Across African Borders – 2010

Short project description
Eight cross border traders from Southern Africa borrowed one easy to use digital camera each for two months. After a brief introduction they used their cameras to tell their stories of their lives: Their work, their troubles and joys, their friends, colleagues and families. The result became a unique photographic exhibition made and told by the people that are the backbone of Southern Africa’s economy.

In two-meter tall portraits and their own photographs and texts, chosen, told and designed in close cooperation with themselves, Mac, Aida, Palmira, Gloria, Ennie, Telma, Sudecar and Maggie all stand up to promote and protect their own rights, visions and worries.

An African version of the exhibition toured Southern Africa from August 2010. It started at the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) ministerial meeting in Windhoek, Namibia.

In Sweden, the exhibition played a key role in a nationwide campaign-program to promote the Millennium Development Goals, for which it toured the country as part of many local awareness raising campaigns in municipalities and communities, promoting their initiatives and work towards the MDGs. The tour started at Galleri Kontrast in Stockholm and included, among more than a dozen other locations, the Gothenburg Book Fair and the Museum of Work in Norrköping.

Borders explored
prejudice – empowerment,
voiceless – voice,
no rights – rights,
illegal – legal,
unofficial – official,
South Africa – Mozambique,
Malawi – Zimbabwe,
Tanzania – Malawi
Zimbabwe – South Africa
Swaziland – Mozambique
Malawi – Mozambique

Camera lending
(reference to projects Stateless in Jordan, Project Borders Queens, Borders of Dals Långed)

Advocacy, empowerment, information sharing

Southern Africa: Cross border traders, border officials (on all levels), international organization (primarily SADC), law makers

Sweden: County communities working with the Millennium Development Goals, school classes, local communities, photo journalism audience

Project Period
Start: January 2010
Last activity: December 2014 (then continued as African Traders project)

Project countries: South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi

Exhibitions: South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Tanzania, 15 locations in Sweden

Project led to
An evaluation of the project was carried out in December 2014. All participants were consulted on the results of the project and how to work onwards to increase their rights and possibilities. A full evaluation report is currently produced (fall 2015). This process led to the African Traders project currently in consolidation.

Inspired by
The project came out of a long period of work by Economic Justice Network on behalf of the cross border traders, and a perceived need to visualize their issues in a more effective way. The organization was somewhat tired of just talking, and wanted to show what was going on. Photographer Marcus Haraldsson had done the Beyond the Great Wall project and was much inspired by further explorations of border regions. The idea to lend cameras came out of a perceived lack of relevance for his own perspective, and the idea that he could best contribute as a facilitator, enabling the traders to tell their own stories using their own voices.

The project was experimental in nature, and hopes were low. As it turned out the participating traders did way more than ever expected for the project, and all eight came back with magnificent personal stories. The key to achieving this was to have very good local contacts with a lot of trust built over many years or relevant interaction, and to have a relevant project, addressing the actual concerns of the participants. If people are to contribute themselves they need to see their own benefit.

The project was an assignment from the Economic Justice Network in South Africa.

Photographers based in Blantyre Malawi (working in Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa):
Ennie Precious Mphande, Gloria Kabango Mwanyongo, Mac Mubango Soko, Maggie Lonely Mhango

Photographers based in Maputo, Mozambique (working in Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland):
Telma Monjonte, Palmira Chilaule, Aida Tomela, Sudecar Novela

Portraits, project leader: Marcus Haraldsson, Bordr

Project staff in Southern Africa included among others: Simon Vilakazi, Sten Helland, Malcolm Damon, Mandla Hadebe

Project staff, tour organizers, and curator in Sweden included, among others: Irini Mavroudis, Erik Faxgård (Bordr), Mathias Nihlgård, Marcus Erixson

The project was financed by:
Southern Africa Trust, Norwegian Church Aid, Svenska Kyrkan Internationellt arbete, Diakonia, Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting International, and Sensus



Banners from the African exhibitions:
1. Palmira, Maggie, Telma, Sudecar
2. Precious, Aida, Mac, Gloria

Magazine article about the project from The Big Issue (read as PDF here)


Short film about the project: