Everyday Projects Curriculum Lesson 6A

Everyday Projects Education Curriculum

Produced by Everyday Projects in partnership with PhotoWings

We’re excited to bring you a new curriculum created in partnership with The Everyday Projects!

The curriculum utilizes photography to encourage middle and high school students to learn about stereotypes, representation, journalism, and truth in storytelling.

Over the course of ten classroom sessions, students will gain a broader understanding of life around the world, and can then apply those lessons to their own lives and help control of the narrative of their own homes and communities. In the process, they will become more aware and discerning news consumers and global citizens while learning practical photography and journalism skills.

In doing this we help create new generations of storytellers and audiences that challenge stereotypes that distort our understanding of the world and recognize the need for multiple perspectives in portraying the cultures that define us.

Common Core Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.8: Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.3 Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.3 Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.

Teacher Preparation


This is an optional lesson. You can teach it (or parts of it) if you find it useful. This lesson ties together numerous concepts that the students have learned up to this point, all through exploring a single body of photography, the Everyday Africa book. We have recreated elements of the book here for students to learn from, and we have made an abridged PDF version of the book for this lesson.

Note that the Parts of this lesson are arranged in order by appropriate age range. Part 1 is likely useful and interesting for all ages. Part 2 is slightly more difficult, but still likely useful for all ages, especially as it may help students prepare for their class exhibition. Part 3 may only be useful for older students.

Online Media:

Lesson 6A: Putting it all together: investigating images, contextual information, and public comments in a book format

Part 1: 40 minutes
Part 2: 30 minutes
Part 3: 45 minutes
(See note below on the different parts of this lesson and their relevance for different age groups)

Learning Objectives
Students will:

  • Analyze comments on Everyday Africa photos from Instagram and, in the process, think through their own perceptions of other places

  • Consider image choices from the Everyday Africa book and why the authors thought these would best convey their narratives for an outside audience

  • Analyze the written introductory and afterword essays from the Everyday Africa book


Part 1 is for students of any age.

Photo of Kadunua, Nigeria by Tom Saater; Kampala, Uganda by Edward Echwalu; and Lagos, Nigeria by Glenna Gordon

In this section, we look at some of the comments that Instagram users have left on Everyday Africa photos, as a means of exploring people’s unfiltered, off-the-cuff responses to these photographs. These comments reveal the perceptions (and misperceptions) that many people around the world hold of Africa and the people living there.


As Stephen Mayes writes in his afterword essay to the book (more on this in Part 3), “Approaching Everyday Africa with misaligned expectations is disconcerting, much like looking through a telescope from the objective lens instead of the eyepiece. ‘Where did everything go? Where is the Africa I know from every other photograph I’ve seen?’ This frustrated expectation is revealed in the anguished comments of Instagram viewers seeking to impose old world order on new world imagery.”

Looking at these comments with your students will help you discuss cross-cultural dialogue and help the class examine their own preconceived notions.

Step 1. Discuss the comments.

1. Project this page onto a screen for your class so that the students can see the photographs below. Have students look at the photographs and captions and form their own opinions about what they are seeing, just as they would if viewing this photographs on social media. (You can click on each photo to enlarge it for easier viewing.)

2. Click on the orange text to reveal the Instagram commentary for each image. The expanded section also includes discussion questions to guide a class discussion.

3. If you want to go through this section quickly, you could choose 3 to 5 of the examples below, instead of doing all eight.

A little girl takes her bath before going to school in the morning in Ada, Ghana. Photo by Nana Kofi Acquah.

Instagram comments and discussion questions


1: It’s a beautiful picture- sad context...

2: Why is it Sad? She is bathing, has clean water to do so, is in the sunshine, and heading to school!!! Please stop assuming that because life looks different than yours it is tragic! with all respect!

Nana Kofi Acquah: I used to bath like this when I was a kid. It is nice when the sun is out. We never thought of it as poverty. It really was fun.


  • What do you think of the conversation above?
  • Do you think the photograph is sad?

  • Why do you think the photographer of this image, Nana Kofi, wanted to point out that he never thought of bathing like this as poverty?

Members of a local troupe dance at the exit of their performance at Athlone Stadium during the traditional Cape Town Minstrel Carnival in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Charlie Shoemaker.

Instagram comments and discussion questions


1: WAIT A SEC.... I’m almost 100% sure, dude in front of that pic is Mexican, haha. Just being observant.. Haha..

2: LOL...... it’s probably the first time a Cape Coloured is mistaken for a Mexican!!

