In 2017 I travelled by road from Ibadan, Nigeria to Paynesville in Liberia to participate in the Annual Youth Education and Empowerment Summit.
During this trip, through my research as a photographer examining youth unemployment in West Africa, I discovered that this factor plays a significant role in a nation’s risk of political and economy instability.
The 16 countries of West Africa have large and rapidly growing youth populations. Over 56% of their populations are between ages of 15 and 35 years. These unemployed youth are often those drawn to violent, crime or wanting to travel to Europe through illegal means.
To counter this trend, I believe Art can be used to empower youth in West Africa.
This year I will be embarking on a two months photography road trip from Ibadan to Banjul, in the Gambia. I will be making several stops in some major cities to collaborate with local artist, organize workshop, photo walk, artist talk, exhibition and exchange ideas in the Republic of Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Serria Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Senegal and the Gambia.
This project is aimed to create awareness and call the attention of policy makers in West Africa that Art can be used as a tool to empower and educate the youth. And also, to teach the youth how to use Art as a medium to empower, express and communicate for positive social change. I believe when youth have a meaningful handwork to bring in a legal income, there is a reduction in poverty, crime rate and tendency of wanting to travel to Europe through illegal routes.
There is great pride when creating something of your own design, so many would put their minds to creative use, instead of the reverse.