A Photo Series
By Mzoxolo Vimba
What does it mean to be an object ‘in the midst of other objects’ the thing against which all other subjects take their bearing? What is it to live in the domain of non-human existence, to inhabit an impossible time between life and death, when one simply cannot be sure whether one is here or there, alive or dead? In other words, how is it possible to live while going to death while being somehow already dead? – Jared Sexton &Huey Copeland
Daring to Live is an interrogation of the deep entanglement between life and death. It is an exploration of the genealogy of the conditions of black people from colonization apartheid and post-apartheid. It seeks to explore whether or not there has been punctuation in the positionality of black people in relation to society. There is no doubt that black people throughout the world have gone through atrocities beyond the scope of our imaginations. Scholars, artists and intellectuals are still trying to create and forge vocabularies that are yet to articulate the terror and trauma that black people have gone through. Daring to Live is also a representation of the black experience in South Africa.
The series is in many ways is a re-articulation of the Sankofa bird metaphor, the bird that flies whilst looking back. The series interrogates the (in) existence of time and space in blackness. It is interested in how the past, which is characterized by extreme violence, alienation and dishonor, still permeates into the present so much that the two become indistinguishable. The series provides a lens through which we are able to read the present moment without obscurity which is caused by mainstream media and propaganda that peddle certain ideas in favour of certain ideologies. The series is trying to unravel the unfiltered, bitter and gruesome truth about black people.
At its core, the series is an exploration of a life lived through death. It provides a lens in which an account of the black experience can be given. Photography is an important art form in that we are overdetermined through the visual. Remember Frantz Fanon and his first encounter with himself as a black person? ‘Mama, Look a Negro.’ It is this ‘looking’ that I am interested in: how the act of looking determines the distribution and arrangement of pain, pleasure, desires and hopes. There is an existing impossibility of representing race, visually, outside of an entrenched schema that is predicated on the fungibility of the black body. With this knowledge in mind, the series is trying to highlight the, sometimes blurry, dichotomies between looking and being looked at, spectacle and spectatorship, enjoyment and being enjoyed. It does this not through the unethical representation of black people as anthropological subjects but through a consensual conversation with them as participants who have agency. Although black people have been dehumanized through dispossession, the series recognizes that if one looks closely enough, there are traces of beauty in the ugliness of being black in the world. By way of Fred Moten, the series is testament that although black people have gone through all these atrocities they have nonetheless been able to resist. It is this insistence on fighting and being alive in impossible conditions that the series intends to capture.