“One Day, I Will” is an ongoing project by Vincent Tremeau, a photographer in Dakar, Senegal, who worked in the Central African Republic. Tremeau asked a number of children in four African countries – Mali, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic – the following question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” He asked the children to create and wear outfits of their chosen profession using whatever materials they owned.
The idea for the project was derived from Tremeau’s experience while on assignment in the Central African Republic. He found that children constantly surrounded him while he was working, sometimes 60 at a time, fascinated by his camera. After inquiring whether the children were attending school, Tremeau discovered that the school had been destroyed a year ago, and that the children were not receiving any education.
The answers of the children, which range from teacher to doctor, nurse, electrician, driver, and teacher, also reveal the presence of recent military conflict in each country. One of the boys photographed wanted to be a solider, telling Tremeau that “he wanted to grow up to fight the soldiers that had killed his brother.” Tremeau emphasizes the lasting impact of military violence in creating psychological issues in the children, stating that “If you don’t take care of the children today, you can be sure that they will keep [these] psychological issues inside of them, and this will have an impact on the next generation.”
The images are both heartbreaking and hopeful. The simplicity of the question touched on an aspect of the universal; at one point or another, perhaps each of us has been asked or at least has pondered the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answers, and more significantly, the reasons behind the answers, expose the surrounding environment, the positive and negative stressors affecting daily life, and the cultural tradition and societal expectation around that individual. Certainly, it can reflect the presence of conflict and trauma.
The “One Day, I Will” project underlines the significance of making education accessible and affordable for children. Additionally, the project reveals a glimpse of the future; Tremeau emphasizes that “it’s really important to be very careful about these youth, because they are in the next generation, they are the next leaders.” Investment in these children provides a foundation for the generations to come.
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