January 28, 2020

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activist Vanessa Nakate cropped from photo at Davos Forum

"Black, she's fired from the frame" : she is Vanessa Nakate, "The woman of the day" chosen by the newspaper Humanity, Monday, January 27, which relates this episode. The " frame ", it’s a photo from the Associated Press (AP) agency taken at the Davos Forum, where the young Ugandan activist disappeared.

Vanessa Nakate is fighting global warming. Inspired by Greta Thunberg, the 23-year-old Ugandan girl became an activist in 2019, protesting alone, in his country, Uganda, where strikes are illegal. She founded the Rise Up Movement, based in Africa.

At the Davos Forum in Switzerland on Friday, January 24, she gave a press conference on the climate emergency, alongside four other young activists: Greta Thunberg, Loukina Tille, Luisa Neubauer and Isabelle Axelsson.

In a photo taken by a photographer from the AP agency, Vanessa Nakate disappeared, cut from the frame of the group photo, during the "cropping" of the photograph. The activist posted the photo herself on Twitter, directly calling the agency to demand accountability.

International mail ask the question : "Ordinary racism or purely artistic reframing? " Vanessa Nakate laying it differently : "Should an African activist position herself in the middle of a photo just because of the fear of being cut?" " Twitter responds: #YouCantEraseMelanin ("You cannot delete the melanin"). Greta Thunberg and thousands of Internet users support.

"That you erase our voices won't change anything"

After "censorship" of the environmental activist, the director of photography of the AP press agency, David Ake, said: " The photographer tried to get a photo out quickly in a very short time and cropped it for compositional reasons because he thought the building in the background was distracting. "

For her part, Vanessa Nakate notably spoke in a video posted on Twitter : "This is the first time in my life that I have understood the definition of the word racism" :

"Africa is the last emitter of greenhouse gases. But we are the most affected by the climate crisis. That you erase our voices won't change anything. Erasing our history will not change anything. Does that mean that I have no value as an African activist? Or that Africans are of no value at all? "

After being kicked out of the AP photo, the young woman was misnamed by the Reuters news agency, which identified her as Natasha Mwansa, a Zambian activist. Since then, she has put profile picture on Twitter a portrait of her made by Brazilian illustrator Cristiano Siqueira, which continues to circulate on networks. Below this portrait is inscribed the word "Heshima" which in Swahili – one of Uganda's official languages ​​- means "respect" and "dignity". Since then, Twitter also certified the account by Vanessa Nakate, and the Ugandan media asked the young activist to carry your voice on TV sets.

"The 23-year-old Ugandan climate activist was cut from a photo in which she posed with other young activists, including Greta Thunberg. She was the only black woman. "

"This is valid for all media"

Vanessa Nakate also passed a message in a video published by AJ + online media:

"My message for AP is that African activists and people of color need to be respected. But that applies to all media outlets that do this because no one is speaking out against this kind of practice. "

The story behind this cropped photo, which "Silence the voice of Africans", as Vanessa Nakate deplores, and ignited social networks, also provoked Monday, January 27 "Introspection and tense conversations on issues of racism and inclusion in the AP agency", according to the agency’s editor, Sally Buzbee.

"I hope we can learn from this and become a better press organization in the future. I realize that I have to make it clear from the top (of the hierarchy), on my part, that diversity and inclusion must be one of our highest priorities. "

It was after recognizing that AP had aggravated this "Terrible mistake" in his initial response on Friday, that Mme Buzbee personally apologized on his Twitter account, "On behalf of the AP agency".

In October 2019, the Nigerian writer Chika Unigwe recalled in a tribune of Guardian, than "The remarkable Greta Thunberg was undoubtedly a superstar, but just as much as her peers." And if "Photojournalism also needs to face the #metoo movement" to end sexism, as Kainaz Amaria recalled in an article in Vox in September 2018, Vanessa Nakate asked that racism has no place in the media.

Read also Racism: "Color remains a marker of privilege"