Colin Delfosse, Mbuyi Tickson, "Embodying Kinshasa", 2020
Federico Estol, "Shine Heroes"
Sima Choubdarzadeh, "My Name is Fear"
Irmina Walczak, "Oasis in Our Quarantine Yard"
Robin Hinsch, "Wahala"
Rafael Heygster & Helena Manhartsberger, "Corona Rhapsody"
The Open Program allows for an overview of current phenomena in photography. This year’s submissions had a very strong level of engagement. Our Jury tried to prepare a coherent but diverse selection. From among 1029 projects (a record!) the international Jury selected the works of six artists, whose projects we will be able to see at exhibitions during the Fotofestiwal in 2021 (10-27.06). Here they are:
On Kinshasa’s streets – third biggest city of the continent, artists raise awareness among citizens about the challenges the Congolese capital city is facing. In an increasingly degraded environment, these artists question the profusion of consumption goods and rubbish, recycle them into costumes. Gathered in a collective, they perform in the street, condemning societal issues: lack of healthcare, pollution, deforestation and overconsumption. By mixing urban culture and symbolic rituals, they initiate a dialogue with the city’s inhabitants.
The demographic explosion of this megalopolis coupled with its inhabitants increasing needs, a global economy and significant appetite for single-use plastic have led to massive import of consumption goods, generating an environmental havoc. The consequences in numbers are alarming: 13 million inhabitants generate a volume of 7 tonnes of waste each day. Poor neighbourhoods are the most hardly stricken and inequalities reinforced. Simple colonial small town with a population of 200,000 by the end of the fifties, the city has become the country’s hub after its independence in the early sixties. Two wars and the permanent insecurity has led millions of people on the roads to Kinshasa. Beyond the urban centre, the capital city is an endless village lacking any kind of infrastructure. The Congolese state is incapable to tackle basic challenges like roads, sewage and electricity. In these areas, these artists re-embody their city by creating contemporary myths. As for traditional masks, they are archetypes of the main environmental challenges, questioning our modernity.
There are 3000 shoe shiners who go out into the streets of La Paz and El Alto suburbs each day in search of clients. They are from all ages and in recent years have become a social phenomenon in the Bolivian capital. What characterizes this tribe is the use of ski masks so they will not be recognized by those around them. They confront the discrimination they face through these masks; in their neighbourhoods no one knows that they work as shoe shiners, at school they hide this fact, and even their own families believe they have a different job when they head down to the center of the city from El Alto. The mask is their strongest identity, what makes them invisible while at the same time unites them. This collective anonymity makes them tougher when facing the rest of society and is their resistance against the exclusion they suffer because they carry out this work.
For three years I have been collaborating with sixty shoe shiners associated with the NGO “Hormigón Armado”. We planned together the scenes during a series of graphic novels workshops, incorporating the local elements of the urbanity of El Alto and producing photographic sessions with them as co-authors of a photo essay to fight against their social discrimination.
MY NAME IS FEAR
I was seven years old when I got sacred for the first time. I was getting back from school when my friend told me: “Did you know that if you reveal your hair out of your scarf, God will punish you by hanging you from it?” One day my husband locked me up in the house to stop me from reading books, going to the university, seeing my family, and getting involved with society. It was the same day when an earthquake hit our city and I was locked up in a house on the 10th floor. The thing that I was most worried about was finding the safest place to stand on but at once I felt an empty space beneath my feet and now that is how I am afraid of people and events like quakes. I had not paid attention to the rules and traditions before my marriage, which ended up in a tragic divorce, shortly after. I was living in a swamp, alive but unaware with no roots and identity. My whole identity was defined by my father’s name, my husband’s name, and my future unborn son. The focus in my story and photos is on the rules and the traditions that are stemmed from religions, and the religious principles. Some of these religious teachings have established the inequality between men and women. These religious principles have been implemented to the constitution by the Islamic Republic of Iran. For example, based on the inequality between men and women, men inherit twice the women, and also are entitled to the blood money twice the women. Unquestionably, these unjust laws have contributed tremendously toward violence and discrimination against women. Many women are in the government prison as guilty of showing their hair. All they wanted was to let the breeze dance with their hair. Singing is forbidden for girls and women. Some girls dream of going to college, but found themselves in the bridal gowns being forced to arranged marriages. In this swamp, freedom is suffocated in the womb. There is no space to develop and grow. The tyrant governments always use the religion as the best and strongest lever to control the people.
OASIS: IN OUR QUARANTINE YARD
“Oasis: In our quarantine yard” is a series created during 95 days of the confinement of my family in a Spanish countryside, the place we were surprised by the first lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic. It explores the experience of quarantine far from a large city, in the rural area, in which contact with nature brings caress, but tension is enhanced by human absence, both visual and audible. Especially for children, who make the bars, the gate their window to the world. The contact with nature is intensified and a silence, leisure are filled by observing natural events. Simultaneously, the break with reality and its common rhythm makes the imagination flourish. With the sunset, the restlessness and fear of death awaken. We all learn how to tame these monsters of the night and wake up light enough to appreciate the growth of our temporary vegetable garden. Through this work I aim to make visible an experience of going through.
The work “WAHALA” arouses around the topics of untamed economic growth and ecological perspectives. What drives the world and for how long. For the last decades mankind was heavily investing in fossil fuels. The world now is unfortunately still very dependent on this kind of power supply. But as we can see due to actual developments we are probably and hopefully at the end of an era. The project has led me to India, Nigeria, Poland and Germany. I have worked in the Oil fields of the Niger Delta, the coal belt of Jharkhand and around the large open cast mines around North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany and Silesia in Poland. I was focusing mainly on the people and their surroundings which are heavily affected by the oil, gas and coal industry. An important point was for me not only to concentrate on the fact that big national and international companies are exploiting the nature and leaving the local people with the ecological difficulties behind, I was also looking on the fact that most of the people living in these areas trying to hack in to the supply chain and try to make a living out of the fossil fuels which they are getting out of the wells and mines by themselves.
RAFAEL HEYGSTER and HELENA MANHARTSBERGER
Like Freddy Mercury asks in his song Bohemian Rhapsody „Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?“ we have often been confronted with the questions of what is actually happening around us and where the border between fantasy and reality lies, since the outbreak of the global Corona pandemic. For us the situation feels like a surreal dream in which we had to reorientate ourselves every few days. Germany countered the pandemic with infrastructural measures, new rules of social distancing and a shutdown lasting several weeks. In this photo essay we combine different aspects and scenarios happening during Covid-19 in Germany like in the song bohemian rhapsody different music genres are combined and open to interpret. We are interested in the tension between public life, the apparatus behind it and the people/subjects who move in this space. In a critical way we reflect on the measures taken to prevent the worst, how the crisis is communicated in the media and how it is possibly instrumentalised for political purposes.
We have chosen a theatrical pictorial aesthetic to play with our ideas of pandemic and crisis our surreal feelings and also the self-inscenisation of institutions. Our aim is not to bring out the individuality of the people photographed but rather to show them like film characters or avatars in video games. Even if we keep a critical eye on the current events it is important for us to say that it is not about ex-posing people or making fun of what is without question a very serious situation. With „Corona Rhapsody ” we want to show and question how the current pandemic is presented by the media or perceived in public, to what extent this coincides with subjective experiences and how we will remember the corona crisis in future.