Charlie Shoemaker: The man you are referring to is 100% South African. South Africa is the home to many different ethnic groups that bring an extremely large and diverse look to its population.


  • Can we know where a person is from just by looking at them?
  • What assumptions were made by the person who thought the person in this photograph is Mexican rather than South African?
  • Did you realize that South Africa is so diverse?

Ginika is on her way to join thousands of Nigerian law graduates being called to the bar in Abuja, Nigeria. Photo by Tom Saater.

Instagram comments and discussion questions


1: looking good

2: ...this system of wearing white wigs is so ludicrous, though

3: U go girl

4: Let the wigs go!

5: Congrats, but why not get rid of the old colonial throwback wigs.

6: The the colonial wig only serves to remind you of the subjugation of your nation in the past

7: Forget about the wig for now (another time) & focus on the amazing accomplishment of this young woman. You go, Girl!

8: Congratulations to you Ginika and to the other graduates. So much hard work to get to this point. And now positions of importance and a real potential for change. A very poignant image.


  • Do you understand why people are upset about Ginika wearing a wig?

  • What do you think, should people comment about the historical implications of this photograph or just celebrate Ginika's accomplishment? Can they do both?

A woman carries a load on her back in Bukavu, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Jana Ašenbrennerová.

Instagram comments and discussion questions


1: Beautiful

2: I love this shot

3: This is greaaat

4: Oh yeah, great? To see her struggle,to see her carry that load on her own. Maybe a nice idea for your sisters or mothers? If it was in Europe, people would be outraged coming from the supermarket like this.


  • What do you think, is it ok to comment on the quality of a photograph (calling it "beautiful" or "great") when the person in the photograph is having a difficult time?

  • What do you think of the commenter's point that we might view this photograph differently if it were a European person instead of a Congolese person?

  • Why do you think the photographer, Jana, made and shared this photograph?

Valentine’s Day in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by Andrew Esiebo.

Instagram comments and discussion questions


1: Looks like America

2: I’d have guessed it was the local dollar store...& that makes me sad.


  • Does this look like a familiar scene to you?

  • Why do you think one commenter is sad to see that it looks like "the local dollar store"?

A young woman measures out boiled groundnuts for a customer from a tray she carries on her head in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by Allison Shelley.

Instagram comments and discussion questions


1: my favorite snack in the whole wide world!

2: One of my favorite treats on my favorite tray! I always buy these classic trays as gifts ! #madeinnigeria

3: favorite snack when am sitting in traffic

4: can’t wait to experience that when I come visit!

5: Boiled with salt!

6: Yummm !!!


  • Why do you think the commenters are so excited to see their favorite snack appear on Instagram?

An aerial view of Bosaso, the economic capital of Puntland, northeastern Somalia. Photo by Nichole Sobecki.

Instagram comments and discussion questions


1: No high rises on this shore. Simple beauty.

2: Wonderful luv my city ♥


  • What do you think of this photograph and this city? How do your thoughts compare with the comments?

Welcome to the jungle in the concrete city of Lagos. Lekki Conservation Centre, Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by Andrew Esiebo.

Instagram comments and discussion questions


1: I have visited this wonderful, breath of fresh air in Lagos- amazingly well managed, glorious miracle amongst the hustle and bustle of the mega city!


  • Does it surprise you to learn that this scene is in the middle of an enormous city?

Step 2. Match the comments.

1. Project this page onto a screen so that the class can see the photographs below, as well as the row of Instagram comments. (You can click on each photo to enlarge it for easier viewing.)

2. Have the class try to match which photograph goes with which comment. Can they reach a class consensus? Can the students articulate the reasoning behind their guess?

3. Click on the orange text to reveal the answers. The expanded section also includes discussion questions to guide a class discussion.

1. A couple looks at wedding dresses in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo by Whitney Richardson.

2. I am en route to Juba. This family is en route to Mogadishu. Nairobi airport, Kenya. Photo by Shannon Jensen Wedgwood.

3. The Citydia supermarket Santa takes a break from sitting on his red velvet throne outside the store and strolls through the aisles in Dakar, Senegal. Senegal always gets into Christmas decorations despite the fact that more than 90% of the population is Muslim. This Santa’s real name is Idi, and he is Muslim. Photo by Ricci Shryock.

4. People on top of Signal Hill look at a cloud wall, caused by a cold front coming off the Atlantic Ocean, approaching Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Charlie Shoemaker.

5. Jump rope in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau. Photo by Holly Pickett.

6. As the sun goes down, people return home. Here, a boy carries produce from a field in Kalomba, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Jana Ašenbrennerová.

