Exhibition aims to change perceptions of Africa


10-12-2019
Hands clasped together_Photograph by Edith Chiliboy

A powerful photography exhibition that promises to change people’s perceptions of the African continent will open in Cambridge in January.

“Stories of Kalingalinga” highlights some of the rapid economic and social changes that have taken place in the neighbourhood of Kalingalinga in Zambia’s capital Lusaka.

Kalingalinga is being squeezed on all sides by more affluent suburbs and the images in the exhibition capture the rich diversity in this community as changes due to modernisation begin to gather pace.

The exhibition, which will be on display at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) from 16 January 2020, will feature the work of 11 photographers and visual artists who were invited by ARU and the Zambia National Visual Arts Council to take part in a workshop in Lusaka earlier this year.

The photographers created their own personal interpretations of Kalingalinga, in a wide range of lens-based styles and approaches, with the resulting images challenging the idea of a singular visual narrative of Africa.

The exhibition directly questions post-colonial representations of Zambia, and Africa more broadly, and highlights the power of imagery and the importance of looking out for hidden narratives and voices.

Muchemwa Sichone, one of the Zambian photographers, said: “Throughout the workshop, my perspectives on how I look at photography changed. But more importantly, I learnt that photography is not only about great images, but also how it influences the way people look at the world.”

Video interviews with each of the photographers will be on display around the gallery. The videos provide a voice for this new generation of creatives to speak about their experiences and their own approaches to photography.

The exhibition, and the workshop in Lusaka, have been organised by Kerstin Hacker of ARU, who has also been working closely with the University of Zambia to establish the country’s first Photography degree course, which will begin in 2021.

Kerstin, the Co-Course Leader for Photography at ARU in Cambridge, said: “As well as producing some visually stunning images, these photographers have tackled important questions such as what are the topics that are important to Zambians and how are they different from what we already know?

“To help shift perceptions, it’s important to give Western audiences access not only to the photographs, but also the photographers and their stories.

“’Stories of Kalingalinga’ is not the end but the beginning of a journey as photographers find outlets to tell their Zambian stories. They are creating new images that are visually diverse, culturally sensitive and have a rich narrative.

“They move beyond stereotypical representations and give a voice to both the people of Kalingalinga and the photographers themselves – and it’s time these voices are heard.

“This exhibition gives a glimpse of what is to come as Zambia begins producing talented graduates, not just in photography but in a range of art and design disciplines. University-level art education is vital if African countries are to self-govern their visual narratives.”

The “Stories of Kalingalinga” exhibition will feature work by Edith Chilliboy, Danny Chiyesu, Zenzele Chulu, Natalia Gonzalez Acosta, Kerstin Hacker, Margaret Malawo, David Daut Makala, Dennis Mubanga, Scotty, Muchemwa Sichone and Yande Yombwe, and will be on display at the Ruskin Gallery, at ARU in Cambridge, from 16 January until 13 February 2020.

There will also be a symposium – Telling our tales through ambiguous photography: Decolonizing the visual library of the African continent – on 31 January, where invited speakers will discuss photography in Africa, visual identity, and the role the photography can play in reducing inequality.

All exhibitions in the Ruskin Gallery are free of charge and open to the public. Further information here

Image: Photograph by Edith Chiliboy

 

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