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AMEN - grassroots football

(Art is all around – joy is round)

“Art is all around …” so begins Chris Spring’s comprehensive and encyclopedic view of contemporary African art (Angaza Afrika: African Art Now, 2008). In the introduction to this seminal text, which showcases work by African artists, Spring delves into his subject by pointing out a simple fact throughout not only the continent of Africa, but everywhere: “art is all around.”

(7 months/12,500 miles/10 countries)

Taken literally, this fact is proven in projects such as the one undertaken by Belgian photographer, Jessica Hilltout, in 2009-10 (AMEN – grassroots football), which coincided with the first playing of football’s biggest show, the World Cup, on African soil in 2010.

Football (soccer as we refer to it in the U.S.), originally introduced to Africa through European colonization, has been widely popularized throughout the continent and around the globe. In AMEN – grassroots football, Jessica Hilltout riffs off the colloquialism that football is likened to a religion in many countries. Taken further, similar to religious ideals, Hilltout (and others) maintain, “football is the most democratic sport in the world, as it is accessible to everyone.”

Traveling for seven months, 12,500 miles, and through 10 African countries, Hilltout engaged in a bartering system wherein she exchanged “ingenious little jewels” for store-bought balls and sporting equipment. Children would trade their homemade footballs, often made of found materials for pristine, new sports gear. Hilltout photographed the children with their creations, ending up with photo essays that culminated in her book – AMEN – grassroots football, which shares her project’s name.

In Hilltout’s lush visual journey of homemade footballs, the viewer easily tests the hypothesis (and truism) “art is all around” … see for yourself.

Youtube link: AMEN – A Tired Ball Speaks (photo essay featuring Somewhere over the Rainbow sung by Israel (IZ) Kamakawiwo’ole)


Youtube link: AMEN – Joy is Round (photo essay featuring Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus sung by Johnny Cash)


Youtube link: AMEN – grassroots football


AMEN – further links from Jessica Hilltout’s website (www.jessicahilltout.com)

-National Geographic. Joy is Round


-New York Times. To Those with Nothing, Soccer is Everything


-Eyemazing. The Amen Project - Meeting with Jessica Hilltout


-Mail & Guardian (S.A.) Temple of the Scuffed Boot


The Bulletin. None of FIFA’s Business


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