Correct answers and discussion questions:

1D, 2C, 3E, 4F, 5A, 6B

Discussion questions:

  • Why might some photographs of Africa evoke an emotion of pity of in the viewer or spark a desire to help?

  • Why do you think one person looked at photo 2, of a family in an airport, and said that they want to improve African countries?

  • Why do you think one person looked at photo 5, of kids playing jump rope, and said that Africans are treated horribly? What do you feel when you look at this photo?

  • Why do you think it was important for the commenter on photo 4 to assert that not all Africans “live in the Africa they show on CNN”?

  • Why do you think it was important for the commenter on photo 6 to say that “success and happiness mean different things to different people around the world”?

Part 2: Editing and sequencing – 30 minutes

Part 2 is a bit more difficult, but still likely useful for all ages, especially as it may help students prepare for their class exhibition.

Photo of Kokrobite, Ghana by Nana Kofi Acquah; Monrovia, Liberia by Glenna Gordon; and Accra, Ghana by Nana Kofi Acquah

In Lesson 6, students started learning how put a series of photographs into a sequence to create a narrative. Further exploration of this topic will help them prepare to create their own class exhibition to end The Everyday Projects unit.

The Everyday Africa book PDF includes the first two photography chapters from the original book. Have students look through these two chapters, pp.21-64 and pp.74-112, and then discuss the questions below as a class.

Discussion questions:

  • What types of moments do you see in the photographs? What themes did the authors choose to include?

  • What themes did you see in chapter one (pp.21-64) versus chapter 2 (pp.74-112)?

  • Why do you think the authors may have selected certain images?

  • Why do you think the authors chose the sequence of image that they did?

  • Did any specific photographs stand out to you? Why?

  • Did any specific transitions from one photograph to the next stand out to you? Why?

  • Do you feel that the authors engaged with stereotypical depictions of Africa? Did the authors break away from stereotypical images of Africa? Both? Why?

  • Are there any photographs that challenge your prior understanding of life on the African continent? Do all of the photos do that, or just some of them?

  • Why do you think the editors chose sometimes to have one image alone on facing pages, and other times selected two images to face each other?

  • Africa is an enormous continent with 54 countries. Why do you think it was important for the editors to show everyday life in a variety of countries in a project like Everyday Africa?

  • How might viewing this selection of photography inform your plans to create your class exhibition? How does it impact your understanding of the Everyday project that you are creating for your own home town or region?


❖ Teacher Note

❖ Photo editing and sequencing can be very subjective (much like photography itself, and much like any form of art or storytelling). The goal of this exercise is not to get your students to arrive at a "correct" answer. Instead, it is to generate discussion, providing them with food for thought that will inform their decision-making as they continue their work and, very soon, curate their own class exhibition.

PART 3: a deeper look at history, photography, and the search for “all the stories” – 45 MINUTES

Part 3 may only be useful for older students.

Consider the passages below. Taken from four essays in the book, these passages distill what Everyday Africa — the book and the project as a whole — is about.

The essays, in their entirety, are included in the Everyday Africa book PDF, and we encourage you to read them but for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll focus on the passages cited here.

The passages are divided into four sections, by author. Following each section there are a few questions for students to consider. Once they have responded, feel free to allow the passages and the students’ responses to prompt a class-wide discussion. You can also use the the Lesson 6.5 Activity Document, which has the same passages and the same discussion questions, if you would like to have students write a response instead of / in addition to a class discussion.

Photo of Nakuru, Kenya by Malin Fezehai; Kampala, Uganda by Edward Echwalu; and Lagos, Nigeria by Andrew Esiebo

From “On Illusion and the Ordinary,” by Maaza Mengiste:

“...as I look at one image after the other, it is the word ‘ordinary’ that keeps circling back. Here is a sunset. Here is a female boxer training. There is a DJ spinning at a nightclub. Friends gathered in a dimly lit bar. A sly cow staring back at the camera. Girls playing in a field. Marching bands. Car rides. Homework. Families. Rooftops. What is here but everyday life, frozen and captured before moving on and leaving the rest of us behind?”

“…a picture is separated from its larger meaning. A photo shows us a moment that has been torn away from its place in time and history. It, too, is not without its flaws. When we look at a picture, we cannot always know what it is we are seeing, until we understand what has been excluded from the frame. Until we know what time has wrought. We cannot look at something striking … without also interrogating the context for its existence.”

