The Big Issue : Edition 564
THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 15–28 JUN 2018 21 XXX XXX XXX XXX JESSICA HILLTOUT IS not a sports photographer. Rather than being drawn to the drama and action of players on the field, the Belgian says she is more fascinated by “small things made beautiful”. And, while travelling throughout the African continent, that small, beautiful thing was handmade footballs. The people she met were determined to play soccer, and they just made do with what they had. “Football is the only sport where all you need to play is another pair of feet to pass to and something that is relatively round,” says Hilltout. “That can go from a stone, to handmade footballs, to a football that deflates every 20 minutes. It can be played on a terrain as small as one square metre. Whatever you have, or don’t have, you can play football.” Hilltout, who spent the first five years of her life in South Africa, borrowed an old VW Beetle from her father, who still lives there, and started driving through Mozambique, Lesotho, South Africa and Malawi, taking photos along the way. Later, by plane, she visited Ghana, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin and Niger. With so much focus on South Africa hosting the World Cup in 2010, Hilltout wanted to show the other side of the game. “Football is an essential on the African continent,” she explains. “Far away from the lights, the projectors and the money and everything that the World Cup has become, there are the people who manage to do so much with so little.” She gushes about the pride of the people she met, the ingenuity when it came to making a football game possible in the unlikeliest of circumstances, and the commitment. She talks about people getting up at 4am so they can train before work, and people walking for three days to get to a match in a local village. “I don’t think people realise – if you take football away from Africa you take away... I mean it’s like water and bread. It’s an essential of life, it’s a way for people to have fun, it brings them together; it’s a part of everyday life,” she says. She hopes that her photographs, now published in a book called Amen, can give people a perspective into the less glamorous, but just as important, world of soccer. As the foreword to the book says: “In Africa, football is not a religion. But it is everything a religion should be... Amen.” by Katherine Smyrk (@KSmyrk), Deputy Editor » See more at jessicahilltout.com.