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July 2011

The Canon Female Photojournalist Award for 2011, presented by the French Association of Female Journalists (AFJ), has been awarded to Ilvy Njiokiktjien, 26, for her proposed report on Afrikaner adolescents in South Africa.

Photographer Ilvy Njiokiktjien.

Njiokiktjien’s story originated from a visit, in 2007, to a ‘defence camp’ in South Africa where adult Afrikaners were taught how to shoot a gun in case of attack. “There is a fear among some white South Africans that there’s going to be civil war when Nelson Mandela dies, but an even greater fear is the high crime rate,” Njiokiktjien told CPN. “Most know someone who’s been hijacked or shot at. They are afraid to walk in the streets and they live in compounds behind high walls.”

An increasing number of parents are sending their children to youth camps. The camps promote a separate Afrikaner identity by creating consciousness among the young Afrikaners based on their language, religion, skin colour and traditions. Njiokiktjien, and the writer and journalist Elles van Gelder, spent nine days on a camp about three hours drive north-east of Johannesburg.

Njiokiktjien said that the boys were clearly being indoctrinated. “They learn how to shoot, they do exercises, and the evenings are spent having lectures about race from the colonel who runs the camp. One such lecture was called 'The Enemy', which described black and mixed-race people as ‘a big threat’ to white people. There was another lecture about how bad Mandela is,” she explained. The uniforms they wear, sometimes ill-fitting, were worn by their forefathers in the battles they fought. “One boy told me that when he got his uniform there was still blood all over it.”

Getting access to the camp and being allowed to document what went on was not easy, she said. “The colonel is very proud of what he is doing and is 100% sure that he’s doing this to save his nation, but he does not want media around. But because we speak Dutch, which is similar to Afrikaans, the colonel trusted us and gave us access to the camp.”

Njiokiktjien and van Gelder also shot video footage with their EOS 5D Mark II cameras with a view to producing a multimedia package, so there was some initial consternation from the parents and the colonel. However, the two simply insisted that it would be a balanced and journalistic report. “The fact that we were Dutch helped to secure the trust of the colonel,” admits Njiokiktjien. “But our plan is just to show what goes on there and let people make up their own minds.”

Njiokiktjien plans to return to South Africa and expand the story to include the family lives of the youths. “Most of the boys I spoke to go to mixed schools and at the beginning of their time at camp some of the boys said they had black friends. By the end, they said they ‘used to have’ black friends. I want to see how this change of attitude affects their school lives.”

The prize, which is sponsored by Canon France and supported by Le Figaro Magazine, will be presented to Njiokiktjien at this year’s Visa pour l'Image International Festival of Photojournalism. The prize money (€8,000) provides funding to help the winner to complete the project within one year. The work will then be presented as an exhibition or a feature in an evening programme at the 2012 Visa pour l'Image festival.

The members of the jury for the Canon AFJ Award were: Cyril Drouhet (Le Figaro Magazine), Magali Jauffret (L’Humanité), Delphine Lelu (Visa pour l’Image), Romain Lacroix (Grazia), Jean-Bernard Maurel (DirectSoir), and for the AFJ, Brigitte Huard, Catherine Lalanne (Pèlerin) and Florence Panoussian (AFP).

Italian photojournalist Martina Bacigalupo won the 2010 Canon AFJ Award and her resulting exhibition, My name is Filda Adoch, about the everyday life of a wounded woman who lives in the Gulu district of north Uganda who manages to support her six grandchildren in the face of extreme adversity, will be shown during the 2011 Visa pour l’Image festival.

The other previous winners of the Canon AFJ Award were Justyna Mielnikiewicz, Brenda Anne Kenneally, Axelle de Russé, Veronique de Viguerie, Claudia Guadarrama, Kristen Ashburn, Ami Vitale, Sophia Evans and Magali Delporte.


Ilvy Njiokiktjien’s Canon equipment:

EOS 5D Mark II

EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM
EF35mm f/1.4L USM
EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM