Jessica Hagan is Africa No Filter’s Program Officer and leads on programs and grantmaking within the Arts & Culture and media space.
Jessica has firm knowledge on Africa’s booming creative industries and has over the years developed a database of creative practitioners, organizations and funders who contribute to this ecosystem. Through her previous role as Arts Project Manager for British Council Ghana & West Africa, Jessica is able use her on the ground Grant & Funding experience to develop and expand on ANF’s grantmaking strategy to ensure we are supporting and propelling groundbreaking narrative changemakers on the continent. She is also responsible for finding and connecting with new creative stakeholders to add our community. Jessica is also a multiple award-winning playwright and screenwriter. She talked to Capital about Africa No Filter’s grant awards to writers and medias is Africa. Excerpts;
Capital: You are a grant-making organization. Who are your focus group and why?
Jessica Hagan: Africa No Filter focuses on supporting storytellers within the Arts, Culture and Media Sector. Storytellers are the orchestraters of narratives; an influx of storytellers supporting one core narrative is what leads to a narrative change or shift. At Africa No Filter, we recognise that the continent is inundated with artists and creatives who, over the years, have taken ownerships of the lens they want Africa and Africans to be seen through and are using artistic mediums to achieve this. At Africa No Filter we acknowledge that the voice of these individuals and organisations within the Arts & Culture ecosystem is vibrant, contemporary and transcends beyond borders. For this reason, we actively seek to support these storytellers who are shifting narratives in alignment with our mission of leaving an empowered narrative on the continent.
Capital: You work to change the stereotypes of conflict, disease, poverty and poor leadership in Africa, How long do you think it will take to make real changes?
Jessica Hagan: I think we must be conscious about what we classify as ‘real change’ and what we dismiss as ‘not enough of a change’. Real change happens bit by bit, whether that’s in one person, one organisation or one country. We believe that with every individual or organisation we support to deliver and develop new work, change is made, and we are keen to continue to support storytellers in this manner. Narrative change work is on-going – even after we meet our goal of leaving an empowered narrative in Africa, work needs to be done to maintain it.
Capital: You are supported by different organisations that are not based in Africa and some are also involved in the stereotypes. Don’t you think this will affect you work?
Jessica Hagan: We are supported by organisations who are continually developing and evolving their business and social practices, which is important to recognise. Our funders and partners are passionate about Africa No Filter and our mission, which is why they have made it a priority to support us. We are glad to work with partners who understand that sometimes the best way to rectify the harm or damage caused is to support the on-the-ground organisations and experts already doing the work.
Capital: What are the grant types and how do you select the winners?
Jessica Hagan: We currently have two types of grants available:
Operational support grants – Our Operational support grants (up to $50,000) are awarded to organisations within the Arts, Culture and Media sector who are supporting contemporary and empowering narratives of Africa through programme delivery, job creation, residences, networking opportunities and training and capacity building for creatives, artists, journalists on the continent.
Project-Support Grants – Our project grants (up to $30,000) support the delivery of creative projects on the continent led by storytellers who are using art, innovation, tech and creativity to challenge stereotypical narratives about Africa.
We score and award our grants using a decision matrix system that looks at factors such as impact, vision, previous work, sustainability, project delivery and more. We also have the Africa No Filter Emerging Scholars Fellowship program to explore African narratives across a range of storytelling mediums across Africa. The research, which is co-funded by Facebook, will be conducted across mainstream media, social media, popular culture, the arts, donor publications, and educational materials. The program will unpack the prevailing Western narratives about the continent which depict Africans as lacking agency, dependent on wealthy countries and in need of fixing.
Capital: Can you tell us one of your successful projects you funded in the past?
Jessica Hagan: One of the most successful projects to come from Africa No Filter is our Fellows Programme which awarded 12 creatives from across the continent with a grant of $30,000 to deliver new work. Multiple award-winning photographer Mutua Matheka was able to develop and expand on his project ‘Unscrambling Africa’ which uncovers how to use, define and relate with our spaces in Africa. He travelled across the continent to explore how different or similar the cultures of urbanity are in different African cities, and shared this through photography. He has gone on to win multiple awards and has contributed greatly to how Africa is seen by both Africans and those outside of Africa.