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 Nelly Ating

Nelly Ating

Research student,


I’m a PhD candidate at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism Media and Culture as part of an ESRC funded Doctoral Training Partnership with Amnesty International. In addition to my research journey at Cardiff University, I am a photojournalist who focuses on questions of identity, education, extremism, and migration.


Research interests

My research specialism is visual culture and audience engagement in the political and social spheres. My PhD research examines Amnesty International’s digital and physical archive to understand the role of photography in a range of humanitarian media campaigns from the 1960s to the present. 

I approach my research from an insider perspective with analysis informed by creative qualitative methods. My research aims to contribute to critical advances in human rights activism, visual culture, contemporary photography, and humanitarian media campaigns.


Photographic Representation of Popular Amnesty’s Prisoners of Conscience from Africa in the ‘60s

This study begins by examining two key political prisoners whom Amnesty adopted as prisoners of conscience in the '60s, Wole Soyinka from Nigeria and Nelson Mandela from South Africa. Whereby each individual case study represents the historical and cultural contextual underpinning of an era of the Biafran conflict in Nigeria and the Anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa. Interrogating the central narrative that these photographs carry in light of the tension in those countries during the reign of decolonisation.

Though Nigeria gained independence in 1960, Wole Soyinka's condemnation of the Biafran conflict in 1968 led to his detention. Meanwhile, in South Africa, the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 incited Nelson Mandela to abandon non-violent resistance toward anti-apartheid which led to his arrest. In both countries, Amnesty raised concerns about human rights abuse through reports and letter exchanges which formed their base as one of the first human rights advocacy groups to begin work in Africa in the '60s. As a result of the conflict in both countries, there was a spectacle of suffering framed on Nigeria and the issue of racial segregation in South Africa gained global awareness. Some of the images that were captured from these incidents circulated in different parts of the world. They particularly gained traction in the British press as a former colonial master. Despite handing back power to Nigeria the photographs, letters, and reports in circulation objectified a particular way of seeing history that continued to metaphorise Britain as a saviour. Interrogating the representation of these African prisoners of conscience in the media, shifting between martyrdom and victimhood, addressing which narrative was dominant.

Also explore the memory recollection associated with the key accompanying photographs of these events captured by British photographers, Ian Berry and Don McCullin, who covered both the South African massacre and the Biafran conflict, yielding affective responses from the British public still present across pre-existing digital databases. To formally acknowledge its invitation, I present the photographs as objects of social power and evidence in history.  Challenging the unpopular presence of indigenous African photographers in the construction of evidence in Africa's history. This study contributes to the understanding of human rights advocacy campaigns in Africa and dominant representation in the media.  

Funding source

ESRC (Economic Social Research Council)


Tom Allbeson

Dr Tom Allbeson

Senior Lecturer in Media History


Dr Kerry Moore

Senior Lecturer