2016 Masterclass East Africa

The Masterclass East Africa aimed to support the most promising young visual journalists from the region in their professional development, and took place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 28 November to 2 December 2016.

This masterclass is the second in the World Press Photo Foundation’s series of satellite masterclasses, based on the formula of the annual Joop Swart Masterclass for the world’s most talented upcoming visual journalists. The first satellite event was the Masterclass Latin America, which took place in Mexico in December of 2015.

Three jury members selected 12 participants from 110 submitted portfolios. The following 12 photographers—7 women and 5 men of 8 different nationalities—are:

  • Biko Wesa, Kenya
    Read interview and see his photo story, Kaya, on Witness.
    "The one week spent together with my fellow students and teachers was such a great learning experience. I went into the class having so many questions and I'm glad they were all answered formally and moreso through casual interaction. A week that seemed like a really short time was enough to give me a much better perspective into my photography career. Most important were the connections I made with fellow students who were all from different parts of Africa. I believe those connections will one day mean something in playing a part in shaping the future of photojournalism in Africa."
  • Brian Otieno, Kenya 
    Read interview and see his photo story, Teenage Moms of Kibera on Witness.
  • "The masterclass was a really great experience. I learned so many new things, like what a pitch is, how to make one, and why captions are so important."
  • Cynthia Matonhodze, Zimbabwe
    Read interview and see her photo story, Mama Dee, on Witness.
    "The masterclass blew my mind! For a long time, I wanted to be part of the Joop Swart Masterclass because I needed guidance to develop my work. Finally getting a chance to be a participant, among other amazing African photographers, is definitely a highlight in my career."
  • Emma Nzioka, Kenya*
  • Esther Mbabazi, Uganda
    Read interview and see her photo story, The Acquaintance, on Witness.
    "The masterclass was a very unique experience, a very huge step in my career. The masters each had amazing knowledge and advice to give. As a photographer who is still at the emerging level of her career, I learned so much to get me working in the right direction. Sessions were tailored to most of my needs and I finished the workshop a very well learned person, enriched personally and professionally."
  • Hilina Abebe, Ethiopia
    Read interview and see her photo story, Little Ethiopia in the U.S, on Witness.
  • "The masterclass was a week of inspiration. It has made even more clear the responsibility I carry as a visual storyteller from the continent. It was also important for me to connect with other photographers from East Africa. I have made invaluable friendships and learned along the way from each of them."
  • Landry Nshimiye, Burundi
    Read interview and see his photo story, The serene souls, on Witness.
    "The masterclass was certainly for me the greatest experience as a young photographer. In one week, through the work of other participants and masters, I thought I was traveling all over the world, meeting other people and cultures. The program was very interesting because it was also about discussing serious problems that we encounter in our daily lives, for example, access to our communities, market problems, the future of photography in general, etc. At the end of this week of intense work, I feel as if I were returning from a kind of professional pilgrimage with a wider apprehension of the language and soul of photography."
  • Maheder Tadese, Ethiopia
    Read interview and see her photo story, Awramba: A collective community, on Witness.
    "The masterclass was such a wonderful experience. Listening to the experts talk about their journey was a huge inspiration. I was truly moved by all the energy, humbleness, encouragement and honesty the masters showed towards us. Participating in the masterclass improved my narrative skills, showed me different perspectives and helped me build up my network."
  • Miora Rajaonary, Madagascar
    Read interview and see her photo story, Terminus: Yeoville, on Witness.
    "The masterclass was an experience that I will never forget. Being nominated as one of the participants first was an incredible confidence booster. Then meeting the other participants and getting to know them was great. We all got along very well with each other, and were willing to learn from each other and from the masters who were truly amazing. Their availability, desire to share their knowledge with us, at any time of the day and sometimes the night is something that I'll always remember. I loved Neo's class and mentorship. As a black female photographer from Africa, it is really hard sometimes to believe that I'm going to make it in an industry where professionals are mostly white men from Western countries. And when in self-doubt, it is important to have this one person in the world we can relate to to keep going, because then I can believe that if she had managed to be successful today, I can be successful too tomorrow. In this way, I think that Neo inspired all the female photographers that were here."
  • Mohamed Elsadig, Sudan
    "It was so great to meet with all the participants and masters, to get the chance to see how each participant uses photography and editing differently to tell their story. It was also great to get exposed to the different methods that masters use for the editing process."
  • Thoko Chikondi, Malawi
    Read interview and see her photo story, Gangala Community, on Witness.
    "For me, the masterclass was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was a chance to believe again. To believe in my work and the purpose for making the photographs I make. It was also a chance to believe that I can be better and make it as a photographer no matter where I come from. It was humbling to see how the masters who are very successful and extremely talented photographers were readily available to help, advice and listen at any given time. I saw them give us participants their best knowledge as well as life experiences and this I can never forget."
  • Zinyange Auntony, Zimbabwe
    Read interview and see his photo story, The Pitch Spinners, on Witness.
    “The masterclass molded and reshaped the way I tell stories. I feel empowered, rejuvenated and ready for the challenge.”

The two runners up were:

  • Tafadza Ufumeli, Zimbabwe
  • Ray Ochieng, Kenya**

* Emma Nzioka, Kenya, was selected as a participant, but she was unable to attend last minute.

** We are sad to have learned about the sudden death of second runner-up Ray Ochieng, a talented and promising Kenyan photographer. Our condolences to his family and friends.

The World Press Photo Foundation is also pleased to welcome the following masters:

  • Andrew Esiebo, Nigeria
  • Neo Ntsoma, South Africa
  • Thomas Mukoya, Kenya
  • Julien Jourdes, France
  • Jodi Bieber, South Africa

The masters were chosen to meet the learning needs and wishes of the selected participants. They shared their expertise and provided individual advice to all participants. The masterclass curriculum was structured around photo essays based on a central theme, “Community”, that participants were required to work on in preparation for the masterclass. The masterclass week also included lectures and individual instruction with all masters.

Selection Committee

The selection committee consisted of: Bisi Silva, independent curator, founder and director of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos, Carl de Souza, AFP Chief Photographer East Africa, and John Fleetwood, director of Photo and former head of the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg.

Bisi Silva, independent curator, founder and director of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos reflected on the entries:

“I was excited to see such diversity of photographic practice across the region exploring myriad issues that highlight and affect our daily lives. It was reassuring to see that there was a good gender balance allowing a nice mix of participants. I think it is going to be an extremely vibrant masterclass that engages the diversity of cultures and experiences from across East Africa.”

Carl de Souza, AFP Chief Photographer East Africa added:

“We saw a variety of technical abilities, but what I was really looking for at the end of the day was whether I felt the photographer really wanted to tell a story rather than just put together a series of images. There's a big difference and that is the first step that all aspiring documentary photographers need to really confront early on with their work.”