Photography From Africa that Refuses Easy Narratives

Zoe Samudzi, Hyperallergic, October 2, 2019

On the lower floor, in “Hybrid Cities,” Girma Berta, Michael Tsegaye, Emmanuelle Andrianjafy, Sammy Baloji, and Michael McGarry offer various lenses into the urban city. It is unsurprising to have two series devoted to Addis Ababa — one in Berta’s Moving Shadows and the other in Tsegaye’s Future Memories — given that, as the headquarters of the African Union (and the Organisation of African Unity before that), it is often described as Africa’s political capital. There is another common thread in these artists’ works: informal economies and black markets run parallel to and sometimes eclipse formal financial structures; slum conditions are a stone’s throw from the perceived successes of industrialism. In these photographs, the city doesn’t exist despite the slum — it produces and complements it. While industrialization has alleviated the impoverishment of some, the urban poverty of many others is still necessitated by that very same process. It is not a surprising juxtaposition for anyone familiar, but it is still a startling consequence of assimilating Africans into a global political-economic structure that ultimately never sought to benefit them. 

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