Waga Studio Project: Photography in Service of the Gounghin Community

In Ouagadougou, within the populous neighborhood of Gounghin, Ayzoh! — alongside the local organization Waga Studio (hence the project’s name) — has initiated a community photography center, a place of possibility and hope for underprivileged adolescents.

The Waga Studio Project provides them with the skills, tools, and inspiration necessary to narrate their own world firsthand, expressing their creativity through the art of photography.

It’s an ambitious project from social, artistic, and journalistic standpoints. The main goal is to initiate a synergistic exchange with local communities and create a collective narrative starting from the experiences of the girls and boys inhabiting the area.

Project Details

In collaboration with Waga Studio (Burkina Faso), Amu Les Griots (Belgium/Burkina Faso), Centro Ricerche EtnoAntropologiche APS (Italy/Burkina Faso), and Innovare Insieme (Italy), Ayzoh! has established a community photography center dedicated to underprivileged adolescents and adults in the densely populated neighborhood of Gounghin in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

Here, young people have full access — free of charge — to professional and semi-professional equipment; they learn the techniques of photojournalism (and apply them in the field); they grasp the communicative use of images and produce editorial products and exhibitions to narrate the experiences and events happening in the area.

The first phase of the project aims to provide a space for research, exploration, and reflection to a group of 21 adolescents — evenly divided by gender and selected based on personal motivation — who are in conditions of extreme social vulnerability.

The center — which is an open resource not only to the young people involved in the experience but also to the entire community — will also contribute to enhancing the personal skills of the individual participants, which they can use, not only for individual or professional purposes, but also for the awareness and development of their own community, going beyond prejudices attributed by others or ideas imposed from above.

Photography: The First Steps

The project is already underway: the photos you see here demonstrate it: some are by Ayzoh! photographers and Warren Sare, but many of them were taken by the girls and boys themselves.

Cameras and Techniques Used

Indoors — or in protected spaces — the girls and boys use professional Canon EOS R6 cameras provided by Ayzoh!. In the streets or in “problematic” areas — for reasons of safety, practicality, and discretion — they use compact cameras.

Post-production of the photographs is carried out — on MSI and Apple laptops, connected to a calibrated monitor — using Capture One software. For the layout of print publications, we use Adobe InDesign. For the web part, we use Ghost and WordPress.


Operations for the opening of the Waga Studio community photography center began on June 1, 2023: Ayzoh! professional photographers are already on-site and have started working, along with Waga Studio operators, with the young people. The first phase of work will last for three months.

Professional photographers and local artists (some internationally renowned) have joined them. Later, with the support of Ayzoh!, the center will be maintained by Waga Studio and expanded through the involvement of its local collaborators.

People Involved in the Community

21 adolescents, in situations of extreme social vulnerability and poverty, coming from reception centers and referrals from organizations collaborating with Waga Studio (Brass Ouverts BF and Open Arms Italy), as well as from direct acquaintances;

5 community animators and photographers trained and prepared to independently manage the center;

10 elementary and middle school teachers trained on the value and practice of community photography as a value for the personal growth of young people and for the creation and transmission of a community culture.

Note: Regarding the beneficiary young people, as is customary in Ayzoh!’s social projects, we will provide as few details as possible to avoid any form of categorization.

Field Work and Editorial Production

The Waga Studio Project has an ambitious goal that sets it apart from all similar projects worldwide: to create one of the largest photographic reports ever made on the community, cultural, and social life of a major African city.

The themes that make up the reportage have been freely chosen by the girls and boys. Indeed, after technical training, they are the ones who determine the direction of the work: the subjects and places to photograph, the angles, and the right moments.

With them — and, above all, thanks to them — we explore everything: streets, private homes, public places, markets, theaters, underground venues, weddings, baptisms, funerals, parties, etc.

It will always be them — supported by Ayzoh! and Waga Studio professionals — to systematize the fieldwork into a magazine, a photographic book, a series of collectible prints, and a large traveling exhibition.


To promote, through photography, access to one’s creative potential and the expression of one’s experiences/desires/goals for those who normally have no other way to express them.

To valorize and make visible to the local and international community, through various types of dissemination (publications, exhibitions, events), the messages and works of the participants. In other words, to promote social inclusion and the reduction of inequalities through the art of photography.

To raise awareness among teachers and educators about the power of photographic images and photography as a practice for the development of a culture and collective memory.

To advocate a culture of respect for the environment and public space in Ouagadougou.

To train a group of community photographers who can autonomously manage the activities and the center and ensure the sustainability of the project.

Sustainability of the Project

In addition to the young people, we offer a training program on community photography to neighborhood animators and teachers.

This is essential to ensure the continuity and sustainability of the center: so that the initial investments have prolonged value over time, but also to expand the number of beneficiaries as much as possible.

Neighborhood animators are key figures in interacting with at-risk youth: to bring them closer to the center and create relationships of trust on important issues for them, such as success in life projects, redemption from disadvantaged conditions, and access to economic stability.

