Eclectic Grounds

conflicts and conversation

Photography and “Normal” Africa

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I came across an interesting article by Okwui Enwezor on the power of photography in Africa. Enzewor laments that our image of Africa is shaped by Western photography, which “seems often to evoke pathological images of disease, corruption and poverty”:

“No other cultural landscape has had a more problematic association with the photographic medium: its apparatus, various industries, orders of knowledge, and hierarchies of power. The act of photographing Africa has often been bound up with a certain conflict of vision: between how Africans see their world and how others see that world. In a way, this is a clash of lenses, a struggle to locate and represent Africa by two committed but disparate sensibilities — one intensely absorbed in its social and cultural world, the other passing through it, fleetingly, on one assignment or another.”

Okwui Enwezor is curator of “Snap Judgements”, an exhibition of contemporary African photography. It was presented in 2006 in Miami. Here is a slideshow of some of the photographs that are part of the exhibition.

The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung recently had an online photo gallery that presented the pity, infantilisation and paternalism Enwezor brings up. The gallery is juxtaposed with parts of Uzodinma Iweala’s essay “Stop trying to ‘save’ Africa“. 

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PS: Why this post on the image of Africa in photography? The IFA Gallery in Berlin currently displays a selection of the Bamako biennal “African Enounters of Photography”: Spot on … Bamako

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Written by henrik

December 23, 2008 at 1:09 pm

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  1. […] two photographs of the Iranian New Year celebrations in Afghanistan and Iran. Like I described in a previous post, this example also reveals how western orientalist preconceptions are reflected in […]


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