Etikettarkiv: Zimbabwe

Ny fet reportage- och essäbok om Afrika

9781846273742

Kevin Bloom & Richard Poplak
Continental Shift: A Journey
into Africas Changing Fortunes
Portobello Books

Afrika ligger mer eller mindre i permanent medieskugga. Men det kommer ut en hel del böcker om Afrika. Dem kan man, förenklat, dela in i två kategorier. Den första kategorin böcker är skrivna av afrika-optimister och de framhåller gärna att det finns en växande medelklass i många afrikanska länder och att BNP-siffrorna pekar uppåt. Den andra kategorin, skrivna av afrika-pessimister, fokuserar på kontinentens korruption, konflikter och på att miljontals afrikaner inte kan vara säkra på att kunna gå och lägga sig mätta.

Det finns naturligtvis en tredje kategori böcker, som försöker härbärgera både optimismen och pessimismen, och en sån bok är Continental Shift, skriven av två förhållandevis unga syafrikanska journalister, Kevin Bloom och Richard Poplak. De har läst på och rest under nio års tid, till sammanlagt sexton länder.

Boken består av tio kapitel och åtta av dem handlar om ett land, men boken är full av korsreferenser. De åtta länderna är, i tur och ordning, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Demokratiska republiken Kongo, Etiopien, Sydsudan och Centralafrikanska republiken. Det handlar alltså i första hand om Afrika söder om Sahara.

Skriver Bloom och Poplak i förordet apropå kontinentens motsägelsefullhet, som den framträdde i den statistik de hade tillgång till 2012:

”[…] sub-Saharan Africa could claim six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies and almost four out of 10 of its refugees. It could claim income per capita that had risen by nearly two-thirds since 1998, with one in every four people malnourished. It could say that offered some of the best returns to foreign direct investment while close on half of its people lived on less than $1.25 a day. […] The binaries extended further and deeper: into governence, education, technology. While men like Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and Teodoro Obiang Nguema in Equatorial Guinea were clinging jealously to power after decades of misrule, one in three of the 120 executive elections held i Africa since 2000 had brought a transfer of leadership. While Nigerian writers announced a new golden age with the likes of Teju Cole, Sefia Atta, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Helon Habila, 11 million of that country’s children would never see the inside of a schoolhouse. And while 68 percent of the continent’s Twitter subscribers used the service as their primary source of news, only a quarter of the population of sub-Saharan Africa had any access to electricity.”

Bloom och Poplak verkar mest skeptiska till det dominerande narrativet, Afrika är på stadig frammarsch mot en allt ljusare framtid. Det de är skeptiska mot är att det är detta narrativ som är på modet just nu och reproduceras i tusentals versioner. De ifrågasätter inte de fantastiska BNP-siffror som vissa av länderna de besöker visar upp, däremot försöker de ta reda på om tillväxten omsätts i utveckling, som kommer de breda folklagren tillgodo. Det är inte alltid lika självklart.

Boken har visst drag av reseskildring, men lejonparten av textmassan består av intervjuer, med rader av olika personer, och analytiska essäer om politik, korruption, gruvnäring och jordbruk. I regel får man veta en hel del om respektive lands historia, om kolonialismen och frigörelsen. Målet har däremot inte varit att skildra de åtta länderna i helfigur – i regel är det 3-4 ämnen som hamnar i fokus. Kapitlet om Nigeria handlar exempelvis mest om Nollywood, oljan och den etniska mångfalden.

Bloom 0ch Poplak skriver inte som akademiker, de skriver som journalister och deras texter är svängiga, coola och ibland nästan lite nonchalanta. Då och då dyker det upp formuleringar med skölitterära kvaliteter: ”As we came in to the industrial exurbs, we saw factories rotting into each other, their pipes like diseased intestines, their smoke towers teetering.”

