Let's Explore Empowerment with Steyn Hoogakker
Widespread misinformation and people’s increased mobility have led to the fragmentation and erosion of Indigenous communities. At the same time, some processes of globalisation have led to new opportunities for people to identify with those communities, and consequently to help them to take back some control over their own lives. This process can be linked to cultural and heritage tourism.
For a long time, tourism involving Indigenous communities was linked to the image of the ‘frightening savage’, but this has slowly been replaced by a view of Indigenous peoples as being ‘gentle and exotic’.
Having worked and lived extensively in various contexts in the Global South, Steyn Hoogakker began to develop a keen interest in documentary photography as a means to provoke a wider and more nuanced discussion around (mis)representation and foster dialogue and action around social and environmental injustices. Something he would refer to as visual-based activism, especially in conjunction with other media.
He founded iMPACT JOURNEY as a platform and project agency, to support visual storytellers around the world. in 2017 he co-founded a non-profit space for documentary photography with his sister, iMPACT DOC. They hosted various masterclasses, documentary screenings and co-curated exhibitions in Amsterdam and in international partnerships. Core to most of their activities was the bringing together of academics, journalists and visual artists. Not only to learn but also to co-create.
His work was recognised by several international media and institutions through awards, grants and publications. He is always on the lookout for new and unexpected collaborations between disciplines and cross-overs between media. None of the ‘visual projects’ was commissioned, but rather self-initiated and researched.
Steyn was born in the Netherlands (1986), where he studied Cultural Anthropology, Development Sociology (BSc) at the Radboud University Nijmegen and
Environmental Science (MSc) at the VU University Amsterdam. Currently, he is working as a PhD researcher in Human Geography at Loughborough University in the UK, exploring just energy transitions in urban informal settlements, or sometimes colloquially referred to as slums. Here, participatory research and co-production of visual stories are key.
A survey by a home insurance company recently showed young adults in the UK are increasingly concerned with how their lives appear online at a time when social shareability is gaining in importance. Explore further.
To understand the dilemmas of authenticity, take a look at ‘Laying Claim to Authenticity: Five Anthropological Dilemmas’ by Dimitrios Theodossopoulos.
Be Good To Your Soul, an ethnology of the Sakkudei people of Mentawai by anthropologist Reimar Schofield.
‘Frightened by the Eagle’ by Persoon and Schefold (2017). They perform rituals whose purpose is to restore the balance between the Mentawaian people and their living environment. Explore further.
The human being as a ceremonial animal is referred to as such by the philosopher Wittgenstein and later expanded by the anthropologist Wendy James.
Local dynamism and some form of cultural autonomy allowed Mentawaians to creatively incorporate foreigners’ views into notions of their own authenticity. Resulting in standardised activities in consultation with guides and, increasingly, international tour operators.
Find the documentary ‘The Sakuddei’ by Reimar Schefold (1974) here.
‘De-Constructing Wonderland: Surfing Tourism in the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia’ by Ponting, McDonald and Wearing (2013).
‘Thick description of culture’ was coined by the anthropologist Clifford Geertz in his 1973 essay ‘Thick description and the interpretation of culture’.
The self-documentation project opened up dialogues between the participants, the facilitating team, and the various Mentawaian generations present or included in the activities. Find a selection of their images.