Powerpoint presentation: Talha_symposium
Final presentation script: Slide1) Introduction.
My Name is Muhammad Talha and I am brought up in Uganda which is in East Africa.Today, I am going to talk about the representation of Africa through photography.The reason why I chose this topic is because, I am interested in how Africans are shown and what kind of image we have of Africa and outside Africa. When I came to the UK I became more aware of the assumptions that people in the west make about Africa for example political problems, poverty and illness. In my presentation I am going to discuss how Africa is shown from the outside world and the people from Africa, and their experiences can be represented from different points of view through photography. I will be looking at the work of 2 photographers and 1 contemporary artist and question how they portray Africa.
Slide 2) I will start by showing a map of Africa made out of words which we are used too seeing in the news about Africa. I found it from a blog called ‘Africa For Africa’, the map shows words like poor, diseases, AIDS and so on, such words are used to describe Africa, it is true they are problems like AIDS and poverty but at the same time this map doesn’t show the other side of Africa as an emerging continent. In a book called Representation, Stuart Hall describes this “Reductionist way of establishing meaning”.(REPRESENTATION:pg 235).
Slide 3) Radhikha Chalasani is an award winning photojournalist from New York and works worldwide but mostly in Africa for organisations like UNICEF and The UN high commission for refugees. She has documented for example the drought in Sudan and communities affected by AIDS in my home country Uganda.
Slide 4) This is from a series about a woman called Caroline who has AIDS, the image is closely cropped on the upper body of the subject mainly focussing the face and the hands. The photograph brings out her wide eyes and she looks weak, we notice her bones are shown due to the illness.
In a book called Representation, Peter Hamilton says, ‘the photographer is involved in a process of construction in choosing and framing his or her images so as ‘to make known, to confirm’.(REPRESENTATION. pg.85)
Slide 5) This image is from the drought in Sudan, the subject also looks weak and helpless, its not clear if it’s a man or a woman due to the illness and position. I think there is a connection between the two images because both subjects look vulnerable.
The fact that the photographer chose black and white makes us focus on the emotions and the position of the subject in the image.Slide 6) According to the south African photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa, “ when you look at people that are poor, if you shoot them in black and white, you are not doing them any favor, you are making the situation worse, they feel morbid because it is the nature of black and white” .(www.africandigitalart.com,September 25 2012)
Slide 7) But if we question our selves, how do the Africans want to be represented? This map is from the same blog I mentioned earlier, shows the other side of Africa, in the map we see words like Trade, Jobs and capital e.t.c And this connects to an argument how some Africans would prefer to be seen.
Following on from this thought, I want to look at the work of an African photographer who tried to give a voice to the community he wanted to portray.
Slide 8) Zwelethu Mthethwa is a photojournalist from cape town in south Africa, he is best known for his large coloured prints, and one of his most recent projects shown in London at the welcome collection was called the Mtubatuba workshop which is named after the town where the project took place. It was about good health, he collaborated with the Africa Centre For Health And Population Studies. In the Mtubatuba workshop, the local people were given a camera and some basic lessons in photography, and were then sent to there communities to explore the theme of good health.
Slide 9) Here is an example of a picture taken by a participant who is doing yoga pose and the message of Good Health is made clear because we can also read it on the board that she is holding. The subject is empowered as she was able to decide on how she wanted to be represented in the community.
Slide 10) In this picture we can see a child having a bath looking happy, the child might be ill but we don’t see any signs of illness. Like the previous image, the voice was given to the community and the image reinforces the idea of good health.
Even though people are sick and poor, they still look after them selves and continue there daily activities.
Slide 11) I went to the exhibition in London at the welcome collection and Zwelethu says ‘refreshing change for a population more usually identified with its high level of HIV’.
As Zwelethu says in an interview
“ I was trying to portray these people in a different light”
“They are poor ..but I wanted to portray them as a human beings”
(I.E Humanities Center,July 15 2010)
Slide 13) Coming back to the issue of representation I would like to talk about the artist Alfreedo Jaar who did the body of work in response to the luck of coverage of the genocide in Rwanda in magazine Newsweek. The Rwanda Genocide was the killing, in large numbers of the Tutsis by ethnic Hutus which took place in April 1994. Over 500,000 people were killed during the Rwanda Genocide due to the controlled power of the Tutsi and the majority of the Hutu, who had come to power in the rebellion.
Slide 14) Alfredo Jaar followed the news of the Rwanda Genocide, and found out that New york times had causally mentioned that 35 thousand people had died. Alfredo Jaar’s work named “untitled”(Newsweek) he gets his idea from the luck of coverage and all the magazines ignoring the news in Rwanda . Alfredo Jaar sequences the Newsweek news covers (17 covers) to the last one called “Hell On Earth” which was about the Rwanda Genocide.
Slide 15) After 17 weeks of the Rwanda genocide, the Newsweek dedicated a cover for the war in Rwanda. His work questions the newspapers on lack of coverage in some certain conflicts.
Slide 16) In an interview Alfredo Jaar says, “In the case of Rwanda…35,000 bodies-and It was just a five line story” (Alfredo Jaar: Images are not innocent,11 July 2013)
The representation of Africa is a complex issue which I cannot cover completely here, in my opinion there is lack of knowledge about contemporary Africa which leads to stereotypes as we saw for example in the work of Radhika Chalasani. I hope I have given you an insight into different point of views through the work that I have discuses I would love to hear your questions and comments.
Alfredo Jaar: Images are not innocent (2013) [online] available from < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-t2Yx3mz5k > [July 11, 2013]
alfredojaar.net (2013) [online] available from < http://www.alfredojaar.net/index1.html > [June 2013]
untitled(newsweek) (1994) [online] available from < http://www.alfredojaar.net/rwanda_web/95newsweek/newsweek.html > (1994)
Alan Moore (2013) alfredo jaar’s rwanda project [online] available from < http://www.artnet.com/magazine_pre2000/reviews/moore/moore5-21-98.asp > 
Sudan Famine (2006) [online] available from < http://www.radhikachalasani.com/#/sudan-famine/new_1000_famine10 > (2006)
AIDS in Uganda: Caroline’s Story (2006) [online] available from < http://www.radhikachalasani.com/#/aids-in-uganda–carolines-story/new_1000_caroline07 > (2006)
Stuart Hall, Peter Hamilton, Henrietta Lidchi, Sean Nixon and Christine Gledhill (1997) REPRESENTATION: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices.
STUART HALL, JESSICA EVANS AND SEAN NIXON (2013) REPRESENTATION: Second Edition.
WSI Administration. (2012) ‘Foreign Bodies, Common Ground’ available from < http://www.wsimagazine.com/uk/browse-by-continent/europe/united-kingdom/foreign-bodies-common-ground_20131023090528.html#.UwuXqDa-1cY > [ 23 October 2013]
Interview:Photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa (2008) [online} availaible from < http://www.africandigitalart.com/2012/09/interview-photographer-zwelethu-mthethwa >[28 September 2012]
Zwelethu Mthethwa’s Intimate View of South Africa (2010)[online] available from <http://humanities.blogs.ie.edu/2010/07/zwelethu-mthethwas-intimate-view-of-south-africa.html > [July 15 2010]
_explosions (20011) Dana Ollestad’s Research [online] available from < http://ollestadresearch.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/zwelethu-mthethwa.html > [December 8 2011]
Africa For Africa( 2013) Get Over Africa! [online] available from < http://africaforafrica.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/get-over-africa/ > [February 21 2013]