by British Council, Wales through its Go Digital programme focusing on digital initiatives and responses of the arts and creative industries sector in Wales and the Sub-Saharan Africa region to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as mapping new opportunities and innovations in ways of sharing and showcasing artistic work and practice.

Working together remotely, the two organisations will create a virtual gathering place, or ‘Base Noma’ (to use a Kenyan expression) where young creatives from the partner countries can come together, show and tell, showcase their work to online audiences and share their ideas and lived experiences. The project is an opportunity for two dynamic cultural organisations to co-design and develop a unique virtual space for visual storytelling, working with emerging Kenyan and Welsh artists. The digital content will be accessible on laptops, computers, smartphones and tablets, and will be used in combination with social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to amplify the wider reach and impact. The project invites artists and audiences in Wales, Kenya and other countries to participate in debates and offer their own creative responses to the question Where’s my space?

“Before the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, young people used to meet and gather outside quite frequently in cafes, restaurants, bars, youth clubs, art centres, gyms, movie cinemas and even school and their homes to interact, socialise and do something be it creative, educational or otherwise. But with the closure of these facilities and everything else during the lockdown, life for young people has been especially difficult because of the absence of ‘something to do’. For many, lockdown has damaged their social lives. Unlike older people, young people do not find it easy to stay or get active during the lockdown and the closure of these spaces meant a lack of socialising with friends and extended family members”.
- David Drake, Ffotogallery’s Director

Home conditions during lockdown have been especially challenging for many households with young people trapped in overcrowded housing with limited private spaces and reduced or zero access to support structures. This is an experience felt by both partner organisations with regard to youth experiences in Wales and Kenya. Depending on economic and social circumstances, young people have often had limited access to online platforms that would allow them to engage with their peers and depending on their position in the family hierarchy, they can struggle to access their family’s few devices.

Where’s my space? gives young creatives an opportunity to create their own virtual space. A space that they will resonate with physically, one that is reinvented and reimagined in the digital world creating a lasting legacy of shared experiences across cultures and borders as we gradually emerge from the worst effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

In 2018-2019, PAWA254 in partnership with local organisations and individuals, sought to identify and reclaim public spaces that have been diminishing following grabbing of these spaces by powerful individuals with deep pockets in Nairobi. This youth-led initiative had been in response to a call out for community-based organisations to come up with a project ((Changing Faces Competition) that would help reclaim public spaces in their communities.

As Ivy Kihara, Executive Director at PAWA254, explains:

“Participating groups were required to ensure that the new spaces were child friendly, green and used recycled materials. The project received more than one hundred applications and raised funds to help make those dreams come true. The outcome of this support was that they managed to activate most of the local youth groups to reclaim and transform the spaces and further turn them into income generating activities accessible to the wider community.”.

The knowledge and experience gained through this Kenyan project is very relevant to the Welsh context and Where’s my space? will explore this model in terms of engaging young people in socially disadvantaged communities in both Kenya and Wales.

The project will involve a series of online events, participatory opportunities such as discussion groups and portfolio reviews, screenings, social media campaigns and other presentations to engage audiences between July and September 2021. It will culminate in a final showcase at the Fifth Biennial Edition of Diffusion: Cardiff International Festival of Photography in October this year.