Pulitzer Center grantee Austin Merrill speaks to South Dakota State University students about the every day experiences of those living in African countries, exploring the idea of countering media stereotypes by showing shared commonalities around the world. His two-day visit to the University includes a campus-wide lecture Thursday, April 16.
Conceived by Merrill and Peter DiCampo, and featuring numerous contributing photographers, "Everyday Africa" is a response to the common media portrayal of the African continent as a place consumed by war, poverty, and disease.
"Everyday Africa, a collection of images shot on mobile phones across the continent, is an attempt to re-direct focus toward a more accurate understanding of what the majority of Africans experience on a day-to-day basis: normal life," states the Everyday Africa website. "As journalists who are native to Africa or have lived and worked on the continent for years at a time, we find the extreme is not nearly as prevalent as the familiar, the everyday."
What began as a simple project, taking cell phone photos of daily life in Africa while traveling on other assignments, has grown into a full-blown movement DiCampo and Merrill say they never could have anticipated. Everyday Africa has been featured by National Geographic, The New York Times, and The New Yorker, to name just a few. It has exhibited at Mexico’s PhotoFest, New York’s Lincoln Center, and will be at New York's Photoville this September. In recent months, it has inspired similar projects worldwide: Everyday Middle East, Asia, Latin America, USA, Iran, Egypt, Jamaica, and many others. The pair are perhaps most proud of the numbers on Instagram, and the high level of engagement and conversation from followers—and of the project's increasing presence in the world of education.
Merrill is a writer and editor based in New York. His writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New Republic, Wired, The New York Observer, Tin House, Good and other publications. Projects have included a piece about the Ivory Coast national soccer team’s efforts to end the Ivorian civil war; a story about U.S. Army Rangers training West African soldiers in counter-terrorism tactics in Timbuktu, Mali; a feature on efforts to eradicate Guinea Worm disease in northern Ghana; and reporting from Angola and South Africa for the Vanity Fair blog on the 2010 World Cup. Merrill's introduction to Africa was as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ivory Coast, where he worked as a rural water and sanitation engineer. He later returned to Ivory Coast and was based in Abidjan, the economic capital, as a correspondent for the Associated Press. While with the AP he covered the Ivorian civil war as well as politics and culture in Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and elsewhere.
South Dakota State University is one of the Pulitzer Center's campus consortium partners.
Thursday, April 16
South Dakota State University
100 Administration Lane
Brookings, SD 57006
Free and open to the public