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"Quelle Heure Est-il au Paradis"

From the song Senegal Fast Food, Manu Chau, Amadou,Mariam

Paradise does not arrive to all at the same time. To some, it is just their given reality, as a birthright; to others, it is a distant destination. Feels like the clock was not set equal for all of us, humankind.

Race is a very hard topic to discuss nowadays. No one is racist; some even might have a non-white friend and talk about it, but reality is, even unconsciously, most of us keep the racist colonial narratives to this day.

As I write these lines, the French extreme right won the elections. They are against non-white French in France and all migrants. Everyone should go to their land. The same with the UK when they came up with the Brexit plan. In Portugal, the extreme right is targeting gypsies in a persecuting way, but all migrants started to feel more discrimination. And in the Netherlands targeting Muslim people, and yes, the rising right is everywhere, but still ‘no one is racist’.

I grew up in a colonial culture in a colonial country. I went
on a boat to Mozambique when I was 2 months old. From the Mozambican nannies that carried me on their backs to the workers in the house, a strong feeling of attachment and grounding grew,
a space of trust and belonging that was formative to the person I have become.

A door to our shared Humanity was open to dive in, and we have all this wisdom printed in the soul. In Africa, I learned resilience, belonging, and joy. With women, I learned what strength and dignity are, how to be tough and raise kids without guilt as a single parent.

I learned how we, women, are hard as rocks, with so much breakable glass around us.

And I grew up to be a photographer and worked a lot to raise my 3 children by myself. And in my lowest moments, the African voices would raise me up from that place with so much strength.

For all the commercial and fashion jobs I did, the evident absence of non-white bodies in the visual narrative (Tina Campt, 2016) was shocking. And the impact is global, as images and their narratives run global, no matter if they are commercial, fashion, art, editorial, or documentary. They talk to people; they trigger mechanisms of identification and idolization.

At a certain point, I started doing my personal projects, exclusively with non-white models as my assignment work kept the same stereotyped values and biases. The idea of inclusion was, until very recently, a very radical and dangerous idea.

The work for this project was done between Lisbon and Cape Town for 10 years before the George Floyd movement, which brought a global awareness about discrimination with non-white people. After, we have seen incredible representation in all sorts of visual narratives, in every field. Unfortunately, at this moment, it is not reflecting a transversal change of mentality or race perceptions; otherwise, 1/3 of European youth would not be so committed to extremist racist positions as it is today.

Still, to this day, the colonial biases shape societal perceptions of beauty and worth, attaching positive or negative connotations to different skin colors. Racism was always a tool for colonialism and post-colonialism, and still, to this day, ‘no one is racist’.

This project is about race, the other, and other worlds that racism keeps away. It is about a world upside down in a dystopian gaze. And it is about power, visibility, beauty, and dignity. It is about an alternative narrative, where all is possible, between present and future.

References:

Tina Campt (2016), Black Futurity in a Photographic Frame, lecture, ICI Berlin

“Absence of non-white bodies in visual narratives” is a concept explored by Tina Campt, referring to the lack of representation and visibility of non-white individuals in various forms of visual media, such as photography, film, and art. This absence perpetuates stereotypes, biases, and limited perspectives, highlighting the importance of diverse representation in visual storytelling. Tina Campt’s work encourages critical examination of power dynamics, race, and representation in visual culture.

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"When we reject the single story about anyone or a place, we regain a kind of Paradise" 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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"Quelle Heure Est-il au Paradis"

Exhibition September 2024, Madrid 

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