How the new ANSA Photo Exhibition came around

The photo exhibition working group has a lot to say about the new exhibition “Happy People”, plaese find here an extensive review of the exhibition from the idea to its opening in Halle (Saale).

Photo Exhibition “Happy people”

A review by Babette Abanda and Jana Fehr

We were all sitting around a small table looking at each other. We were at a member’s meeting in Berlin, trying to decide the next move of our photo group. It was in March 2016.

“Noteworthy “(Merk+Würdig) was the title of the first ANSA photo exhibition. It was a success because members showed their experience together in Africa and in Germany through their point of view. The exhibition travelled around German Universities and associations and feedback was always positive, full of appreciation and wonder! Through those shared pictures, even Africans were amazed by aspects of their continent through the look of German fellows. This created magic and made the exhibition a success.

Three years later, we, ANSA members, felt like sharing new experiences by opening our hearts, risking being seen as too sensitive or too “uncool”. We decided to share what makes us “happy”. How being around friends could turn a grey rainy sky into a colourful moment (happy with whom?). How a splash of fresh water could make us forget the strength of the sun (happy where?). How fulfilling it is to share with others (happy by doing what?). The exhibition took place in Halle (Saale) from the 5th to the 10th of October. It was fantastic! Where you there?


Sorry, but you missed a unique event, the fruit of a long way through ice and fire. It was wonderful!  The photo group, backed by its members, demonstrated a huge achievement. How did everything happen? How could we convince our members to accept our theme and to expose themselves?

Keep reading.

The beginning of the quest was tedious and not very promising. We, ANSA members, are busy students, self-employed people or employees seeking our own future. Therefore, to remember to give our time to those activities remains sometimes hidden in the smallest toe of our left foot, meaning it could be easily forgotten. A dialogue:

A member: Which kind of pictures do you need? What should I send? Should I only send pictures of people laughing?

Me: Send me what makes you happy in images. What makes you smile and forget about your bad days, show us who you are. The pictures will be part of our next exhibition.

Then it got more complicated. People were afraid to send their true self, or not to have good enough pictures!

A member: Hein! Exposed? Where?

Me: Everywhere our pictures will be accepted!

Then, no more members emails. Reminders were sent again and again.  We understood people were afraid to show too much, or to send something which may be criticised. There were no developments until the next ANSA members meeting in Berlin in March 2017. Members of the board, including people who organized the first ANSA exhibition, asked for feedback. Of course it was a pain to say that after more than a year, we had not a single picture. Questions were raised about the theme.

After some time we realized that most people did not really understand the topic, so we tried to define it.

Happiness can be found everywhere, but not at the same place for everyone. Through this theme we want members to share their ways of being happy, we want them to send us what makes them happy in images.

Then people promised to send us pictures and the first one arrived the 13th of June 2017, by Fabien Prodjinotho.  We started to believe we could do it.


Pictures arrived from everywhere and every day. Members sent pictures taken in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mali, Germany, La Réunion, South Africa, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, Madagascar, Egypt, Ghana and Tunisia. The interest grew very quickly among ANSA members and even non-members. Everyone wanted to be part of the “happy family”. We received even more interest when, Janna Miletzki, a member of the ANSA Board, decided to advertise the event including the pictures on Facebook (only with members), calling for a vote which would precede the prints. We decided to give a prize to the three best pictures to encourage the initiative and not let this spirit of togetherness die.

Very quickly, we felt like this is really going to happen.

Prizes for the best pictures included a mug, a booklet and a calendar of the year 2019. All prizes were designed using the exhibited pictures. The first prize went to “Summer in the City”, in Durban, South Africa, a picture taken by Matthias Witte in 2011. The second prize went to “Snow Angel” in the Allgäu, Germany, taken by Babette Abanda in 2013. And the third prize went to “Ghana’s Next Topmodels’ in Axim, Ghana, taken by Ann-Christin Hayk in 2017.

Pictures were then exposed at the 2018 ANSA Conference in the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to capture the overwhelming reactions of the members when they saw the photos. But surely, everyone will always remember the good feelings. Members smiled at their own pictures as if they had never seen them before, taking pictures of the images they probably still have on their computers. Why? Because, at ANSA, we learned how to magnify what we get in our hands. We gave spirit, life and priority to what you think is useless. We showed you what you have and how you can use it to grow, taking others in your ascension.

Have a taste of our exhibition through the three themes representing happiness in the heart of our ANSA members and link the following words to their corresponding images at our next meeting. Be part of the “happy family”.

We had three categories where the pictures fit in. First “Happy together – Happy with who?”, second “Happy through nature and experience – happy where?” and third “Happy by creating, exploring and sharing – happy by doing what?”.


Theme 1) Happy Together – happy with who?

Happiness can rise simply by being together, with people we love, we feel comfortable with or with whom we share particular experience. This can happen everywhere, in our case, in Africa or in Germany. It can be by sharing a meal while appreciating the surrounding company and express it by an happy smile  (see ‘Intercultural Meeting – Rastafari Restaurant’) or a sunny moment that we experience together (see ‘A Sunny Sunday at Church). Sometimes, we feel happy together in a celebration (see ‘Fete du Coq’), or in a political demonstration where we stand up together in commemoration of our rights (see ‘Abolition of Slavery’). Playing care freely despite adverse surroundings enjoying our childhood (see ‘Blangoua Far-North Cameroon’). Getting to know someone new can bring happiness (see ‘New Friend’) or experience in our everyday lives the ray of sun brought by the company of our friends and family (see ‘Little Girls’). It may not be an activity we share, but the consciousness of the warmth of been together at a quiet time of rest (see ‘Resting in the Shade at Jambiani Beach Wedding’). Observe and feel the vibes of happiness, realize how being together in a special or random moment can bring a ray of sun on your face.


