NOTIONS OF HOME, IDENTITY AND BELONGING
PROJECT FUNDED BY THE EU
THANK YOU TO JAVETT-UP
The EU Gateways for Peace project for strengthening the EU-South Africa Partnership for Peace and Security seeks to engage the complex issue of Xenophobia in South Africa.
The medium of photography, directly connected to the expression of individual ways of seeing and our direct experiences of the world around us, establishes it as an ideal medium to reflect on matters of great personal and public significance. In the image-driven culture of today, it is crucial that photographers/artists engage more consciously with the medium to effect the true role and purpose of art in society – to reflect deeply, critically challenge, and inspire new ways of thinking.
Photography in particular, gives audiences direct access to what we fail to see and understand – the experience and perspectives of another. By bringing photographic artists from differing contexts into conversation with each other, the dual workshop and mentorship format aims to facilitate a deeper and more sensitive understanding of each other and build a bridge of communication, an essential starting point for initiating a more peaceful co-existence.
The mentorship program will focus on notions of xenophobia, home, identity and belonging, using photography as a means to explore these nuanced and complex aspects of human existence.
The exhibition will act as a facilitator of public dialogue around this sensitive and complex issue, and stands as a form of visual activism against xenophobia, as well as an opportunity for the public to reflect on its own position, agency and responsibility in this regard.
Notions of Home, Identity and Belonging reflect on the work by five photographers who have considered aspects of human existence in the context of xenophobia, and have used the photographic medium in diverse ways. Each has responded to the subject from a unique perspective, and have assembled works to create an exhibition that expresses the layered complexity of the topic from both local and migrant perspectives.
Xenophobia has become a dangerous and politically nuanced reality in present day South Africa, where immigrant xenophobia has created a volatile and complex social condition, since the first xenophobic attacks in 2008. Due to rising economic imbalance and corruption across all strata of society, xenophobia has had an increasingly violent impact on the lives of both foreign nationals and South African citizens.
Photography in particular, gives audiences direct access to what we fail to see and understand – the experience and perspectives of another. By bringing photographic artists from differing contexts into conversation with each other, the exhibition aims to facilitate a deeper and more sensitive understanding of each other as Africans and build a bridge of communication, an essential starting point for initiating a more peaceful co-existence.
The exhibition aims to consciously move away from the journalistic approach which has developed its own potentially problematic visual vocabulary around xenophobia by documenting acts of violence. This type of imagery serves not only to shock and desensitise audiences, but also to withhold responsibility from ‘more educated’ audiences – who could not possibly be the perpetrators of such violence? Prejudice takes root in our daily habits of thinking, experiencing and approaching one another, in how we perceive another’s sense of home, identity and belonging in relation to our own. By approaching the issue of xenophobia with humanity and empathy, we go a long way in sensitising audiences; the beginning of a necessary process of healing for all involved.
Xenophobia in essence means a phobic attitude towards foreigners, which is not unique to our continent.