Ayzoh! World is a platform that tells and connects the stories of people who — worldwide — build a genuine sense of community through arts, culture, education, activism, sciences, technology, and entrepreneurship.
The image that best represents Ayzoh! World is the bonfire around which people gather at the end of the day: the bonfire is seen as a point of reference from which people can glean energy and light.
It is a place where they return to tell their own stories and create new narratives as a group. Around our bonfire, there is space for everyone, except for those bent on excluding others or creating division.
The image of the bonfire was inspired by an excerpt from Traveling with Herodotus, the book written by the great reporter Ryszard Kapuściński.
Ayzoh! World is conceived as an evolving, multi-disciplinary project combining documentary photography, audio-visual products, graphic arts, design, long-form journalism, and literature.
The map is based on the nine basic story archetypes and built around the relationship between contemporary facts, traditional tales, visions of the future, and the reinterpretation of ancient traditions that still shape the lives of many small communities.
The stories arise from our fieldwork alongside the small communities we work with. The contents of these stories are produced and collected by Ayzoh!‘s photographers, video makers, writers, researchers, artists, and collaborators around the world, as well as by five project’s partners: Amu Les Griots, Metissage Sangue Misto, Moremi Path, and Nebua World.
We collect stories and testimonials about community life in all areas: work, activism, education, fashion, architecture, dance, music, relationships, folk traditions, spiritual and religious practices. We explore the rural, urban, and sea environments. We also go through migrations, diasporas, and the cultural contamination that all societies experience.
Through these stories, we give voice to an ensemble of emotions and moods that all human beings feel: joy, hope, faith, courage, hatred, despair, fear, pain, wonder, love, gratitude, grace. In doing so, we focus our attention on people’s fortitude, their search for beauty, and their actions for positive change.
In all latitudes, cultures, and religions, storytelling has always been of paramount importance. Throughout history, stories have had the function of transmitting social norms and creating an ideal shared space where members of a specific group can come together, discover their common identity, and find support and guidance in moments of difficulty and uncertainty. This is not so different from what happens today.
We have the same need to gather around a bonfire and share a space where, thanks to storytelling, we can feel united in our diversity and connect with each other through our shared hopes and fears. This can only happen if we understand, on the one hand, what we have in common and, on the other, what makes us different.
Thanks to many small stories that create a far larger narrative, Ayzoh! World builds a dialogue between contemporary life and universal values. This makes it possible for a continuously changing entity to emerge and generate a sense of belonging that transcends space and time.
And, not last, through the stories it collects, Ayzoh! World encourages people to reflect on the world’s environmental, economic, and cultural challenges. It furthermore urges people to go beyond the sterile identity controversies for instead considering what should be preserved, improved, abandoned, revisited, or created from scratch to reclaim the concept of community both locally and globally.
Telling stories has always played a vital role in the transmission of knowledge and people’s experiences. Furthermore, stories fulfill the fundamental function of educating the new generation and passing on the values and social norms.
Storytelling also reinforces group identity and consolidates community relationships. This is self-evident in cultures based on orality, but, to a different extent, this also applies to societies with a writing tradition, where the stories are conveyed through the school, the mass media, the arts, and the new forms of communication developed by technology.
Unfortunately, today, narratives tend to answer political and marketing needs rather than elevate communities and individuals’ life.
That’s why we use the concept of storytelling in its original meaning, that is, as the “construction of meaning” of a given reality. Our intention is to discover and recognize in local narratives the breath of universality and the values that connect all human beings despite their differences.
We wish to give center stage to the idea of “truth” not as a static and unchanging concept but as a shared vision born out of negotiation and dialogue. In short, we wish to promote an idea of truth that everyone feels represented by and responsible for.
We conceive storytelling as an activity that enables people to connect with each other and share experiences and knowledge in space and time. As we see it, the ultimate goal is to create shared meaning and express our plural identities while building our future based on beauty, respect, and mutual understanding.
We acknowledge the complexity of the concept of identity — the dangers it entails, the misunderstandings it often causes, not to mention the manipulation attempts it underwent in different periods of history.
Rejecting any oversimplification, we use the word identity in the broadest sense of the term. We are aware that the dualities at the base of this concept — individual versus collective, past versus present, respect for tradition versus future change — sometimes appear irreconcilable. So, we define identity as a set of experiences that help us feel unique, aware, and authentic.
Far from supporting the idea that authenticity stems from the repetition of old narratives that never change in time, we believe that identity — whether personal or collective — results from our encounter with other people and our efforts to define ourselves and find our place in the world.
