These three African photographers are celebrating the birthplace of coffee


Italian coffee maker Lavazza produces an annual photography calendar; for 2024, its focus is on Africa, featuring the work of three African photographers. Pictured: “The Explorer,” by South African Aart Verrips, shows a figure “immersed in a forest of giant flowers, a symbol of creativity and imagination.” Scroll through the gallery to see more.

Each image tells the story of a project led by the Giuseppe e Pericle Lavazza Foundation, a non-profit that supports international sustainability projects. Shot by Kenyan photographer Thandiwe Muriu, this image is based on a collaboration between the foundation and charity Save the Children, for a project aiming to teach young people to become professional baristas. Muriu pairs all her works with an African proverb; this image, titled "Our Powerful Truth," draws on the proverb, "Knowledge is like a garden. If it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested."
This image by Nigerian photographer and stylist Daniel Obasi, titled "The Wonder," is based on a partnership between the Lavazza Foundation and NGO Sawa World to provide young people in Uganda with local resources needed to keep their family coffee farms up and running.
According to Verrips, the giant tie worn by the model in "The Vanguard" symbolizes masculinity, while the leggings symbolize femininity. Together, the image represents the fight for gender equality.
In "A Strained Chorus," Obasi captures the tug of war between man and nature. Its description reads, "Those who do not loosen their grip are the real winners: the messengers of a necessary call to action, but also of thanks to those who support our land every day."
Like the blossoming flowers in the photograph, Muriu says she intended "The Foundation of Our Future" to be a reminder that humankind can witness the world blossoming if it commits to being more sustainable. It is based on the African proverb: "We have not inherited this land from our ancestors; rather we have borrowed it from our children."
Shot by Obasi, "The Ant Phenomenon" represents supply chain innovation, with coffee farmers entering the era of digital agriculture. Its description reads: "At the center of a green oasis, the heart of the world's interest, live the pioneers of the future."
"Heartsong," by Muriu, features Somali model, writer and activist for women's rights Waris Dirie, embodying her as a desert flower, which is the name of her foundation fighting against female genital mutilation. It draws on the proverb: "Birds sing not because they have answers but because they have songs."
For "I saw you there," Obasi was so moved by the story of one of the Lavazza Foundation's partners, the Panzi Foundation, which supports survivors of sexual violence, that he wanted to create an image that radiates hope. "The flowers are symbolic of care, love, hope and kindness, femininity," he said. "Whilst the butterflies mean a renewal and rebirth."
Featuring Zulaikha Patel, a South African activist against racism in education, "The Matriarch" is a symbol of a woman ready "to establish a deep connection between multiple cultural worlds," according to Verrips.
Italian coffee maker Lavazza produces an annual photography calendar; for 2024, its focus is on Africa, featuring the work of three African photographers. Pictured: "The Explorer," by South African Aart Verrips, shows a figure "immersed in a forest of giant flowers, a symbol of creativity and imagination." <strong>Scroll through the gallery to see more.</strong>
Each image tells the story of a project led by the Giuseppe e Pericle Lavazza Foundation, a non-profit that supports international sustainability projects. Shot by Kenyan photographer Thandiwe Muriu, this image is based on a collaboration between the foundation and charity Save the Children, for a project aiming to teach young people to become professional baristas. Muriu pairs all her works with an African proverb; this image, titled "Our Powerful Truth," draws on the proverb, "Knowledge is like a garden. If it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested."
This calendar celebrates the birthplace of coffee through photography

A giant coffee bean in the middle of a forest, a woman with flowers for eyes camouflaged against a patterned backdrop, and a group of women pulling leafy vines, symbolizing a tug of war with nature, are featured among the images in Lavazza’s 2024 calendar.

Every year since 1993, the Italian coffee manufacturer has produced a photography calendar, featuring images from the likes of Helmut Newton, David LaChapelle and Annie Leibovitz. This year’s edition celebrates the African continent as the birthplace of coffee (widely considered to be Ethiopia).

Featuring the work of three African photographers, Thandiwe Muriu, Aart Verrips and Daniel Obasi, and themed “More than Us,” the 2024 calendar is dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Giuseppe e Pericle Lavazza Foundation, a non-profit that supports international sustainability projects in coffee-cultivating countries.

