There was a time when the photographic camera was a weapon used by imperialist powers to help subjugate Africa.
The camera was utilised to target Africans and reframe the rich culture and traditions of the continent into a land of mere exotic creatures and ‘foreign’ people who needed help to become “civilised”.
This photographic anthropological discourse and narrative was forced on the continent and used to frame Africans as primitive, unchanging and tribal. A discourse which still vehemently runs through some societies today.
The colonial gaze through photography was used to re-imagine Africa in order to study, own and profit from it.
Cultural racism flourished through its lens and the resulting photographs and postcards from that early era still casually permeates to this day.
This art series entitled: ‘WE YE YEN‘ (THIS IS US) is my response and a way of showing a new narrative that focuses more on the cultural appreciation of Africa as well as paying homage to our ancestors.
In this series, I wanted to use those very same tools of the colonials powers… Tools that were once used to disempower Africans, but now transform it to empower Africans.
To turn the negative propaganda of the colonial gaze and reframe the narrative into the ancestral gaze. A gaze which is more dignified and the various cultures of the continent are highlighted and appreciated.
Thus the camera which was once a weapon of war is now transformed into a tool that heals, nourishes and empowers.
The native populations who were once voiceless are now free to share the power of their voice.
“The camera has often been a dire instrument. In Africa, as in most parts of the dispossessed, the camera arrives as part of the colonial paraphernalia, together with the gun and the bible.”– Yvonne Vera(Zimbabwean novelist)
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