A photography exhibition by Guillaume Bonn with films from Grace Ndiritu and the Aga Khan Foundation. Curated by Rozemin Keshvani assisted by Amin Abdulla-Pradhan
Zamana Space, Ismaili Centre
1-7 Cromwell Gardens
London, SW7 2SL
Dreams and Dystopias visually navigates the East African coastline through the lens of photographer and author Guillaume Bonn to reveal a region perennially poised between two worlds. Tracing the artist’s personal journey through Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia, his photographs reveal place as archaeological site eclipsing a disappearing past, barely effable but through the echoes of its fragments and traces. The failure of colonialism is evident as we encounter dystopic landscapes, laid waste and crumbling into ruin through conflict, poverty and displacement. The poignancy of a past to which one can never return: ‘le mal d’Afrique’ some have called it, yet one that remains ever-present in its landscape of deserted dreams. Today, East Africa is undergoing transformation – mosquito and malaria-ridden, marked by the traces of dictatorship and war, at the mercy of the consumption and commerce of the Western world. Guillaume Bonn’s photographs capture the old Africa in its unrelentingly vibrant native culture in the midst of modern skyscrapers, new highways and its purported technical improvements.
“Rozemin has curated this exhibition with great thought and sensitivity to bring to the Jamat and the larger public a very poignant interpretation of the work of Bonn’s visual narrative and Grace Nidiritu’s experimental video work. Through this exhibition, we are able to grapple with the delicate interplay between “geography and utopia” both in terms of our repositories of memories and imagined idea of Africa.” As Rozemin says, ” it provides both a reminder and reckoning on the urgency for post-colonial healing and the opportunities for social transformation while inviting us to critically engage and imagine how and by whom will a new dream for Africa will be constructed.” This exhibition is an important step in building the visual arts literacy of our Jamat. Zainub Verjee Executive Director of Ontario Association of Art Galleries, Toronto.
Grace Ndiritu is an internationally acclaimed visual artist. Her ‘hand-crafted’ videos and experimental photography are recognized for their elusive beauty, potent insight and collaborative approach to institutional critique. Shown in the context of Bonn’s visual archaeologies, Ndiritu’s films open pathways into the post-colonial offering opportunities for creative critical inquiry and transformative social justice. Juxtaposing Bonn’s work, are rarely seen photographs and maps from the archives of the Royal Geographical Society, films from the Aga Khan Foundation documenting development projects that successfully engage local communities, and materials from the Aga Khan University, that together layer this exhibition’s inquiry with crucial contextual and historical dimensions.
Dreams and Dystopias offers a lesson in geography and utopia, providing both reminder and reckoning on the urgency for post-colonial healing and the opportunities for social transformation, while inviting us to critically engage and imagine how and by whom will a new dream for Africa will be constructed.