Therefore, we feel that an authentic sense of identity should be based on narratives that feed on relationships — the source of all learning and growth — and not on fragmentation, divisions, and hierarchies.
Finally, we want to emphasize that these encounters always happen between people and not between cultures. Cultures do not have an independent agency but result from experiences interpreted and transmitted by human beings.
With the word community, we refer to an aggregate of people who:
recognize themselves as having a common identity and as belonging to an entity more prominent than the individual;
share the same values concerning the sense of responsibility towards themselves, others, towards nature and all shared spaces;
pool their knowledge, abilities, and talents together to grow on the personal and collective levels;
perceive individual differences as a positive asset that promotes the unity of the group and stimulates a deeper level of awareness;
search an equilibrium between individual freedom and respect for the needs of other people, between the personal and the group dimensions;
offer support, protection, a listening ear, and reciprocal help, even to those passing through.
Ayzoh! World occurs through a variety of narrative tools. Each of these tools is designed to bring all stories and experiences to a level where they will transcend individuality, connect with the experiences of others, celebrate the integrity of every human being for passing on, and develop this community spirit.
By pooling together these experiences and making them available to all, the project encourages similar initiatives.
an interactive map designed to offer an engaging experience on all devices. It includes videos, reportages, audio files, and texts — which are geolocalized, linked together, and collected by topics that allow you to travel on the earth’s surface to discover the community spirit on our planet | explore the map
a newsletter and a magazine committed to sharing the stories of individuals and communities. The publication documents alternative and fringe perspectives ― on topics that revolve around social, ethical, educational, and financial challenges ― through iconic images married to inspirational words written by artists, humanists, scientists, and changemakers of all times (famous, emerging, or totally unknown) as well as through reportages, photo essays, and researches.
here you find collectible photographic prints, art books, posters, printed clothing, and accessories designed according to a practical and poetic sensibility.
We work mainly from Italy, Norway, Belgium, Ethiopia, France, Nigeria, Senegal, and Burkina Faso. We collaborate with the organizations, the local institutions, and the members of the communities involved.
Ayzoh! is a photo agency, an editorial lab, and a design studio. We work alongside the community builders: those who aim to create unity and not division, cooperation and not competition, dialogue and not argument, diversity and not homologation, innovation and not status quo
Our multi-disciplinary and nomadic team is made by professionals in media, design, arts, travel, and social sciences.
Amu Les Griots is a non-profit organization based in Belgium, with an associated cultural center in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, whose aim is to promote the Arts and the geographical and human cultural heritage of West African countries and the meeting of cultures.
Through our activities focused on rhythm, music, and dance, we create a space dedicated to social cohesion to develop a culture that integrates differences for good. An intergenerational area of well-being, solidarity, leisure, and social security. We also create and manage cultural projects, and we work to contribute to sustainable cultural tourism in West Africa.
Leratech Solutions is a web agency — based in Halden, Norway — specialized in web/mobile applications, interactive tools for communities, database management, and IT security.
Leratech Solutions’ journey began as a collective of students collaborating with some incubator companies of technology start-ups, learning from them and improving their online presence. Now the agency — grown and established — works to offer everyone the same opportunities it has enjoyed.
In the world of Herodotus, the only (or almost the only) repository of memory is the Man. If you want to know what has been memorized, you have to consult the Man. If this Man lives far away, we must set out, reach him, and, once found, sit down and listen to what he has to tell us. Listen carefully, memorize, maybe write down. This is how a reportage is born.
Herodotus, therefore, travels the world, meets other men, and listens to what they have to tell him. They reveal who they are. They tell their story. But how do they know who they are? What is their origin? They heard it from others, primarily from one’s ancestors.
In the same way that those have passed on their knowledge, they pass it on to others. Wisdom takes the form of stories. We sit around the fire and tell each other. Later those tales will be called myths and legends but, when you tell them or listen to them, you are convinced that they are pure truth, the most absolute reality.
People listen. The fire is burning. Someone adds more wood. The light and heat of the fire revive thought, stimulate the imagination. This flow of stories is almost inconceivable without a fire, a lamp, or a candle to illuminate the house. The light of the fire attracts and unites the group, releases positive energies. Flame and community. Flame and history. Flame and memory.
Heraclitus, older than Herodotus, considered fire to be the primordial substance, the beginning of all matter: like fire, says Heraclitus, everything is in perpetual motion, everything goes out to ignite again. Everything flows, but as it flows, it transforms.
The same happens to memory. Some images go out, replaced by new ones, with the difference that the new ones are no longer the same as before. Just as “you don’t get wet twice in the same river”, it is impossible for a new image to be identical to the previous one.
Ryszard Kapuściński, Traveling with Herodotus