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South 2 North

Imagining Africa

What happens when Africans themselves begin to remake images of the continent from their point of view?

Last Modified: 11 May 2013 08:24
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No subject is off limits in the first ever global talk show hosted from Africa in which Redi Tlhabi talks frankly to inspiring and intriguing personalities from across the world.

There is a strong visual image of Africa that endures across the world; depictions of poverty, famine and endless conflict on a continent that has struggled to recover from slavery, colonialism and desperate fights for independence.

Even though it is the fastest-growing region in the world, a recent European survey showed that people still see Africa as the "hopeless" continent.

Poverty, famine, darkness, corruption and tribal wars are all images still deeply intertwined with the history and identity of Africa in the Western imagination.

But what happens when Africans themselves begin to remake the images from their point of view? Can they reverse the negative stereotypes of Africa and Africans? And why is it important?

This week, South2North speaks to African photographers Neo Ntsoma and George Osodi, and art curator and critic Okwui Enwezor.

Ntsoma and Osodi were recently profiled on The New African Photography, an Artscape photographic series currently running on Al Jazeera about artists, photographers and image-makers and their efforts to present a real and nuanced image of the African continent.

Nigerian-born Professor Enwezor is currently the director of the Haus der Kunst in Germany and curates numerous exhibitions at leading art institutions including the Guggenheim in New York. He explains to Redi Tlhabi the role he thinks Africans themselves can play in challenging embedded perceptions of Africa.

"The challenges that image-makers face is really how to bring a questioning approach, to thinking [about] the continent visually, to the rest of the world. So the success in doing that has to be the participation of Africans across all levels of critical production, from being magazine editors to making decisions in terms of the things that you put in museums and in galleries and in exhibitions.

"So Africans have to play a role that is simply making images or offering different forms of visuality. Africans have to play a role in terms of also occupying the institutional infrastructure that can enable Africans to be able to offer a productive and engaged look at the continent."

Ntsoma has fought tirelessly to change perceptions of Africans - not only in the eyes of the world, but also among Africans themselves. She emphasises the life that exists between the common images of poverty - for example, in images of children playing in the streets or women singing on their way to work.

Osodi has released a book of his photographs documenting environmental destruction in the Niger Delta, called The Rape of Paradise.

"I have an agenda. It’s simply more of wanting to keep record … At this stage, we shouldn’t be talking about wars in Africa. I think that stage is gone. We are fighting more of an intellectual war," he says.

 

South2North can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 1930; Saturday: 1430; Sunday: 0430; Monday: 0830.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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