exhibition

snap judgments - new positions in contemporary african photography
27 Jun - 30 Sep 2008

This summer the Stedelijk Museum CS presents Snap Judgments, an exhibition of work by 35 contemporary African artists and photographers with unique perspectives on their own continent. The exhibition reveals how artists are using photography to respond artistically to the enormous changes currently taking place in African economic, social and cultural life. The artists also break away from lingering stereotypical images of their cultures, histories and countries. The exhibition was organised by Okwui Enwezor, adjunct curator at the ICP in New York.

Over the last century, photography has proved to be a vital medium in African culture; however, appreciation of African photographers and their unique visual imagery is a recent phenomenon.

By examining the role of visual images in African culture, the exhibition offers a penetrating insight into the rapidly changing social dynamics of the continent. The show includes over 180 works by 35 artists. The majority of the works were produced since 2000, many were commissioned for the exhibition.

Snap Judgments presents photographs from all over the continent, from the Muslim North right down to its southernmost tip. It reveals the vast changes now occurring in African economic, social and cultural life. In addition to revealing individual artistic responses to Africa, Snap Judgments also examines the ways in which its recent photographic art has moved beyond both African traditions and Western influences to explore new aesthetic territories. The show passes over the commercial portrait photography that has dominated the African scene in recent decades and focuses instead on Africa’s increasingly important documentary and fashion photography, as well as conceptual art.

The exhibition highlights several themes. Artists like Zarina Bhimji (Uganda) and Zwelethu Mthethwa (South Africa), make the landscape a vehicle for understanding historical trauma or social alienation. Others focus on the rapid changes occurring in African cities, emphasising urban lifestyles and architectural developments. The human body is also a recurrent subject, sometimes addressed provocatively as in the work of Nigerian-born Oladélé Bamgboyé, who explores the shifting boundaries of identity, gender and sexuality. The history of the continent is likewise represented with many of the younger African artists reconstructing it by challenging or reinventing the narrative of the colonial past.  

Some of the participants in Snap Judgments have previously installed work at the Stedelijk Museum. Hentie van der Merwe from South Africa (in 2003) and Hala Elkoussy from Egypt (in 2006) have exhibited work at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam. In recent years the Stedelijk Museumpresented the work of two members of an earlier generation: Malick Sidibé (from Mali) exhibited at the museum in 2000 and is represented in the collection, as is David Goldblatt, whose work is included in the current show of recent acquisitions, Eyes Wide Open. Mthethwa, Bamgboyé and Elkoussy also have work in the Stedelijk collection.

Snap Judgments was organised by Nigerian-born adjunct curator Okwui Enwezor, now on the staff of the International Center of Photography in New York, where the exhibition was first seen in 2006. Enwezor was previously artistic director of Documenta 11 inKassel, Germany (2002) and worked as an independent curator on a number of exhibitions of African and other contemporary art and photography. The exhibition is accompanied by an English-language publication, Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography, containing an essay by Okwui Enwezor (published by ICP/Steidl Verlag).

Artists featuring in the exhibition Snap Judgments: 

Doa Aly (Egypt)
Lara Baladi (Egypt / Lebanon)
Oladélé Bamgboye (Nigeria / UK)
Yto Barrada (Marocco)
Luis Basto (Mozambique)
Zohra Bensemra (Algeria)
Zarina Bhimji (Uganda / UK)
Mohamed Camara (Mali)
Ali Chraibi (Marocco)
Omar D. (Daoud) (Algeria)
Depth of Field (collective) (Nigeria)
Allan deSouza
 (Kenya / UK / USA)

An
drew Dosunmu (Nigeria / USA)
Hala Elkoussy (Egypt)
Theo Eshetu (Ethiopia / Italy)
Mamadou Gomis 
(Senegal)
Kay Hassan (South Africa)
Romuald Hazoumé (Benin)
Moshekwa Langa (South Africa / the Netherlands)
Maha Maamoun (Egypt)
Boubacar Touré Mandémory (Senegal)
Hentie van der Merwe (South Africa / Belgium)
Zwelethu Mthethwa (South Africa)
James Muruiki
 (Kenya)
Lamia Naji (Marocco)
Otobong Nkanga (Nigeria / the Netherlands)
Jo Ractliffe (South Africa)
Tracey Rose (South Africa)
Fatou Kandé Senghor (Senegal)
Randa Shaath (Egypt / Palestine)
Mikhael Subotzky 
(South Africa)
Sada Tangara (Mali / Senegal)
Guy Tillim (South Africa)
Michael Tsegaye (Ethiopia)
Nontsikelelo “Lolo” Veleko
 (South Africa)

This exhibition was organized by the International Centre of Photography with lead support from Altria Group, Inc. and the ICP Exhibitions Committee. Additional funding was generously provided TheAndy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Christian K. Keesee, Roberta and Steven Denning, Eni S.p.A., Marjorie G. and Jeffrey A. Rosen, Arthur Walther, Association Francaise d’Action Artistique, Robert Scully and Nancy Peretsman, Meryl and Robert Meltzer, Andrew and Marina Lewin, Jane K. Lombard, Prins Claus Fonds, the Government of Flanders,Mondriaan Foundation, Pamela and Arthur Sanders and the British Council. Support for the exhibition catalogue has been provided by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.