Okwui Enwezor on Snap Judgments, contemporary African photography

July 2008 -

"When a visitor enters a Nigerian home, he will immediately be handed over the photo albums of the family." According to the Nigerian/American curator Okwui Enwezor, photography plays an important role in African society. At the exhibition Snap Judgments, which he put together, we see African miners, brave female soldiers and also the 'city jungle' of Africa's metropolises.


Ntokozo and his brother Vusi Tshabalala at Ntokozo's place, Milton Court, Pritchard Street, Johannesburg,
2004 © Guy Tillim International Center of Photography

"The city is in a constant state of transformation, and for the people there is a struggle of inclusion." Okwui Enwezor (45), a world famous curator of Nigerian descent, shows a photo of a 'rooftop-slum' in Cairo. The picture shows the struggle of inclusion in the cramped city, exemplarily for what is happening all across Africa. The exhibition, shown in Europe for the first time, exists of contemporary photography art by artists with African roots. "This is not photography on Africa , it is African photography", Enwezor stresses.

Snap Judgments has been on show in Canada, Mexico and the USA but is not shown as an exhibition on African soil. "Maybe there we should look for alternative ways to show photos", says Enwezor while referring to the photo-albums in people's homes. "A photo exhibition like here in the Stedelijk Museum is not so likely to work out well. Some artists in Africa go to the streets themselves in order to show their art to the people."

The Nigerian curator, who became successful in America, wants to get rid of the pessimism about Africa. "The pathology of crisis is all we hear about Africa. But we should not talk about societies in crisis all the time. Let's look at societies that are in transition. There is too much Afro-pessimism."

Snap Judgments can be seen in the Stedelijk Museum CS until September 30, 2008.