Theme 2) Happy through Nature and Experience – happy where?

Everyone has his definition of happiness which can range from the most abstract like a moment to the sharpest definition like a shade. Happy moments can be only by stepping a foot on a land full of nature, at the border between the wet, the dry and the green, letting place to a sensation of freedom and infinite possibilities (see ‘Ponta Douro’). In the middle of the desert in the freshness of the sunset atmosphere feeling free and one with the nature

(See ‘Woman in Namibia’), either, feeling happy and blessed having those special friends (‘Friends in Namibia’). The sensation of the water on our skin, the chill when it meets our skin in a sunny day the feeling of restoration is priceless as a moment of happiness (see ‘summer in the City’). Be free, feel free and show it. Being able to take a bath while talking to potential customers as a touristic guide is a sign of freedom, which is the essence of happiness. As a child everything is magic, holding a light in darkness is seen as a happy moment (see ‘Kiosk at Night’); or simply feeling focussed and relaxed about our natural self (see ‘untitled’). Experiencing the nature and its surroundings can make us happy if we allow ourselves to discover and recognize the beauty of the moment.


Theme 3) Happy by creating, exploring and sharing – happy by doing what?

Some of our happiest moments arise from activities of sharing by expressing while exploring. Being the one to show what other could not figure out can bring pride in happiness (see ‘The Borehole’). Everything is inside and anything cannot be seen. Showing what makes us happy is a way to show our happiness (see ‘Ghana’s Next Topmodels). It can be when visiting and exploring a new place with people we cherish (see ‘Khawla and the “Uncle”’), even if this means experiencing funny surprises (see ‘A Bird on a Professor’s Head ’). Often, it can involve creating and sharing dance and music (see ‘Ngoma Dance’ and ‘Sukuma Drumming’), and yes, also by being aware of its own size, the possibility to materialize an angel, and the magic our body can create will surely bring a cloud of warmth in a cold winter day (see ‘Snow Angel’). Welcoming people, being aware of others willing to learn about our culture and our traditions, be proud of it, makes us happy (see ‘You’re Welcome’). Happiness can be materialized by actions involving self-expression, exploration and simply by sharing while serving.

Durban, South Africa – Summer in the City. Matthias Witte, 2011.
Durban, South Africa – Summer in the City. Matthias Witte, 2011.

Zu sehen ist ein Junge, der sich von einer Wasserfontäne anspritzen lässt. Warum er glücklich ist: In der Strandpromenade in Durban gibt es in den sidewalk eingelassene Wasserspiele; zu unterschiedlichen Zeiten schießen Fontänen heraus. Unzählige Kinder hüpfen durch die Wasserspritzer. Ich liebe dieses Bild, da sich der Junge so über die Fontänen freut, mit ihnen spielt und sich von den Wassermassen erwischen lassen wollte. Beim Hin- und Herspringen entstand das Foto.

You can see a boy, who lets himself get wet from a water fountain. Why he is happy: at the seafront in Durban there are fountains in the sidewalk; at different times the fountains shoot from the sidewalk. Innumerable children jump through the fountains. I love this picture since the boy is so happy about the fountains, he plays with them and lets himself get wet from the water. When jumping back and forth I took this picture.


Blangoua, Far-North Cameroon - Enjoyment after School Time. Babette Abanda, 2013
Blangoua, Far-North Cameroon – Enjoyment after School Time. Babette Abanda, 2013

Is it true that happiness is a choice? Blangoua, Far North of Cameroon where you can basically see the desert approaching. Every next day is drier than the day before. Are those kids upset about it? It doesn’t look like it to me. Not because they don’t know, because they cannot actually do much about it.

Ist es wahr, dass man Glück wählen kann? Blangoua, im hohen Norden von Kamerun, wo man die Wüste mehr oder weniger näherkommen sehen kann. Jeder neue Tag ist trockener als der letzte. Sind diese Kinder traurig darüber? Es sieht mir nicht danach aus. Nicht weil sie es nicht wissen, sondern weil sie nicht viel dagegen machen können.

Bonn, Germany – A Sunny Sunday at Church. Fabien Prodjinotho, 2016.
Bonn, Germany – A Sunny Sunday at Church. Fabien Prodjinotho, 2016.

“What a great place to spend a day between communities from different countries and continents! The Church! On that day, the African community in Bonn gathered with other communities for a celebration and culinary exchange. It was a great day! It was a sunny day! It was Sunday! A happy day!”

“Was für ein toller Ort, um einen Tag zwischen Gemeinden aus verschiedenen Ländern und Kontinenten zu verbringen! Die Kirche! An diesem Tag versammelte sich die afrikanische Gemeinde in Bonn mit anderen Gemeinden für ein kleines Fest und einen kulinarischen Austausch. Es war ein toller Tag! Ein sonniger Tag! Es war Sonntag! Ein happy day!”