“What is absent are those things experienced before this, all those parts of history that reside perhaps most powerfully in the territory of the mind, in memory … Image is layered, nuanced by what it is we cannot see. But what it is we are seeing quite plainly. Normalcy has come back, the ordinary is here, every day can be like any other. But this image is reminding us of something else: Not everything stops just because something else begins, despite what the news might imply in certain images, despite what some might insist as they showcase particular stories of Africa…”

Discussion questions:

  • What is important about Mengiste’s use of the term “ordinary,” and how are photographs that depict “ordinary” things different from what you usually see in photography and photojournalism?

  • Why is it important to think about what has been “excluded from the frame” — the things the photographer chose not to include in an image?

Photo of Nairobi, Kenya by Nichole Sobecki; northwest Rwanda by Sara Terry; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by Malin Fezehai

From “The Africa Photographer, the Camera, and Home,” by Nana Kofi Acquah:

“Photography came to Africa as part of colonialism. Missionaries often used photographs to solicit support from churches and organizations back home, while colonialists used them for strategic and propaganda purposes. Due to the harsh climate of tropical Africa and the slow and difficult processes involved in making images like the daguerreotype and calotype, early photographs of Africa tended to have fewer people in them. But the Brownie, introduced in 1900, changed all that. Even though it was not immediately embraced by professional photographers, the Brownie allowed Westerners to make photographs of people due to its portability and relative ease of use. Today, of course, camera technology has revolutionized photography for us all, making the craft accessible in ways it never was before. Meanwhile, African photographers’ use of this technology has created a revolution all its own, producing work that is unrecognizable alongside that of the colonizers.”

“The main reason for the drastic change in how young Africans interact with photographs is social media. It is not uncommon to see selfie-sticks popping up in some of the remotest parts of Africa. Easy access to the Internet and mobile phones has made such platforms as Instagram and Facebook very popular. For the professional African photographer, the mobile phone and social media afford them the fastest route to recognition, granting access to new audiences and markets that were totally shut to them in the past. This new audience is mainly a curious one—a world that is surprised to see that Africa is nothing like what they saw in the Tarzan movies and many others like them.

The Everyday Africa platform on Instagram may very well be the biggest new visual library of the continent. To task African photographers—collaborating here with discerning Westerners—with the burden of changing how the continent is perceived through photography might be overwhelming, but they are nonetheless putting together the pieces of a new puzzle, a picture of the real Africa. For the West, Everyday Africa has been enlightening, but for Africans, especially Africans in the diaspora, it has been inspiring: an affirmation of what they have always said about home.”

Discussion questions:

  • In what ways did the difficulties of early photography encourage some of the harmful stereotypes of Africa that persist today?

  • How have innovations in technology impacted not only the ways in which the people and countries of Africa have been represented in photographs, but the people who are making the images?

Photo of Lagos, Nigeria by Allison Shelley; Stone Town Zanzibar by Sam Vox; and Cape Town, South Africa by Barry Christianson

From “All the Stories,” by Austin Merrill and Peter DiCampo:

“We must hear all the stories... And by hearing all the stories we will find in fact points of contact and communication, and the world story, the Great Story, will have a chance to develop.” -Chinua Achebe

“Everyday Africa began with a photograph of a man in an elevator. But it was born of images much older than that. Photos of famine and warlords and victims of AIDS. Genocide, gaudy corruption, and children holding guns or with bloated bellies and flies gathered around their faces. Bare-breasted women with bundles balanced on their heads. Lavishly pierced noses and lips, bodies painted with mud or covered by masks. Men and women bowed in servitude to their colonial enslavers, laborers yoked and chained and lashed with whips.

Many of these images told important stories that forced the world to reckon with long-ignored realities. Others were little more than a colonization of the African narrative, an objectification of the exotic. Taken together, these themes came to define the continent for the West, leaving a picture of Africa that was exaggerated and oversimplified, inaccurate in its incompleteness. We knew not of scholars bent at their desks, of shopkeepers tallying receipts, of architecture, theater, or high fashion, of dinners at home, adults commuting to work, or children at play with their friends. We saw the sunsets, yes, and the majestic animals on safari, but these, too, fed a cliché. As did the smiles—the depictions of people who seemed to have been intentionally photographed in poses of happiness, as if to marvel at the way they were able to rise up against all odds, defiant in their squalor.

The concept behind Everyday Africa is a simple one—sharing photographs of everyday life to combat the stereotypes that dominate stories coming out of the continent.”

Discussion questions:

  • Re-read the quote from Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian writer. Now that you’ve seen photographs from Everyday Africa, can you think of things in your life that you have in common with some of the people and places depicted in the Everyday Africa images?

