Témoin Africa

Month: November, 2011

Sammy Baloji Né le 29 décembre 1978. Works and lives in Lubumbashi/Bruxelles


– Is your photographic art work committed to dealing with the context in which you live?

My work questions the still existing traces of colonisation in Congolese society. In this approach, it expresses a desire to inform and rewrite a story from the present. A present aware of his past and ready to assume the future.

– How does your photography integrate the evolution of your society

Although colonisation dates back 50 years, I integrate the events of the past in a new context of the contemporary Congolese society. The aim is to create a clash between two periods of the same space.

For example: I took photographs of the skull of King Lusinga (the Tabwa chief who was beheaded by Captain Storms during a mission of territorial conquest on behalf of King Leopold II). In this project I re-appropriated the scientific method used in photography in the end of the19th century to document the history of the head Lusinga. The last of the six pictures only has a background of black fabric. The sixth picture should actually present the lower jaw of the skull, but since it disappeared from the collections of the Museum of Natural History in Brussels, I recreated a scene with only the black fabric and I intentionally dropped the tool measurement of the skull that appears at the bottom right of all five other pictures. The absence of the tool and the disappearance of the skull in the sixth picture questions the deletion of the history of the Other and in this case the history of the chief. Absence or failure of all theories of superiority of race. Failure of anthropological photographic practice wanting to represent the Other.

The second series named “Retracing Charles Lemaire’s expedition”, is part of the “Congo Far West” project. There, I intentionally turn ethnographic pictures into studio photos. There is a questioning of the nature of documentary photographs made by François Michel and watercolors by Léon Dardenne (both part of the scientific expedition conducted in Katanga between 1898 and 1900).This work raises the possibilities of writing the same story depending on its source.

– Are the marks of the past influencing your way of taking photographs? If they do, how do history and collective memory affect your work?

My photographic work is between documentary and fiction. In this sense I need a context (the environment) to create my own story. To do this, I did some research on topics or events of the past and even on the present. I’m using pictures, archives or even sound archives to create a new statement.


Calvin Dondo (born in 1963 in Harare. He lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe)

 – Is your photographic art work committed to dealing with the context in which you live?

I believe our work as artists is to open doors, shed light and give new possibilities to; first our immediate environment and then the world at large. Our visual statements provoke and shift societies understanding of the world. Whatever work I do I feel I am responsible to everyone around me.

Sabelo Mlangeni (born 1980 in Driefontein. He lives and works in Johannesburg South Africa)

 – Is your photographic art work committed to dealing with the context in which you live?


– How does your photography integrate the evolution of your society?

My work challanges a viewer; like in this body of work Country Girls. In our society we are taught that a man should present himself in certain way and seeing a man in a dress shifts the way we think and are taught to think. It is political and confrounts issues of homophobia.

Are the marks of the past influencing your way of taking photographs? If they do, how do history and collective memory affect your work?

It depends on the story I am working on. Some are influenced by the past, some witness what is happening in some part of South Africa today. As a young South african born between the old apartheid regieme and the new South Africa so I find myself caught up in the past and present.

Abraham Oghobase (born 1979 in Lagos. He lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria)

 – Is your photographic art work committed to dealing with the context in which you live? 

My experience and emotions play an important role in my photographic work, as a result I’ll say it is committed within the context I live in. I explore socio-economic conditions (of my home environment as well as elsewhere) and how they affect the human psyche, often using myself as a point of reference.

– How does your photography integrate the evolution of your society? 

The social, political and economic situation of my society plays a pivotal role in my work. I am interested in using photography to explore the way people live and how they are affected by the different systems that exist, and how conditions evolve to meet or take advantage of certain needs (for example, with this series “Jam” I explore how rural-urban drift, among other things, has led to inflated rents in Lagos and congested living spaces.

By socio-economic conditions I mean such things as homelessness, poverty, a lack of affordable and adequate housing (as seen in “Jam”), immigration and ractial prejudice, corruption (which leads to a breakdown in services and infrastructure that create other social and economic conditions), rural-urban migration (which leads to congested and chaotic cities), etc.By rural – urban drift I mean people moving from rural areas to cities in search of a means of livelihood. As elsewhere, a city like Lagos, with all its hustle and bustle, holds the (sometimes false) promise of money to be earned and a better life to be had than that of surviving on subsistence farming in a rural village.

