Community Engagement is a key aspect of the work of the Human Sciences Research Council’s Sweetwaters office. The research centre is situated in the peri-urban Vulindlela District and undertakes social science research on a range of issues affecting local communities. The learnings from these communities can be further shared and applied in other settings.
In order to better understand the needs of this community, the HSRC Sweetwaters office embarked on a photovoice project. Photovoice is a participatory action research strategy primarily used in research involving marginalised communities. Photography is combined with other techniques, (e.g. critical dialogue) to encourage participants to reflect on and speak to community concerns. The images (and by extension the voices) can create awareness, engagement and meaningful dialogue with stakeholders and decision makers.
The intention of the project, was to work with vulnerable youth from the Sweetwaters area to gain insights into the challenges and risks faced by the community, especially as they are experienced by young men and women.
Research communication specialists, Jive Media Africa was asked to assist with the production and facilitation of a number of community events, designed to disseminate the outcomes of the project. Two events were held, an exhibition at the Jack Heath Gallery, curated by the Centre for Visual Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and a gathering of residents from the Edendale area which formed part of the study.
In order to showcase the work of the photographers in these different settings, Jive Media Africa adjusted the delivery mechanism for each setting. For the gallery exhibition, the images were printed and mounted individually. These images have subsequently been sent to the office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban. For the event targeting young people and residents of the study area, which took place in the Caluza Sports Centre, the images were printed onto long vinyl banners. These banners will be used in an ongoing tour to schools to continue to engage young people in discussions about issues of importune to them.
In addition, Jive Media Africa has created a portfolio of these images in printed form.