The group of animators is trained with art therapy and educational techniques so that they can also address the social and educational aspects of the young people.

At the same time, they have received specific training in community photography so that they can combine their educational work with a passion for photography. They will then independently run the Waga Studio community photography center.

For What Purpose?

First and foremost, to continue the journey of exchange and testimony of young people from the outskirts of Ouagadougou, dealing with an almost nonexistent state, expanding terrorism, and new colonialisms.

Secondly, to give voice and proper recognition to those who usually have no weight or legitimacy in society (a young person, worse if it’s a girl, who has left their family is generally repudiated).

Photography. Change. Action…

In a moment when digital photographic imagery — thanks to smartphones and social media — has become a widespread means of communication across all social strata and all places on the planet, the Waga Studio Project aims to bring the key function of photographic imagery back to the forefront, both among adults and among the younger generation, to orient it towards social, cultural, and community purposes.

The photographic work focuses on themes that emerge from the will and desire of the young people: for example, stories of places that have significance to them — including spaces considered hostile — their fears, the people and relationships that have shaped them and those that currently provide a safe haven, their goals, and desires.

Furthermore, the work is oriented towards the impact their lives have, or could have, on the community and the surrounding environment. This is indeed the primary goal of the project: photography is a means to stop and focus on what exists before our eyes and impacts our lives.

Consequently, it is also a powerful tool to pause and reflect — before taking action — on what can be abandoned, preserved, changed, improved, or created from scratch.

Photography and the Griot Tradition

In a subsequent phase of the project, starting in August 2023, photography and the most modern communication tools will also be used to valorize traditional local narrative techniques — linguistic, artistic, and performative — provided by the Griots of Burkina Faso.

The Griot tradition — a profession that can be practiced by both men and women — was born and developed in historical contexts devoid of writing, so much so that the Griot themselves were and are considered the custodians of oral tradition, those who know the history from its beginning.

Generally, the Griot profession is familial: it is passed down from the eldest to the youngest within the same family. Often, it is not a school-based apprenticeship, marked by a predetermined number of hours, but a form of continuous education: every moment can be useful for learning stories and narrative and mnemonic techniques; for this reason, great value is placed on observation and listening by the younger generations.

The knowledge of a Griot ranges from history, cosmology, genealogy, mythology, political history, and lineages of the particular culture to which they belong, so their repertoires vary depending on the context in which they operate.

This complex art is based on a multifaceted and multipurpose use of narration that places the Griot halfway between the actor, the musician, the narrator, and the poet. To these figures, we will add that of the photojournalist.

Why Burkina Faso

The UNDP Human Development Report places Burkina Faso at 162nd out of 169 countries. This is due to a series of more or less endemic problems: food insecurity, fragile infrastructure, social protection, and an almost non-existent healthcare system are some of the recurring reasons for this result.

Furthermore, in recent years, phenomena of terrorist violence have added significantly to exacerbating the vulnerability and fragility of this country. Entire areas located on the northern and eastern borders of the country are literally depopulating due to lack of security and political instability: internal migration waves towards the main cities of the country see an increasing number of displaced persons in increasingly worrying living conditions.

The high number of internally displaced persons — around 1.7 million — is mainly composed of young people, women, and children (men often remain in place to not abandon their properties) who find themselves in conditions of absolute poverty and psychological fragility.

Social services are unable to cope with this phenomenon, given the scarcity of resources. The result: a very large segment of the young population is left without prospects, without resources to draw on, without any kind of support. And the scale of this phenomenon is rapidly increasing.

If, above all else, there is a lack of support and guidance that values young people and all their potential, the risk is that of laying down inconsistent and crumbling foundations for the society of the future.

On the other hand, fortunately, Burkina Faso has a resilient population and a strong social fabric that compensates for the institutional shortcomings of the state. Thanks to initiatives by individuals and local organizations but above all thanks to communities and their informal organization, the founding values of society — despite everything — remain mutual aid, tolerance, respect for diversity, and solidarity.

Organizations and people involved

Given the complexity of the project and the themes addressed, Ayzoh! collaborates with partners, collaborators, and associates who are very familiar with Burkina Faso and the respective themes they specialize in.

Ayzoh APS (aka Ayzoh!)

A social enterprise specializing in documentary and community photography. Ayzoh! operates worldwide producing quality editorial tools with (and not for) those who — despite adverse conditions (social, political, environmental) and scarcity of resources — are committed to creating sparks of common humanity through initiatives that are useful for their own community but also represent a strong source of inspiration on a broader level.

Ayzoh! photographers — supported by our team of social researchers and a network of collaborators active in many areas of the world — are accustomed to operating even in extremely difficult conditions and have the credibility to address delicate and complex social issues.

Our designers — according to the needs of each specific project — use the most suitable techniques and tools (printing, web, video, multimedia installations, or live events) to promote causes and initiatives with community impact.

