Ignited passion

Melanie Akerboom

Project description

Alexandria and Port Alfred, South Africa

“I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realised I was somebody.“ – Lily Tomlin

Initially, my intention was to highlight social issues and solutions in Berlin as I think we too often tend to look at other countries when thinking about social and global issue – especially when it comes to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, due to a lack of time, I decided to contribute with images I took in South Africa between 2009-2010.

South Africa is a country I called “home” for more than 2,5 years. I choose the images from South Africa, because my experience in the country had such a big influence on me and my career after graduation. Something I only realised in retrospect.

I worked for most of my time over there in the community development department of a local university. Most of my work took place in the township. It gave me an authentic insight into the live, struggles and hopes of the local community – one that was so different to mine. I got exposed the first time to extreme poverty, social inequality and life in the townships (=informal settlements). You hear about and know about it, but it is different when you see and experience it at first hand.

What fascinated me throughout the years most was the positivity of the people and their entrepreneurial spirit. I wish I had captured that more in my images. People I met – community leaders, woman of co-operatives, entrepreneurs – were pro-active. They had to. They tried things out and started over with something else if they failed. They started businesses for the benefit of the community with the resources they had at hand. An old age home in a container. A school for disabled children who were previously neglected. A learning centre for street kids and school dropouts. A boxing club for at risk youth. Homestay accommodations (bed and breakfasts) to drive tourism in the region.

My experience in South Africa really changed the way I looked at business. I realised that there are people who start a business with the pure intention of having a positive impact on society. I realised business doesn’t necessarily need to be about profit maximisation. That ignited my interest and passion for entrepreneurship.

Profile picture Melanie Akerboom is a German freelancer who works as a lecturer, workshop facilitator & trainer for non-profit organisations & universities – all themed around social innovation & entrepreneurship. She is a portrait photographer by training, however her greatest interest lies in documentary & wildlife photography. With this project, she combines for the first time her passion for photography with her work focus. Her aim is to show a solution-oriented angle to the challenges of our time whilst also improving her photography skills.