Det finns en röd tråd som dyker oftare än kanske någon annan: Kinas närvaro i Afrika. Det är ju ett ämne som de skrivit oerhört mycket om de senaste 15-20 åren. Bloom och Poplak har en ganska dyster syn på Kinas bidrag till den afrikanska utvecklingen, även om de mest skriver om kinesiska byggbolag. Enligt dem dumpar kineserna priserna och kapar däremot åt sig kontrakt från afrikanska byggfirmor, som oftare arbetar enligt säkerhetsföreskrifter och oftare har fackligt anslutna som anställda. De kinesiska byggbolagens etik, kompetens och kvalitet ifrågasätts.

Allra intressantast tycker jag nästan att Bloom och Poplaks kritiska resonemang kring den afrikanska medelklassen är. Den blev ett dominerande narrativ i västerländska medier runt 2010 med ett lovtal i Newsweek med titeln ”Africa is Becoming the New China and India” följd av The Economists berömda ”Africa Rising”-omslag 2011.

African Development Bank (AfDB) presenterade också siffror som visade att 34% av Afrikas invånare 2010 tillhöde medelklassen, alltså sammanlagt 350 miljoner människor. Vilka inkluderade AfDB i sin definition av medelklass: ”The group included anyone earning an annual income above $3.900, or those spending between $2 and $20.” AfDB tjänar naturligtvis på en så här generös definition av medelklassen – de ska ju locka investerare till kontinenten – men den kan ju också uppfattas som vilseledande, om den används vårdslöst.

Bloom och Poplak ifrågasätter inte att det växer fram en afrikansk medelklass, men som journalister anser de att de är skyldiga att granska dominerande narrativ som många tar för givna. Eventuellt har de som afrikaner haft en fördel när de skrivit Continental Shift – den är ganska frispråkig och ibland nästan lite provokativ.

Ola Wihlke

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Foto: ”White Africans. A Journey To The Homeland” av Katharine Cooper

Declan with Polly the parrot-Ledbury Farm-Zimbabwe

Declan with Polly the Parrot : Ledbury Farm, Mazowe, Zimbabwe 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Cheryldean Hestia Marisan & Clara- Prins Albert park SA 2013

Cheryldean, Hestia, Marisan & Clara in the Park at Prins Albert, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Belinda Bakeberg & family-Johannesburg 2013

Belinda Bakeberg & Family: Apple Park, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Stacy & the little stranger-Harare-Zimbabwe 2013

Stacy and the Little Stranger: Harare, Zimbabwe 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Jean Charl Greef-surfer-Koffiebaai-SA 2013

Jean Charl Greef, Artist & Surfer: Koffiebaai, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

alexia & dino

Alexia & Dino, brother and sister: Sandton – Johannesburg, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Rugby team at coronation park

Coronation Park Rugby Team: Krugersdorp, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Pieter Pretorius & his friends-Groenfontein-SA 2013

Pieter Pretorious & Friends Playing Rugby: Groenfontein, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Hein van Jaarsveldt & Dylan-Krugersdorp-SA

Hein van Jaarsveld (double-leg amputee) & his Stepson, Dylan:
Krugersdorp, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

zane & vanessa-koffiebaai-south africa 2013

Zane and Vanessa, Childhood Friends: Koffiebaai, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Nina with her children and their grandfather-Grahamstown-SA 2013

Nina, Mayrie & Max with Oupa Lindsay: Grahamstown, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

Danielle & Tiger by the Pool-Harare-Zimbabwe 2004

Danielle & Tiger by the Pool: Harare, Zimbabwe 2004 © Katharine Cooper

kc ak & nr 022-6

Katharine Cooper, Anna Karien & Nina reunited after 22 years at Beadle
Street House: Grahamstown, South Africa 2013 © Katharine Cooper

In 2012 and 2013 the young South African photographer Katharine Cooper, who now lives in Arles, travelled back to her homeland South Africa and Zimbabwe to photograph women, men and children of the white minority, people whose lives she might have shared. Cooper gave us the opportunity to choose and display photos from the resulting series, ”White Africans. A Journey To The Homeland.” She was also kind enough to answer a couple of questions.

I have read several texts about ”White Africans”. Most are very similar. Could you please tell us a little bit about it in your own words, its a very personal project. Please tell us how you went about it, and about the taboos you wanted to challenge.

