SOAS University of London

Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London

Rural Africa

a photographic exhibition by Josep A. Garí
19th January - 18th March 2006

In Sub-Saharan Africa, over 400 million people live in rural areas.

The dominant iconography of rural Africa is flooded with portrayals ofmalnourished children, displaced populations, communities falling apart and helpless people. These images have spread a perception of rural Africa as a cosmos in decline, composed by people that seem to be out of History and have no hope and destiny. Such prevailing images serve their purpose well: to inspire emotions and reflexive sympathy. But they do little to show the real lives, strives and accomplishments of the vast majority of the rural population.

"Rural Africa: Communities on the move" is a photographic exhibition that aims to show the diversity and vitality of rural communities throughout Africa. It does not mean to romanticise village life, but rather to go beyond the partial, superficial and somewhat discriminatory vision of Africa that persists in the global imagination. The exhibition portrays societies that, despite their enormous constraints, are organised and engaged with vigour to improve their situation and adapt themselves to a rapidly evolving future.

The exhibition is organised around four themes:

  1. People, land and pride — underlines the diversity and dignity of African rural lives.
  2. Village life: roles and reliance — explores the social dynamics of villages, showing how the mutual dependence between people constitutes a basis for solidarity.
  3. Evolving together — looks at the ways in which rural people are responding collectively to recurring problems and emerging needs, adjusting their societies to the changes underway.
  4. Rural youth: learning to live — reflects the vivid presence of children and youth in their communities, living their rural condition with plenitude while exploring new development paths with creativity.

The exhibition is composed of circa 40 colour pictures, mostly from the Sahel (Mali), the Ethiopian highlands and East Africa (Tanzania and Uganda). This itinerant exhibition was inaugurated at the International Peace University in 2004.

Josep A. Garí was born in Barcelona in 1972. He has a Ph.D. on Political Ecology from the University of Oxford and he currently works at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). He has an amateur interest in social photography. His photographs have served in various scientific publications as well as in exhibitions of the U.N. and the Red Cross. E-mail:

The pictures were taken with the permission of local people and community organisations.