“Troops in Mauritania oust the government”, “Guinea turmoil threatens lucrative mining deal”, “New refugee surge from Ivory Coast”, “ANC supporters warn of blood in the streets”, “The Niger Delta: The curse of the black gold”… just some examples of news coming from Africa. The Western media has 'normalised' this vision of the continent: we only know it through depressing headlines.
The Other Africa is a photographic project started in 2005. It is a visual document studying the emergence of a middle class on the continent. The exhibition set of images is made up of portraits of African professionals, images of African cities at night and portraits of radio DJs. All these images depict a modern side of Africa, far from the negative views conveyed in the Western media. The ultimate aim of the project is to create a 55 images exhibition: one portrait for each African Nation.
There is no denying Africa faces many issues but over the last few years the continent has developed a new partnership with other emerging economies, like China. This relationship is based on trade and equal partnership rather than the master-servant relationship endured by Africa during centuries of colonisation. In return for much needed commodities, China but also India, Brazil, Lebanon, Jordan, the UAE, Russia... invest heavily in African infrastructure. In turn, these better facilities (dams, roads, hospitals, schools...) will help the local middle class grow, stopping young African talents from leaving the continent in search of an elusive Western dream.
Horror in Africa has become the norm for Western audiences. Over the last few decades (since African independence) photojournalism has been depicting Africa mostly through images of war, famine, natural disasters and other calamities. Commercial pressure has also forced photojournalists to go further into creating aesthetic beauty from horrific scenes. Photographers have their images exhibited in galleries: people drinking champagne being dazzled by the technical quality of photographs depicting dying kids! Too often the people photographed are also nameless, just other victims of the normalised African horror. This attitude has created a 'deficit of image': we see Africa through these depressing images, Africans see the West through the beautiful people of Hollywood productions, where the good guys always win in the end.
The Other Africa wants to combat this deficit of images through a truly Pan-African series of photographs. Photos are never 'stolen' but posed. People have names.
The project has been on the web in English and French since 2007 and also exists in Swahili and Arabic. A Chinese version is under construction. The first exhibition of the work in progress took place in Leicester, UK, in 2009. The first African exhibition took place in March 2011, at the Alliance Française d'Accra, starting an African tour with upcoming exhibitions planned in many countries.