The Christian Science Monitor : 2019-02-11

39 : 39 : 39


After a mass eviction in Nigeria, the art project sprang to life to further social change. Chicoco By Innocent Eteng / Contributor E PORT HARCOURT, NIGERIA very morning, as dawn breaks through the gritty black smog encasing Nigeria’s Port Harcourt, Prince Peter hangs a Lumix GH4 camera around his neck and walks out of his house in search of his next story. If he is not filming acts of forced eviction in the city, he is chronicling life in one of its waterfront shantytowns for the documentaries he regularly produces. “I see this [camera] as my eyeglass,” he says. “In the case of forced evictions, instantly, I must be there.” Mr. Peter knows those stories intimately. After his own house and barbershop were demolished under the pretense of a sweeping “urban development plan” in 2009, he was homeless and unemployed for nearly a year. But now, he’s one of about 40 community volunteers documenting and fighting forced evictions with art. Port Harcourt is a city of 3 million on the Atlantic coast in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta. But despite the region’s rich natural resources, nearly half a million of its residents live in 49 waterfront shack communities, crammed with rickety zincroofed houses that have poor ventilation. INNOCENT ETENG Prince Peter is one of 40 community volunteers in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, who is documenting and fighting forced evictions with art. READY TO FILM: communities in the area with an inflatable screen to show them the scenes he had filmed in Njemanze. The reaction was powerful. “Suddenly, they recognized themselves as recognized,” says Uwemedimo, a lecturer at the University of Roehampton in London. “They realized they could use this camera as an instrument to tell their story.” With that in mind, in 2010 Uwemedimo started the Collaborative Media Advocacy Platform (CMAP), in part to train local artists and activists in using cinema, radio, and music for social change. The group called their community art project Chicoco, after the dark-brown mud found around the Niger Delta’s mangroves and swamps. Today, the organization has its own mobile cinema, which tours waterfront neighborhoods each week, screening films about the communities alongside global ‘Suddenly, they recognized themselves as recognized.’ Reduced to rubble – Michael Uwemedimo, documentary filmmaker who chronicled a mass eviction’s aftermath and showed the scenes to nearby communities in Port Harcourt, Nigeria These settlements have long been an eyesore for the local government, which announced in 2008 that it was going to demolish them in order to expand its glittering business district into a Dubai-like ultramodern city. In August 2009, bulldozers flanked by armed soldiers arrived at the Njemanze waterfront, where Peter lived. Within a week, the entire community had been reduced to rubble. About 19,000 people were rendered homeless, and 12 protesters were shot by soldiers. At the time, documentary filmmaker Michael Uwemedimo was in town working on a film project, and he got a call from Amnesty International. They asked if he would visit the demolished community and film the violent eviction’s aftermath. Soon, his footage was circling the globe as part of Amnesty’s worldwide dignity campaign against forced displacements. But it also found an audience closer to home. In the weeks after the eviction, Mr. Uwemedimo, who is a dual citizen of Britain and Nigeria, began traveling to VNEXT PAGE GALLERY OF RECENT PROFILES Christopher Schafer, Melissa van Wijk Abiodun ‘Abbey’ Henderson a custom tailor, uses a personal touch to give gently worn suits to men in need. formed a dance company that welcomes both those with disabilities and nondisabled individuals. helps young former felons find a new path with Gangstas to Growers. THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY FEBRUARY 11, 2019 39 | PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PRESSREADER +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW

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