Whatever you think about football,
think again. There is a story in the New York Times article “To Those with Nothing, Soccer is Everything,” about how Jessica Hilltout documented the continent’s love of the game. The Belgian-born photographer loaded her car with soccer balls and drove through southern and western Africa taking pictures.
Driving through villages, Hilltout found a genuine love for the game, people playing soccer for the sheer joy of it. In this sense, I would say the people playing the game, instead of nothing, do have something very important: the capacity to find enjoyment and pleasure in their environment.
The article, by Celia W. Dugger, singles out the most soulful of Ms. Hilltout’s images: those of homemade balls using the most improbable materials in the most ingenious ways: paper, plastic, strings, socks and rags, bark, amongst others. I must say I agree with her. The balls and the other pictures – look at those goalposts – look wonderful. You can see for yourself here.
Her photographs are exhibited in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Brussels galleries; there is an accompanying book “Amen: Grassroots Football,” published with the help and encouragement of her British father, and some of the photographs can be seen on her website.
What did she do with the factory-made soccer balls in the car? She gave them to the children in the villages who were reported to be delighted to get what they considered to be the real thing!
Perhaps the pleasure of the game, which we all share, whichever continent or country we live in, expresses our common humanity; realizing this may help to create a better atmosphere when acknowledging and coming to terms with colonial memories and wounds.
Photo credit: Jessica Hilltout