|New take on Africa|
Global Times, May 6, 2011
An African man holding dozens of Louis Vuitton bags and a woman dressed in a black burqa holding a grenade are some of the images that are touring the world as portrayals of contemporary Africa. Kings and plebs, warriors and fashionistas, locals, settlers and emigrants are on show in Africa: See You, See Me! at Li-Space in Caochangdi, in a rare opportunity to see African contemporary art in China. Over 150 works of photo and video installations by 36 photographers depict the marvels and pains of neo- and post-colonial Africa on its road to emancipation.
"Many people think of Africa as an old and under-developed world, but we're very contemporary; we are individual subjects and global citizens dealing with the same problems that affect people around the world," said Nigerian curator Awam Amkpa who lives in the US where he teaches at New York University.
"This exhibition aims at showing African diversity and complexity, through the eyes of Africans and foreigners with close relationships to Africa," he added. The three sections of the display show stories of African emigrants and the hardships of life in European society; ethnographic portraits of a colonized Africa and "contemporary photos of Africa by non-African photographers with close relationships with African countries and artists. "It presents the history of African photography and its influence on non-African imaginings of Africa and the African Diaspora," Amkpa wrote.
"Chinese people are everywhere in Mozambique," said Mario Macilau, 27, a Mozambican photographer. "They're into construction, wood, fish, seafood," he added. Macilau often explores the relationship man-time-space and his series of five photos at the exhibit document ancient traditional religious rituals held in public at Maputo, the Mozambican capital. "Some Chinese people think Africans still live among lions and are backward people; others get scared just because we look different. But on the other hand, "Mozambicans ask Chinese people 'Are you good at kung fu?' because Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan make their image of China," said the young photographer, praising the exhibit as an important bridge between China and Africa.
"Asian people are newcomers in Africa, that's why this cultural interchange is so important," said Angèle Etoudi Essamba, 49, a Netherlands based photographer from Cameroon.
"My photos aim at breaking the stereotypical image of Africa as a place of misery, oppression and war," she added, standing next to one of her female portrays.
"Africa has long been a point of passage for Chinese people; the [Sino-African] relationship intensified but isn't new," Amkpa explained. "But there's Africa of governments and Africa of people. I don't think Chinese people in general know about contemporary African people, about their diversity and liveliness," he said.