Looking through the lens of African women
PUBLISHED: 13:27 27 September 2011
Forget everything you think you know about African photography — if you know anything - a new exhibition in Norwich will open your eyes to a different perspective. SIMON PARKIN reports.
Reflections on the Self, a new touring exhibition from the Hayward Gallery, at the Norwich University College of the Arts, casts a completely new lens on the continent, presenting women’s visual narratives, as told through self-portraits and portraits of other women.
Five photographers, Hélène Amouzou, Majida Khattari, Zanele Muholi, Senayt Samuel and Nontsikelelo Veleko, engage with issues such as identity, sexuality and displacement, and their work often overturns stereotypical ex-pectations.
The photographers are women whose views of the world have been shaped by their own experiences in Africa and the African diaspora across Europe and beyond.
Hélène Amouzou created her series of self-portraits, Between the Wallpaper and the Wall, during a 10 year period whilst she was in limbo in Belgium waiting for her identity papers. Using double-exposure and movement to blur or dissolve her image, she leaves ghostly traces that seem on the verge of disappearance.
Morocco artist, designer and photographer Majida Khattari, who now lives and works in France, challenges the stigma of the veil and preconceived ideas about Muslim women. Her pictures explore sensuality and desire, evok-ing Orientalist paintings, and making visual play with the veiled or partially concealed body.
South African Zanele Muholi’s work looks at women’s experiences and histories, particularly black lesbian identities. Fellow South African Nontsikelelo Veleko captures alternative youth fashion, focusing on funky and provoca-tive street style.
Meanwhile Senayt Samuel, who settled in London after her family’s deportation from Ethiopia, has produced self-portraits exploring the notion of framing and mirrored reflections.
Reflections on the Self is curated by Christine Eyene, who said: “Ranging from the beauty contest, street fashion and the veiled body in Orientalist paintings, the imagery here acts as a means of thinking about the ‘self’, both as subject and as object. These photographs reveal some of the ways in which women see themselves, and also how the female gaze is informed by the politics of representation.”
■ Reflections on the Self: Five African Women Photographers is at the NUCA Gallery in St George’s Street, Norwich, from September 27-October 15, Tues-Sat 12pm-5pm, free admission, 01603 610561.