– Are the marks of the past influencing your way of taking photographs? If they do, how do history and collective memory affect your work?

In my work I am very much interested in the now and how it is experienced, but of course the present is rooted in the past. My exploration of identity through self portraiture in Nigeria and abroad, for example, is often a function of how I am perceived as a photographer, an artist, a black male, a Nigerian, and so on, which in turn is based on social and cultural points of view that have their roots in history.

Monique Pelser (born 1976 Johannesburg lives and works in Cape Town South Africa)

 – Is your photographic art work committed to dealing with the context in which you live?

Yes, I live in South Africa in a post Apartheid era and I am currently making photographic still-lives of objects that my father had collected during his life. Both my grandfather and father were South African policemen. Collectively their experience spans over the 1930’s to 2010. During these 80 years there was the rise and fall of enforced Apartheid in South Africa.

I am also working on a series of cloudscapes which stand in as metaphors for change. The work is called “It changes phase” which is the scientific term for how water evaporates and becomes a cloud. This work is committed to dealing with the ephemeral nature of information.

– How does your photography integrate the evolution of your society?

In this body of images I am looking at the objects my father collected from his time at the SAP (South African Police) until the 1980’s and then in security and the Metropolice until 2010. The intends to map change as styles varied over the years. They show priorities and trends as things shifted in security in South Africa.

– Are the marks of the past influencing your way of taking photographs? If they do, how do history and collective memory affect your work?

Yes, I feel that the history and marks left behind in South Africa do influence my way of taking photographs. I try to use the camera and developing technology as a way of re-looking at my country; the land, people and the objects or traces which were left behind and have become a historical burden. I feel that my generation and those that follow have inherited great generational guilt from our forefathers. I try to use photography as dissonance; as a way to re-look and re-present and process this history which is deeply personal but at the same time collective.

Michael Tsegaye (born 1975 Addis Ababa, lives and works in Addis Ababa Ethiopia)


– Is your photographic art work committed to dealing with the context in which you live?

I wonder if you can clarify the first question for me. Do you mean to ask, how does my photographic art work engage the context I live in, or are you asking me if I take my photographs in the place/context where I actually live? (as opposed to traveling somewhere else to take photographs)

– Yes the first question does ask whether your work engages the context in which you live and to what extent you do that. Perhaps you could explain a bit further what the changes to the City of Addis mean to you and what kinds of things are getting lost or renewed in the process.artist statements 

As a contemporary artist and photographer, anything that I photograph would by its very nature integrate the evolution of my society. In the past ten years, the city in which I live, Addis Abeba, and the rest of Ethiopia has gone through tremendous changes – both demographically as well as physically – with the construction of new buildings and the demolition of the old ones. The changes that modernity has brought about in the rural areas are also quite significant, as old cultural practices adopt certain aspects of new ones. My photographs capture these nuances; whether I like it or not.

– Are the marks of the past influencing your way of taking photographs? If they do, how do history and collective memory affect your work?

The past appears in my cultural heritage: Ethiopia’s music, literature, its tradition of wax and gold are what I’ve inherited

Exhibition Opening

Igo Diarra, Sammy Baloji, Cara Snyman and Lien Heidenreich (Goethe-Institut) and gentleman with a cigar

The Minister of Arts and Culture, Monique Pelser and Igo Diarra

Sammy Baloji's work

Michael Tsegaye's work

Michael in front of Calvin Dondo's work

Chris Dercon behind a row of photographers

The 2011 participants for the Portfolio Reviews with Lerato Shadi and the guy in the waistcoat is Sabelo Mlangeni

Monique Pelser's work

Installation Day

Vincent installing the text in the courtyard of Gallery Medina

Monique cutting Abraham's prints for hanging

Lunch leaves much to be desired

Michael Tsegaye (Ethiopia)

Abraham Oghobase (Nigeria)

Vincent Bezuidenhout (South Africa)

Aly Naily (Timbuktu, Mali)



Opening: 4 November at 7pm, Medina Gallery, Bamako, Mali.

The exhibition Témoin/Witness will be focusing on the African metropolis or megacity. This show includes work that reflects on immediate circumstances of this group of emerging photographers. The images deal with a range of  social issues that consider an inherited culture and history, as the photographers bear witness to the constant flux and changing cultures that define the megacity.

