Finding images showing Africans in everyday situations to illustrate reports or websites is a challenge for African content creators. Many image banks exist and provide a large variety of photos but showing everyday Africans has been underrepresented on these platforms – until now.
Two young creators from the West African country of Benin, Aurelle Noutahi and Basile Barrincio, decided to fill the large gap, creating Iwaria, a stock photo platform that provides authentic and high-quality African images.
Even the name of the platform is an invitation to discover the continent. Iwaria is a contraction of Iwari, which means “Come to discover” in Yoruba, one of the most spoken languages on the continent, with the last ‘a’ representing Africa.
“Iwaria is entirely dedicated to Africa. Aurelle and I saw that it was not easy to find African photos to illustrate a blog article or make graphic designs,” Basile Barrincio, Iwaria’s Chief Technology Officer tells Africa Calling podcast.
“When you do find photos, the images don’t suit African contexts and environments and the models haven’t African physical characteristics,” he adds.
The photos include fields such as formal or informal work, nature, African cultures, African food, and startup companies in order to offer a wide choice for users.
“When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, there was a need for images that we tried to satisfy,” he says.
And it’s free, too
Iwaria currently has 500 contributors who share their images on the participative platform.
They are the first source of the images, but the Barrincio says the group also organises photo shoots to meet demand.
Based on the users’ stats of Iwaria, we identify topics our users need, organising photos shoots to feed the platform with these themes where the content is lacking,” says Barrincio.
The images are free and under the Creative Commons Zero license, which helps creators to find contextualised images for any kind of project: blogging, digital painting, graphic design, or journalism.
“It allows us to create fast content or more complex content to promote different brands -- it’s not exactly what we need in terms of variety but it is what we need in terms of quality,” says Olsen Agbodjan, Global Manager of cO Groupe, an advertising agency.
Other users, such as web developers, use Iwaria on a regular basis.
“As a web developer, I used to take images on stock photos that weren’t contextualised and appropriate -- my customers weren’t always satisfied when I used them,” says Happy Tidjani, a web developer in Porto Novo, the capital.
He had to use images that didn’t have Africans in everyday settings because he could not afford to pay for personalised photoshoots.
“I now have a place where I can search for the images to please my clients, who are Africans and need images that are specific to their cultures, to their usual environment, and the message they want to deliver on their website,” says Tidjani.