– I suppose it was a very personal thing. It all begins with the white diaspora leaving South Africa and Zimbabwe for Europe, America, Australia, because of increasing hostility towards them, owing to the colour of their skin.  They were given no choice but to leave, in order to make safe lives for themselves and their children, in communities where they did not feel like a threatened minority, in countries where they had rights and where the future seemed surer than in their country of origin.

– But it was heartbreaking for all of us to leave Africa. We lived our new lives with a constant nostalgia and longing. Some might call it permanent homesickness. I and friends of mine deal with these feelings on an almost daily basis. We have built homes for ourselves in the first world, but our hearts yearn for Africa. We are white, but we are not like the Europeans, Americans or Australians. We have an entirely different culture, vocabulary, and in the case of the Afrikaans people, a whole new language, which are peculiar to us.

– We are White Africans, afraid to proclaim it too loud, because of all the guilt that colonialism and apartheid make us bear. ”I wanted to confront this and proclaim verly clearly that certain white people in Africa have as much right to call themselves ‘African’ as as the people who settled in the Americas have the right to call themselves ‘American’. And I count myself amongst them.

You get the sense that the persons in the series, a few of them, are vulnerable and living under difficult conditions. You have taken their photographs with great sensitivity. But there is a tension in a several of the photos, there are more than a hundred, and quite a few of the persons look reserved. How did you approach the persons you wanted to take pictures of? Have they seen the photos?

– There is a freshness and innocence about these people that is lacking in Europeans. The expression is a result of the interaction between myself and the subject. I am such a reserved and shy person myself that it is in fact an ordeal I have to overcome every time I take a photograph of someone, to ask them if they would accept to pose for me. I am so afraid of exploiting or making people feel ill at ease, that it is an incredibly complex process for me to approach a stranger in the street and ask them to perform for my camera.

– Every time that someone accepts to look into my lens, it is an event. It is a meaningful encounter, full of gravity and mutual respect. Or at least, I hope so! Maybe they just think I am totally nuts! At any rate, I think this explains the expression on their faces : I do not want them to clown around, to smile, but rather to retain their full dignity by looking straight into the camera without smiling. I really do feel that the scowl is the best form of freedom of expression.

– As a general rule, I always take the name and email addresses of the people I photograph, in order to send them the images. Some people do not have email, so it is more difficult to show them. So, most of the people who are in these pictures have seen the end result and are pleased.

From seeing your photos, the ones on your homepage as well, I get the impression that you are both interested in the documentary tradition and the art and even fashion tradition of photography. Can you please tell us a little about photographers that have infuenced you?

– It is so interesting that you should mention that, because I have, in fact, been very much influenced by the old masters of fashion photography. I must say that Irving Penn is one of my gods, as well as Richard Avedon, Horst P Horst, Helmut Newton, Man Ray and Lee Miller, Edward Steichen. Of course there was also Diane Arbus in a more purely documentary style, as well as Jacques Henri Lartigue and Brassaï.

– Film has influenced me a lot too: Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Luis Buñuel, Alfred Hitchcock and film noir as a genre. To me it is vital to bring out the glamour, the life force, the beauty in every subject. Straight documentary can never quite do this; one must mix in a drop of fantasy. Irving Penn photographed fashion like documentary: a bit of dirty carpet folded over a wooden crate on which he would place a woman in a couture dress; still life messed up with a dead fly; a celebrity squashed up in the corner in his studio.

You had a huge sucess with ”White Africans” in Paris. What are your plans for the near future?

– It is true that ”White Africans” was very well received, and I am so grateful to everybody – friends and strangers alike – for their sincere enthusiasm and real enjoyment of the pictures. I could not have dreamed of anything better or more rewarding. Now I am slowly getting my ideas together for the next project which will be happening in my homeland – South Africa – again.

– I cannot say too much because it is barely in embryonic form at the moment, but I am trying to get the ideas to flow onto paper (computer) so that I can ask the very lovely people in charge of the purse-strings for some funding. Without them, these projects would never happen, because, as we all know, artists are always broke!

If you like the images in this blog post, you should visit Katharine Coopers homepage.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Bokomslag bilder och foto, Intervjuer