Photographers included are Sammy Baloji (DRC), ,Calvin Dondo (Zimbabwe), Sabelo Mlangeni (South Africa), Abraham Oghobase (Nigeria), Monique Pelser (South Africa) and Michael Tsegaye (Ethiopia).


Medina Gallery (map attached)

Boulevard du peuple (opposite of l’ECICA)

Tel: 00 223 66 88 91 81

Mail: mpelser@gmail.com/ djamal29@yahoo.fr


Ouverture: 4 Novembre à 19 heures, Galerie Medina, Bamako, Mali


Témoin/Witness  s’axera autour des métropoles africaines ou mégalopoles.Cette exposition montrera des travaux qui reflètent d’une certaine manière la communauté d’un groupe de photographes émergeants. Les images couvrent un large spectre de sujets critiques qui interrogent une culture et histoire héritées, les photographes étant les témoins du flux constant et des changements culturels que génère une mégalopole.

Les photographes participants sont Sammy Baloji (DRC), Calvin Dondo (Zimbabwe), Sabelo Mlangeni (South Africa), Abraham Oghobase (Nigeria), Monique Pelser (South Africa), Michael Tsegaye (Ethiopia)


Le vernissage de Témoin/Witness  se fera le 4 novembre à 19:00 à la Galerie

Medina, Bamako, Mali et il sera ouvert jusqu’au 30 novembre 2011.

Medina Gallery

Boulvard du peuple (face à l ‘ ECICA)

Tel: 00 223 66 88 91 81


Monique Pelser: mpelser@gmail.com

Sammy Baloji: djamal29@yahoo.fr

Exhibition Set Up

Gallery Medina almost complete

Mr. President

Mali President Amadou Toumani Touré holds some illustrious company on the walls of Photo Vesta Printers. According to the all knowing Wikipedia: ‘Present-day Mali was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (from which Mali is named), and the Songhai Empire. In the late 19th century, during the Scramble for Africa, France seized control of Mali making it a part of French Sudan. French Sudan (then known as the Sudanese Republic) joined with Senegal in 1959, achieving independence in 1960 as the Mali Federation. Shortly thereafter, following Senegal’s withdrawal from the federation, the Sudanese Republic declared itself the independent Republic of Mali. After a long period of one-party rule, a 1991 coup led to the writing of a new constitution and the establishment of Mali as a democratic, multi-party state’.

President Amadou Toumani Touré

Co-Curator Sammy Baloji

The Gallery

The Medina Gallery in the Medina district of Bamako will be hosting part of the TÉMOIN exhibition.

Under supervision of owner Igo they are finishing up the final touches three days before opening. That’s how we roll.



Alpha Macky O’ Kane – Concept’or

Printing images onto vinyl that will be installed in public spaces all over the city of Bamako.

At Alpha Macky o Kane's printing the vinyl of Monique Pelser's 'It Changes Phase'

Right Hand Men

Our invaluable guides, translators and taxi drivers (scooter drivers)

Aly Naily

Mohammed (the nephew of Aly)




Photo Vesta printers in BAMAKO – coura Ru Dakar – porte No 154 Tel: +22366871132/ +22376126627

That’s me, Monique, the not-so-calm-lass anticipating Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

Photo Vesta Printing

Augustin the-calm-guy is our printer at Photo Vesta

The Printers

our printers for the exhibition

10am Monday morning we arrived at Photo Vesta to meet our printers.  It was madness.  The place was teaming with photographers who were there to print out pictures from the weekend, from weddings, parties, id pictures, invitations and good times had.  We had to squeeze through to the back room which is full to the brim with computers and printers and people to meet Augustin, Amadou and Soungala.  Three extremely even tempered men dealing with hundreds of requests and questions thrown at them.  I respect their ability to keep calm in that bazaar of printing.  Three of us (Aly to translate, one photographer – who’s work we were testing – and myself) were squeezed into the mix and the printing process began.

We worked on test prints, colour corrections and sizes and after a 10 hour day we have done all of our tests and are on our way to getting the work printed for the opening on Friday.  Only now that the process is in motion I can see how incredibly closely cut this deadline is.  Nothing like a little deadline pressure under new circumstances.