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#CelebrateAfrica | Leila Ghandi: ‘Stereotypes are the results of our societies’

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#CelebrateAfrica | Leila Ghandi: ‘Stereotypes are the results of our societies’

Leila Ghandi is a patron of the #CelebrateAfrica campaign launched by New African, Canon and Picfair that aims to redefine the way Africa is seen. The often misrepresented countries have many stories to tell. African residents, pick up a camera and show the world the Africa you want them to see. Share your pictures with us here.

Life as a Muslim woman in the Maghreb throws many ‘handicaps’ to this particular demographic. Living in a community that is separated by these social differences Leila Ghandi – the Moroccan photographer, political commentator, author and TV personality – uses her platform to challenge these perceptions.

Her mission is weaving together these torn social fabrics into a tapestry that co-exists in harmony.

Ghandi’s expansive media platform spans across a 2 million TV audience and hundreds of thousands online, her words have echoed amongst delegates of the African Union, UN and EU; sharing her message to empower women and cut stereotypes. However, one of her most important mediums to transmit her message is photography.

New African: A lot of your career is based on empowering women – how do you use photography to do that?

Leila Ghandi: I would use whatever medium I have to contribute to women empowerment. Gender equality goes through the emancipation of women and this is part of the struggle that I am trying to lead. In order to support this engagement through photography, I am working on a project called WOMEN, which portrays every day and fighting women, ordinary heroes as I call them, whether they are ministers, mothers or women boxers, inspiring women through whom we can identify because they resemble us and make us want to move forward.

Through experience you’ve witnessed first-hand the harm stereotypes can cause. Why is it important that Africans should challenge these and how can visual representation achieve this?

I am African, Moroccan, from the Maghreb, Arab, Muslim and I am a woman… so you could say that I cumulate several handicaps and potential stereotypes. One could think that because I am from Africa, I lead a hard life, that because I am a woman I am oppressed, that because I am a Muslim, I am submissive and veiled. I will let you imagine the consequences of it all!

So, those are things I have often heard. I am here to say that I am a woman, I am African, Moroccan, Mediterranean, Arab, Muslim, I am a wife, I am a mother and I am an emancipated and independent woman, free of movement, free of believing or not believing, free of doing and not doing. 

Scroll through Leila Ghandi’s photo and some of her entries into the #CelebrateAfrica competition, below.

I am militantly in favour of other representations. Other representation of women, other representations of Africa, other representation of Morocco and the Moroccan people, other representation of Islam and Muslims. It is important to challenge those stereotypes because they create a lack of understanding, which leafs to discrimination, fear of the other, sometimes rejections and, in fine, conflicts.

How does photographing Africa make you feel and can you contrast that with your feelings towards misrepresentations of the continent from other photographers?

Stereotypes are the results of our societies. Given how increasingly complex our societies are, it is probably reassuring to put people in predefined boxes, even it means that those boxes are mere caricatures. It is our duty to us all to go against these caricatures and stereotypes. In my own small way, through my production, exhibitions and also my conferences, I try to sweep aside certain preconceived ideas. And by the way, not only when it comes to Africa and the African people. Misrepresentations are like Russian dolls, they exist on different level, in different places, sometimes within the same country, the same city, the same neighbourhood. I am working on a photography project called MAROC looking at Moroccans in their diversity and their daily life to counteract the blinkered and sometimes cliché notions that we can have sometimes have of them including by the Moroccans themselves.   

Basically, it is an entire mind-set that we have to combat, or, as I prefer to say, it is an entire mind-set that we need to develop. Education open-mindedness, knowledge, having balanced opinions, decipher information, have a sense of discernment; to have a different way to look at and analyse the world around us. 

How would you describe your style of photography?

I learned photography on the road, traveling the world with my backpack. I chose photography because I was looking for the best support to share with the world the encounters I had. I am what is called a real life or documentary photographer. No spotting, no artificial light, no studio, no makeup, no staging. I try to capture things as they are. Because the ordinary is sometimes much more extraordinary than one might think. I immerse myself in the daily life of others, I capture moments of intimacy or stories to tell. 

 

Join Leila and enter the competition here: https://www.picfair.com/celebrateafrica. Be one of 100 winners. Stand the chance to either win a trip for two, to a destination of your choosing, or win Canon photography equipment including DSLR cameras.

View more of New African’s #CelebrateAfrica interviews and articles.

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Written by New African Magazine

For over 45 years New African provides unparalleled insights and analysis on African politics and economics, via an African perspective, always. With in-depth monthly reports, New African brings Africa closer to the world and is ideal for those looking to gain a better understanding of the most important issues affecting Africa.

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