Muntaka Chasant is a Ghanaian independent researcher and professional documentary photographer based in Accra, Ghana.
His photographic practices and research interests straddle human geography and environmental sociology. Firmly grounded in ethnographic field research, Muntaka’s work lies mainly at the intersection of urban marginality, geographies of waste, and emerging environmental issues — including the ‘three planetary crises’ of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.
Marginalities & Mobilities
In framing everyday Accra, my work foregrounds the proliferation of urban struggles and evokes traces of urban memories. Drawing on my own ethnographic fieldwork, I show the hidden geographies of Accra’s urban youth. Examples: youth boxing as a catalyst for upward social mobility in coastal Jamestown and hazardous child labour along the banks of the Korle, where struggles and dreams intersect.
I draw on Edward Soja’s spatial justice theory to emphasize locational discrimination on the urban frontline.
Approaching from intersectional perspectives, I document fragile urban frontiers by engaging notions like urban form, precarious urbanisms, urban futures, belonging, and emblematic sites of memory. I then turn my attention towards the harsh and constraining realities on the margins to reveal/depict urban struggles/biographical narratives.
I also frequently ground my practices — in documenting sacrifice zones — within the framework of Rob Nixon’s slow violence to show youth on the frontlines of toxic exposures in the urban global south.
Mobility is an important factor for framing urban marginalities.
For me, this means crucially looking at mobility practices in zones of precarity. One way I’m doing this is by documenting the entangled mobilities of informal networks. I care about how these categories are circulated in research and media. My hope, I guess is that this photo-ethnographic approach would facilitate/offer some kind of stability to the binary notion of the center and the margin.
What are the different scenarios for urban futures?
While the photo below may look mundane, it enriches our image of processes of bordering and marginalization.
For me, Wacquant’s theory of advanced marginality proposes a way of vizualizing concentrated poverty areas like the small part of Old Fadama above — illustrating a lack of provision of proper infrastructure as a spatial injustice — as an identified, bounded, isolated, and impoverished territory.
Key urban actors have often perceived a place such as Old Fadama as some sort of “social purgatory,” — as Wacquant put it.
But basic infrastructure and services in Ghana, for instance, are guaranteed and delivered by the state. Lack of access to these basic infrastructures and services affects health, housing, education, and even food security. Thus, for me, the urban poor cannot be responsible for the conditions under which they live.
These theoretical tools frequently guide how I frame my subjects/groups/people — in a way that prods the viewer to rethink urban inequality and reimagine a place such as Old Fadama as a site of spatial injustice.
Consequently, my urban photographic practices explore the representation of marginal(ized) populations, spatial production, center-margin relations, micro-level of everyday encounters in contested cities, sacrifice zones, critical urban theory, and how exclusionary logics materialize.
My motivation is to contribute to the contemporary debates about justice, space, and the city.
Having spent a great deal of my young adult life wandering through some of the world’s most extreme places, I am dedicating the rest of my youth on the urban and rural frontlines — to anchor my practices to contemporary and emerging realities. To dig into the zigzagging trenches of environmental struggles and the sagas of youth demanding the future.
Feel free to reach out via the form below or get in touch at hello[at]muntaka.com. I will be in touch within 72 hours.
Good luck and stay safe!