“I am so excited by opportunities to provide conversation around Africa and this amazing continent. But the theme itself, for me, was so powerful,” said 33-year-old Kenyan photographer Thandiwe Muriu. “I live in a very communal culture, and our way of life is ‘More than Us’ — you are always your neighbor’s keeper, and I deeply connected with that.”

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Muriu was introduced to photography at 14 years old by her father, as part of a list of skills her parents wanted to teach her and her three sisters so they could be strong, independent women in an often-patriarchal society.

“When he put the camera in my hand, something happened,” she said. “I always enjoyed art, but I could never draw. I always enjoyed music, but I could never sing. But the camera just felt right, and it was almost like one of those moments in a movie. Photography just became the voice that I had been looking for to express everything that I was feeling and experiencing.”

Since then, Muriu has been perfecting her craft; from watching YouTube tutorials and reading photography magazines as a teenager, to meeting other photographers and learning from their experience while she studied for a marketing degree.

Today, Muriu’s photographs focus on three ultimate truths about herself which she says shape how she views the world: “I’m a woman, I’m African, and I love color.” This informed her four photographs in the Lavazza calendar, focusing on female models, and creating colorful illusions that haven’t been digitally enhanced.

“Beyond that, every work I produce is paired with an African proverb,” said Muriu. “I realized I come from a culture that historically was not one that did images. It recorded wisdoms, learnings, lessons in words. So this work in a way has become archival, an archive of proverbs that we don’t use anymore that could be forgotten if I didn’t bring them back into use in my work.”

Thandiwe Muriu's image "Our Powerful Truth" is inspired by the proverb: "Knowledge is like a garden. If it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested."

Thandiwe Muriu’s image “Our Powerful Truth” is inspired by the proverb: “Knowledge is like a garden. If it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.”

For 31-year-old South African photographer and filmmaker Aart Verrips, the Lavazza project, and its emphasis on Africa and African creatives, is a big step forward in terms of recognition. “Being African and being on this continent, we are so many times deemed to be less a fit than someone that’s coming in from Europe, just because of where we are from,” he said. “So to be part of this is kind of amazing.”

Verrips originally studied to be a chef, and was completing a pastry course in the French Alps 10 years ago when a friend introduced him to photography.

For him, “More than Us” is about loyalty, and it taking a village to create something beautiful, just as each photograph has an entire team behind its creation, from stylists and makeup artists to assistants and agents.

“I brought that [theme] into every kind of image [for the Lavazza calendar],” said Verrips. “In ‘The Vanguard,’ which is the woman standing in the hand, that’s the people elevating her to do what she can do best and fight for gender equality.”

"The Vanguard,: by Aart Verrips. He says the giant tie worn by the model symbolizes masculinity, while the leggings symbolize femininity.

“The Vanguard,” by Aart Verrips. He says the giant tie worn by the model symbolizes masculinity, while the leggings symbolize femininity.

The theme of togetherness is at the heart of every image produced for the calendar, but it is most obvious in Nigerian photographer Daniel Obasi’s work. The intended meaning behind Obasi’s images continuously evolves, but his interests are firmly centered on community, and creating work that offers an opportunity for people to come together.

“Responding to emotions, understanding them and giving them a form in my visual world is important,” he said. “[More than Us] is unity. It’s lending our hands and voices for a common goal.”

Each of Obasi’s images tackles a different issue that requires a community to solve, including climate change, growth and development of the next generation, sexual violence against women, and innovating for the future of the planet.

Like Verrips and Muriu, Obasi picked up photography by chance, having first worked as a freelance stylist. He said a “visual story-telling awakening” happened when he traveled to Badagry in Lagos State, on a school exchange program.

“I was very much obsessed with how the sky ran into the ocean, the way the sands felt and how the sun always fell right against people’s skin as they passed me,” said Obasi. “There was just an overload of colors and beauty that I had to tap into it.”

Obasi says the Lavazza project gave him an opportunity to tell beautiful and positive African stories, where he was in control of the narrative; that’s something Kenyan photographer Muriu believes is essential.

“I think for many years as a continent, we’ve given away our stories, and we’ve not had the voice to tell our own stories,” said Muriu, adding the project is “an opportunity for us on a global scale, to sing our own songs and not just tell our own stories, but tell them in our style, in our distinct visual language.”

She sums up this sentiment with a single African proverb: “Until the lion has his own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best stories.”https://nutriapel.com/

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