The narrative project questions what it means to be African in a time of constantly changing perceptions through fiction-writing and image-making. It weaves together influences from Africanfuturism, Africanjujuism, and sci-fi to explore, question, and express heritage, culture, and traditions. Opening up the dialogue between how you are perceived by the world versus how you want to be perceived and reclaiming your narrative back.
“Coming from a biracial background, my heritage is both colonised and coloniser. As such, the understanding of identity is complex and constantly in transition.”
As the blending of people and cultures continues to grow and expand, the population of biracial and multiracial individuals grows. Whether brought up within multiple or just one culture, there is a hunger, a curiosity to find out more. It is human nature to want to know more, to discover. Self-identity can be tied to different things for different people. However, culture and traditions can play a role in this. Embedded into parents and their upbringing, and their parents’ upbringing, their upbringing has ties to their heritage and traditions. Knowing about traditions, cultures, and heritage can shed light and understanding into the matter of self-understanding and identification.
I explored this through short story fictional writings, turning them into audio pieces, alongside an exploration in photography using my body, symbols, and images from around the African continent, creating an idealisation of capturing glimpses of the ancestors and their illusions. It was completed along with collage and layering of images inspired by ancestral ties, along with a publication (Heritage of the Moment – The past, present, and future). The publication includes responses from African individuals aged 25 and 65, with my response to some of their responses of what it means to be African in a world of constantly changing perceptions.
*Africanjujuism is a form of science-fiction that respectfully acknowledges the seamless blend of authentic existing African spiritualities and cosmologies with the imaginative.
Inspired by Nendi Okorafor’s definitions of Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism, they started writing fictional short stories based on her terms. As time progressed, I began to question what it meant to me to be an African in today’s world. I approached the project to explore what being an African means to me and how I could project that exploration to an audience, thinking about the past, the possibility, hope for the future within that context. The view of Africans from the rest of the world is constantly in flux. As such, I wanted to see where I would place myself within it all. From the development of the stories came the creation of embodying the ancestors. I put myself in front of the camera donned with body paint representing different markings and patterns from around the continent. In collaboration with German graphic designer Lisa Geyersbach behind the camera and Icelandic fine artist Guðný Sara Birgisdóttir, it was imprinting me with the various marks of the continent, symbolising and creating greatness power, and beauty of culture, traditions, and beliefs. The result began to develop into my idea of the ancestors’ spirituality. Using long exposure photography and layering images creates a sense of movement from pictures and captures the lure of wanting to know more about them.
When I speak of changing perceptions, I refer to the constantly shifting opinions towards the African continent and African people. That come and go, fluctuating based on information they are receiving of and about African people and the circumstances of the continent. Often, the narratives projected into the world, not made or formed by those within the continent. They are started by outsiders, possibly with tunnel vision on what they see or hear and how they later relay the information—perhaps wanting to control narrative over others. Though as technology becomes widely available within the continent, connecting people across it and the world. The sharing of information has become more accessible. As a result, Africans had started narrating for themselves, unlike before when it was done without regard. However, there is still an ample amount of catch-up to be done with the rest of the world.
The creation and use of the circular form on which the images are projected are a reference to rondeval thatch housing traditional to Botswana. The circular shape can be found throughout the continent as traditional housing. The purpose of having a sheer material in the circular form is to allow for a different perspective of the images that are shown. Combined with the fine metal mesh, the illusion given off and through the materials creates an entirely different experience of the projected images. Being able to see visuals from within the circle, surrounded, but to walk around and take in each image and the subtle change in the illumination of the images. They create an environment/atmosphere that guides the viewer to step outside of what they know. An invitation to experience something different from what they know. An offer to come back to or revisit something they know or have learned in their life. A space that surrounds the viewer and invites them to be. Sitting or kneeling within the circle allows some of their senses to rest and take a moment while others experience what is around them.
The photographs capture the way I see and envision spirituality and ancestors as these elusive figures. In combination with layering the images, the long exposure photography gives a glimpse into how I perceive them—a blur with only a hint at the whole picture. The images are an ode to the past and an offering to the future. They are a connection to something bigger than me. The goal of the images and collages is to provoke a conversation about what people think an African is, on more than just a physical level. In how culture and traditions come into play. To display the complexity and simplicity of culture, traditions, and beliefs. An idealisation of connection to heritage, traditions, the past, to culture.
Photography, long expose and layering of images
Booklet publication collage examples