Identity and Africa: a theme, and a continent, where much is in motion. For “A New Gaze 2”, the Vontobel Arts Commission invited 80 photographers who live and work in Africa to address issues of identity from their perspective. Winner of “A New Gaze 2” is the Ghanaian artist Kelvin Haizel (*1987, Accra).
His project, elaborated around the theme “Identity”, took him to the Comoros, an archipelago situated in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Mozambique. This group of islands consists of an independent country, the Union of the Comoros, plus the island of Mayotte, which is a French overseas département.
While the Comoros, a former colony of France, might be considered an island paradise, it is also among the poorest and most troubled countries in the world. On the other hand, the island of Mayotte, as a part of France, benefits from transfer payments from Paris that substantially raise the standard of living of its population. The split between Mayotte and the Union of Comoros was concluded in 1975, and in 1995, visa requirements introduced by Mayotte for residents of the neighboring islands triggered a major refugee drama. Every year, hundreds of Comorans attempt to make the voyage to Mayotte on unsafe wooden boats and thus enter the European Union – a trip that has ended in fatal misfortune for thousands of people over the past two decades.
This exceptional situation prompted Kelvin Haizel to explore the region and its multiple identities through photography and video. Haizel began to search for the islands’ shared identity, immersing himself ever deeper into their microcosms. In the process, he began to comprehend the differences between their inhabitants, as well as their mutual feelings of both amity and antagonism, and coming to terms with questions of belongingness.
After the jury completed its work in November 2017, Haizel spent several weeks living and working on the islands. For the exhibition, he used the material he assembled – posed as well as candid photographs, reportage images, as well as found image and video material – to create installations that stand in a complex relationship, one to another: much like the islands of the archipelago themselves.
Mayotte – Ein Stück EU im Indischen Ozean
A tour with Christof Gertsch (Das Magazin)and Luisa Baselgia (curator)
March 21st, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 16th, 12 noon, with Catharina Hanreich
Saturday, March 23rd, 3 p.m., with Urs Stahel
Saturday, March 30th, 12 noon, with Catharina Hanreich
Thursday, April 4th, 6:30 p.m., with Luisa Baselgia