Ayzoh!’s editorial works are published and/or collected in 30+ countries on 4 continents.

Waga Studio

Founded by Silvia Ferraris — artist and art therapist — Waga Studio is a Burkinabé non-profit organization present in the territory of Ouagadougou for several years, more precisely in the populous neighborhood of Gounghin.

Its aim is to promote art as a tool for social change and individual well-being through workshops, art courses, sports, and well-being for children and adults.

Since 2015, it has involved street girls and boys, HIV+ people, refugees, and women in situations of psychological fragility in its activities, helping to prevent social deviance and ideological radicalization.

Amu Les Griots

Non-profit organization based in Brussels (Belgium) and Bobo Dioulasso (Burkina Faso), whose objective is the promotion of arts and cultural heritage of the countries of West Africa.

Centro Ricerche Etno-Antropologiche APS

Association that since 2002 operates in the field of applied anthropology. It is made up of researchers with years of experience in multiple sectors and geographical-cultural areas. It boasts a network of specialized collaborations with associations, NGOs, universities, research institutes distributed throughout Italy and internationally.

At the center of the work are the conservation and valorization of local knowledge, support for retro-innovation, and the relaunch of local economies from a perspective of social, environmental, and energy sustainability. It has been operating in Burkina Faso since 2017 with projects to promote youth employability (Log-In Networks); support for food sovereignty, water savings, and soil fertility conservation.

Electro Mandingo Records

Independent music label founded in 2021. “Electro” is synonymous with contemporary sounds mixed with traditional Mandingo culture. The label focuses on quality music from West African artists.

The goal is to highlight the enormous number of artists from West Africa, enhancing different traditional sounds and their contaminations, as well as their territories through dissemination, social impact, and representation.

Maria Pacelli / Innovare insieme

Freelance consultant in development cooperation projects, facilitating the meeting between cultures from the north and south of the world for an inclusive society respectful of the environment.

Provides services as a project designer, fundraising researcher, and partnership creator, to migrant communities in Italy, with particular attention to African diasporas engaged in creating business in their country of origin, enhancing the skills and network of knowledge they have built over the years of staying in Italy.

Federica Landi

Artist using the photographic medium and high-level artistic training lecturer (the cover photo is hers). After a three-year course in visual arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, in 2009 she moved to London to attend a Master’s in Fine Art Photography at the London College of Communication (University of the Arts of London).

From 2012 to 2014 she worked for the Millennium Images photographic agency in London as curator of exhibitions and events related to contemporary photography and as manager of Peaches&Cream, a scouting and photography award project dedicated to young talents of international photography.

In 2015, she collaborated as curator with various festivals and exhibition spaces in the national territory including the SiFest in Savignano where she took care of the section dedicated to young talents. In 2016, she founded Riu, a space dedicated to experimentation and hybridization of photographic imagery with other disciplines, including avant-garde sound research.

In the same year, she won the Young Italian Photography award promoted by Fotografia Europea and was selected as the artist representing Italy in the Mediterranean Youth Photo residency whose project will be exhibited during the Biennial of young creators of Europe and the Mediterranean in 2017.

Balancing between dissemination activities, curation, and the development of her artistic practice, Federica began her academic career as a photography lecturer in 2017 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome and, in the academic year 2021/2022, she is a lecturer in the specialist biennium at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna.

The themes dear to her research and dissemination activities are the study of contemporary visual culture as an arena for the construction of dominant social norms with the consequent removal and distortion of non-standardized stories and identities. What has occupied her theoretical-practical research in recent years are forms of resistance and identity reappropriation by artists and intellectuals belonging to historical minorities, especially ethnic and gender minorities.

The attendance of the African community in Italy and her travels in the continent have been fundamental in allowing Federica to understand terms such as positioning and privilege and to develop awareness and critical tools towards Western visual production. Her projects have been exhibited in festivals and international exhibition spaces in Europe, Africa, Latin America, and in various art and contemporary criticism magazines.

Warren Saré

We are honored to have with us Warren Sare, one of the most talented and famous (internationally) Burkinabé photographers.

Warren learned photography in his village at the age of thirteen. He then moved to the capital — Ouagadougou — with the intention of buying a good camera.

To do this, he spent seven years doing all kinds of work on the streets of the city, an experience that proved to be very useful later on.

In Ivory Coast, he had the opportunity to work as an apprentice for a local professional photographer. Upon returning from Abidjan, he began working independently photographing in bars, markets, and official ceremonies.

In 1997, he met the wife of the Head of State of Burkina Faso and became her official photographer. Meanwhile, his research increasingly focused on large social reports and the valorization of Burkina Faso’s history.

In these fields, he has carried out numerous photographic projects that have been published and exhibited in many African and European countries. Today — in addition to working on his projects — he dedicates much of his time to promoting photographic culture in schools and organizations in the country.