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African Women on Board (AWB), in association with Africa Soft Power (ASP), has launched a Climate Photo Essay Prize, aimed at young people aged 18-30 based on the continent or from the global diaspora community. Leading figures from the artworld have been appointed to judge the contest, with finalists going on to have their work exhibited at leading galleries across New York, London, and Lagos.

The prize is being supported by, ClimateWorks Foundation and law firm, Templars. It’s free to enter, and participants do not have to be professional photographers or artists at the time of entry. Entrants simply need to submit 3-5 photos from their local area that tell a cohesive story addressing the key theme of environmental change.

The prize is part of a wider ‘Road to 100 Million Climate Soldiers in Africa’ campaign currently being run by African Women on Board, and designed to educate and empower young people living on the frontlines of the fight against climate change. The contest will remain open until Friday 9th June, and those wishing to participate can find further details here.

“Climate is THE key intersectional challenge of the day, increasingly affecting wider issues such as health, society, geopolitics, economics, security, and equality, as its impact grows,” said Nkiru Balonwu, Founder & CEO of the Africa Soft Power Group. 

“Africa has long since been disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change, and by 2050, 25% of the world’s population is set to be housed on the continent. It is therefore imperative that the young people of today become the climate soldiers of tomorrow, protecting the planet on the environmental frontlines. We are excited to see the creative efforts that come back to us by way of this contest, and the exhibitions that will be staged around the world as a result.” 

Global spotlight on a global issue

Leading galleries have joined as partners to host a series of international exhibitions on the works of the Climate Photo Essay Prize finalists. They are: 

  • The Africa Center, New York, during the UN General Assembly, September 2023
  • The Africa Centre, London, during Frieze Week, October 2023
  • A special Africa Soft Power display in Lagos, Nigeria, during ART X Lagos, November 2023

“The Africa Center is honoured to be the inaugural host to this series of compelling international exhibitions for the winners of Africa Soft Power’s Photo Essay Prize, particularly as global leaders gather in New York for the UN General Assembly,” said Uzodinma Iweala, Chief Executive Officer, The Africa Center, New York. “Through our collaboration with Africa Soft Power, we aim to highlight the urgent need for climate action in Africa, that will have impacts across the world and to amplify the voices of the talented photographers who captured the beauty, challenges, and resilience of the communities in which they live across the continent. This partnership speaks to the spirit of collaboration that is foundational to The Africa Center’s mission.”

Oba Nsugbe, Chair of the Board, The Africa Centre, London, added: “The Photo Essay Prize exhibition at the Africa Centre, London showcases the power of art to inspire us all. At a time when conversations about climate change are more urgent than ever, it represents an important opportunity to foster meaningful discussions that transcend borders and elevate the voices of creatives from Africa and the global diaspora community. This exhibition is an exciting moment in our burgeoning relationship with Africa Soft Power.”

Leading figures from the artworld

In total, three judges have been appointed to determine who the successful finalists will be:

Julie Crooks

Julie is the Curator of Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora at the Art Gallery of Ontario. She holds a PhD from the Department of History of Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, UK. Since joining the AGO in 2017, she has curated a number of significant exhibitions, including ‘Free Black North’ (2017), ‘Mickalene Thomas: Femmes Noires’ (2018), and presentations from the permanent collection such as ‘Photography, 1920s–1940s: Women in Focus’ (2019–2020) and ‘Fragments of Epic Memory’ (2021-22).

Kenneth Montague

Dr Kenneth Montague is a Toronto-based dentist, art collector and the founding director of Wedge Curatorial Projects, a non-profit arts organization. Montague has served on the African Art Acquisition Committee at Tate Modern as well as the Photography Curatorial Committee at the Art Gallery of Ontario. He is currently an AGO Trustee and an advisor to the Department of Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora. He is also a Trustee of the Aperture Foundation, and a member of the jury for the Scotiabank Photography Award, Canada’s largest photography prize. 

Renée Mussai 

The former Senior Curator at Autograph, Mussai is the Artistic Director of The Walther Collection, a New York-based arts foundation. Since 2009, she has organized numerous solo and group exhibitions Internationally, and published widely on photography, visual culture and curatorial activism, including works such as ‘Lina Iris Viktor: Some Are Born to Endless Night—Dark Matter’ (2020); ‘Care, Contagion, Community—Self & Other’ (2021) and the forthcoming ‘Eyes That Commit’ (Prestel, 2023) as well as the sequel to Zanele Muholi’s critically acclaimed ‘Somnyama Ngonyama’ (Aperture, 2023). 

About African Women on Board (AWB)

African Women on Board (AWB) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to reshaping the future for African women and girls by changing narratives and influencing realities. It is part of the wider Africa Soft Power Group (ASP) of companies, which are dedicated to leveraging Africa’s creative and innovative sectors to generate economic growth on the continent and around the world. You can find out more here.

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