Photo exhibition about queer life in Ghana comes to Joburg

09.11.2017 - Press release

The Goethe-Institut Johannesburg presents an exhibition about queer life in Ghana. The Ghanaian photographer aims to create more tolerance and public dialogues regarding queerness.

“Just Like Us: Constellations” is a series of photographs by Ghanaian photographer Eric Gyamfi. The exhibition was opened on November 8, 2017 and the photographs can be seen at the Goethe-Institut Johannesburg until February 15, 2018.

“Just Like Us: Constellations” shows queer life in Ghana
“Just Like Us: Constellations” shows queer life in Ghana© Goethe-Institut Johannesburg

It began as a portrait of the quieter side of queer life in his home country, where the project sought to encourage open dialogue about the presence of non-heteronormative members in society and the important role that they play in constructing the national social fabric.

By living with different people for extended periods of time and showing his subjects in relatively mundane settings, the pictures worked to question society’s dominant ideas of sexual differences and to celebrate queer life in Ghana.

Now, some two years into its life-cycle, this exhibition marks a progressive and self-reflective expansion of the “Just Like Us” series, both in medium and subject matter.

Here at the Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg, Gyamfi explores more deeply the contextual and material grounding of the project. The first iteration of “Just Like Us,” exhibited under the title “See You/See Me” at the Nubuke Foundation in Accra, elicited a great deal of reaction, particularly online.

Queerness is a controversial topic in most African countries
Queerness is a controversial topic in most African countries© picture alliance/dpa

This reaction itself became a telling reflection of the state of discourse in Ghana surrounding queerness, and it inspired the artist to look for ways it could be folded back into the series and included in its display.

With research being a key part of Gyamfi’s artistic practice, it also became logical in this exhibition to rethink the normal conventions of photographic displays in order to gesture toward the many hours of audio recordings, reflective writings, and multiple outtakes that he conducts while constructing his work.

To this end, this exhibition constructs constellations of photographs from the series, many of which have never been displayed, alongside found media material relevant to the topic of queer life in Ghana. The artist’s notes and other research materials are also included.

This informal mode of exhibition is designed to pull the curtains back on Gyamfi’s artistic process and provide visitors a deeper look at the mechanics behind his important contribution to photography and queer discourses on the continent.

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