  • Everyday Africa features images of normal life that avoid stereotype. But what about conflict, corruption, poverty, etc — is it important to see these kinds of stories as well?

Photo of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo by Ley Uwera; Nairobi, Kenya by Nichole Sobecki; and Harare, Zimbabwe by Charlie Shoemaker

From “Everyday Tomorrow,” by Stephen Mayes:

“...the online stream quietly yet insistently subverts expectations of what is noteworthy and remark- able about Africa and indeed the very nature of photography and how we’re used to seeing the world through the lens of a camera. In this book, the everyday is bound and made collectible in a process that imbues the most ordinary events and images with significance that may not yet be visible, but which to these same eyes in twenty years will look completely different. It’s a rare opportunity for our future selves to look back at a way of seeing that will have disappeared, as online platforms evolve into new forms or succumb to pressures that force them dark.

What will we see with these eyes of the future, as we look back at the casual observations gathered here from the cities, towns, and villages of early twenty-first century Africa? The beauty of the images will survive, and that will suffice to satisfy many; for that alone this book will have a justified place in history. For the more curious who delve into the comments pulled from the live Instagram experience, there may be astonishment that an iPad in the hands of a schoolchild in Ghana could cause such surprise, or that three women carrying produce through a Kigali street could lead to a discussion of truth versus reality. These are everyday circumstances that, in the context of their original publication, reflected the co-existence of traditional and modern practices across the continent and simultaneously exposed prejudices and sensitivities fostered by decades of postcolonial media. Historians opening this book will see evidence of how the mobile phone camera changed popular understanding of the world, shaping knowledge and attitudes in ways that weren’t immediately obvious as the changes were happening. Everyday Africa brings all these phenomena to the fore, and the book exposes them like a flare that illuminates a brief moment, allowing scrutiny even as the images on the feed fade away.”

“Approaching Everyday Africa with misaligned expectations is disconcerting, much like looking through a telescope from the objective lens instead of the eyepiece. ‘Where did everything go? Where is the Africa I know from every other photograph I’ve seen?’ This frustrated expectation is revealed in the anguished comments of Instagram viewers seeking to impose old world order on new world imagery. A child bathing in a puddle must represent poverty and can’t only be seen as a specific child’s enjoyment as they play in water (which, understood as a detail of individual experience, is common to rich and poor around the world). Our perspective has been so distorted by decades of strictly formatted media reporting on Africa that sometimes we can no longer see what we’re looking at.

The use of stereotype to tell the story of many by telling the story of a single symbolic figure has bred a blindness to the individual, and the legacy of this media trope is a confused tangle of conflicting perceptions. In the old way individuals are obscured because they are seen to represent the lives of others. Removing the expectation of stereotype reveals individuals in a more personal light. In fact, symbols of distress that are traditionally assigned by photojournalists are not necessarily evident in the everyday lives of even the most anxious people—to an eye trained to seek cues of despair, significant social issues may not be apparent at all. It takes careful study to find refugees in these pages, or the hardship of unemployment, or the impact of HIV, homelessness, or homophobia, but it’s all here amidst the wedding anniversaries, shopping lines, and bathers. Stress and distress mingle with joy and fulfillment because they are embodied in the same people. The limitation of traditional reporting has been to assign a single role to each individual, whereas in life we each know many roles.

On Instagram, Everyday Africa contains all these experiences side by side in a narrative that is confused and coherent all at once, with neither beginning nor end, looking much like life itself. Delighting in the moment, each online image exists only in the present as part of the endlessly rolling river of Instagram impressions. Each new post is carried down that river, soon out of sight and out of mind, an unusually titillating flotsam that stays with us only long enough for a quick “like” or hashtag before the next provocation arrives.”

“With all of this wrapped between the covers of this book, Everyday Africa makes a simple but emphatic statement: The truth is rarely pure and never simple, and we do ourselves a disservice by allowing others to distill complicated reality into easy summaries. It is our responsibility to look, think, and learn. Hopefully, our future eyes will look at this with new wisdom and consider it to be a pure and simple truth.”

Discussion questions:

  • Mayes writes about the expectations people have when looking at photographs made in Africa, expectations born of stereotypes that represent “the story of many by telling the story of a single symbolic figure.” What would people expect if they were to look at photographs of your life? Are there elements of your daily life that could fit into stereotypes? How could you make images about your life and/or community that would tell a more complete and true story?

  • How do you think people will think of Africa in 100 years? Will the continent still be burdened by the stereotypes that are so prevalent today? Is it possible that photography could help change this trajectory?

This curriculum is produced by Everyday Projects, and presented in partnership with PhotoWings.