Sometimes you see a perfect work of art and it’s like sunlight breaking through a storm. You wonder, how can bad art exist when this does?
Likewise, when Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg — two of the greatest activists of our age — met at Oxford University and took a photograph together, it almost felt like this was the first photo ever taken.
Greta is in Britain to join a school strike in Bristol on Friday, and joined Malala at Lady Margaret Hall, the college where she studies, to talk about their activism.
Malala was just 17 when she became the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize — the same age as Greta now, for an award she’s also been nominated for — after she was shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating that all girls should be able to go to school. Meanwhile Greta has sparked a global climate movement with her #FridaysForFuture school strikes.
One was named TIME Person of the Year, the other has a literal asteroid named after her. After a while it’s hard to work out which person wrote the bestselling autobiography, and which one featured on a track by the 1975.
Separately, the activists are like lighthouses: beacons that can help guide us towards hope. Together, they represent an alternative future, something so tangible it feels like the world could almost be on the cusp of it.
And in one frame — two of the planet’s most extraordinary human beings, hanging out on a no doubt soon-to-be placarded bench — it might just showcase the potential of humanity with as much understated awe as the accidental first photograph of an exploding star.
“This photo was just the most joyful thing I've seen on my Twitter feed in a long time,” said Zoe Kelland, Global Citizen’s digital campaigns director — and perhaps Malala’s biggest fan. “In a world that can often feel dark and divided, being reminded that there are young women out there leading such powerful movements for good is just a glorious thing.”
“Can we get weekly updates on this new friendship?” she added.
She’s the only friend I’d skip school for. pic.twitter.com/uP0vwF2U3K— Malala (@Malala) February 25, 2020
It wasn’t just Global Citizen that got a bit excitable either. The posts trended on pretty much every platform, and showcased the global adoration held for the two young women.
While one user called them the “epitome of revolutionaries”, another described the photo as a “case for hope.” Even television provocateur Piers Morgan tweeted the photo and hailed the pair as the “two most influential young women of my lifetime.”
Here’s some of our favourite reactions. Love you forever, Greta and Malala.
Reason unlimited why I love this place. I walk out my door, up one street and see @Malala and @GretaThunberg talking outside. Two powerful young women standing for justice, truth and equality for all. So many, are so grateful, for all that you do. Keep shining bright.— Dr. Jennifer Cassidy (@OxfordDiplomat) February 25, 2020
📸: Malala pic.twitter.com/vCZaFfSTXx
Honoured to host @gretathunberg at @lmhoxford today. grateful she found time to talk to some of our students about science, voting, the limits of protest, divestment, real zero v net zero, and much more pic.twitter.com/FjcNEQDTci— alan rusbridger (@arusbridger) February 25, 2020