A few nights ago, I returned to Wantugu, the village in northern Ghana where I lived as a Peace Corps Volunteer, to show some Kayayo pictures as part of the current volunteer's Take Your Daughter To Work Day program. After blowing a tire (twice) on my friend Alicia's moto during the ride out, she and I stumbled into town around 8pm, apologized to a waiting crowd, and set up a projector facing one of the walls of the clinic in the center of the village. Alicia showed a feature film about Kayayo, which her Ghanaian friends wrote and starred in, with her assistance. Afterwards, I showed about 40 photos from this project.
It was interesting to see which photos elicited a response (and by that I mean, which photos caused people to gasp, or to shout "oh!" or "woit!", common Ghanaian expressions of surprise). Many of the photos I had assumed they would react to, of girls laughing and joking with each other, were met with silence (I like to think this is because Ghanaians are used to laughter). Instead, people were struck by pictures of the work that Kayayo girls do and the conditions they live in, as well as scenes of Kumasi and Accra, large cities that many of the villagers have never and will never see. It occurs to me now, as I remember the uneasy quiet following pictures of northern boys smoking pot or girls out dancing, that silence is it's own reaction - who knows what people were thinking as they attentively looked on, listening to my descriptions of the photos...
Regardless, here are a few of the pictures that got the loudest and most obvious reactions. Many of the viewers, men and women, have been to Accra themselves, and were perhaps struck by scenes they found familiar. For others, this was the first time they had any visual to match up with the stories they have heard of the south. As a photographer, it's strange for me to be posting these, as they are not necessarily my favorite images (though some are) and they don't necessarily tell the story I'm trying to tell (though some do) - all the same, I think it's fascinating to see which pictures struck a chord within a local context.
This picture received, by far, the loudest response. People were still talking about it the next day, making jagged motions with their arms as they told others about the angles the girls were sleeping at in order to fit in the room.
"All that for one person to carry!" I heard Wantugu's Assembly Man shout. Ghanaians are used to carrying things on their heads (especially women, who carry large headpans full of water back from the dam or well numerous times a day), but even to them, this amount of weight was shocking. When I asked Lamisi, the girl at right in the photo, what her first impressions of Accra were, she had nothing to say about traffic or people or buildings; she said only, "I couldn't believe how much people were able to carry."
I wonder if the gasps I heard for this one are because people recognized the girl in the photo (she's from Wantugu), but I doubt it. I think her pose was enough.