Look Up – PhotoIreland Festival 2023

Posted June 28, 2023 in Arts and Culture, Photography


The PhotoIreland festival delves into the Africa of everywhere.

In an introduction to African Cosmologies: Photography, Time, and the Other, the cultural historian Mark Sealy writes that, “we can begin to realize that Africa is everywhere, especially if we choose to look up to Africa rather than down on it. Africa in this context is a place where dreams are shared and justice is sought. Africa is omnipresent, sensorial, and multidirectional – a layered, fluid, sonic creative place that permeates and resonates across our planet.”

There is a strong nod to this vibrant and questioning Africa of everywhere in the curated selection of photographers chosen for this year’s PhotoIreland Festival under the theme of ‘R/evolutions’. We’ve selected a number of quotes published elsewhere by some of the participating artists.

Zanele Muholi, Manzi I, West Coast, Cape Town, 2022. from the series Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness. Courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery New York.

“I’m reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other. My reality is that I do not mimic being black; it is my skin, and the experience of being black is deeply entrenched in me. Just like our ancestors, we live as black people 365 days a year, and we should speak without fear.” – Zanele Muholi

Hélène Amouzou, Autoportrait, Liège, 2020. Courtesy of the Artist.

“Self portraiture is a way of writing without words. My aim is to reveal the deepest parts of myself.” – Hélène Amouzou 

Frida Orupabo, Untitled series, 2021. Commission for THE AFRICAN LOOKBOOK by Catherine McKinley. Courtesy of the artist.

“Most archives are not forbidden to enter, but you’re only allowed to look, not grab. There’s pleasure in breaking in and snatching, and there’s anger behind it, too—especially when I encounter images that have watermarks, images that are owned by institutions and probably white people. Often there’s no name attached to the person depicted, because it’s not like the person who owns the image has done any research. At best, it’ll say “slave girl.” – Frida Orupabo

Heather Agyepong, Le Cake-Walk: The Body Remembers (#4), 2020. From the series ‘Wish You Were Here’. Commissioned by The Hyman Collection.

I came across the word Cake-Walk in a script I was reading, googled it, and saw a video of this dance with Black performers doing this high-kicked, structured dance but later found out that it was originally to mock slave owners. I thought to myself, there is a project there…Some of the depictions were beautiful but a lot were racist and pretty disgusting. We later discovered someone called Aida Overton Walker who reimagined the dance and was celebrated as a Black, female performer who reclaimed the dance and filled it with grace, preciousness, and technicality. She was my anchor into the work, the woman I felt was calling out to me at the time to reclaim and take space.” – Heather Agyepong 

Mónica de Miranda, Whistle for the Wind, from the series The Island, 2022. Commissioned by Autograph. Courtesy of the artist.

Mónica de Miranda, Mirror Me, from the series The Island, 2022. Commissioned by Autograph. Courtesy of the artist.

“I view the personal as political, therefore, biographical or identity based work can express a political dimension, though it is not responsible to do so. It Is important that artists reflect on their own history in relation to identity politics and attitudes towards issues of belonging and community. In such a process, aspects of people’s identities and beliefs function as the common denominators which bring them together. Through personal experiences and creative processes, artists can develop and expand the collective consciousness. The artists then become activators of thought that can truly reflect their zeitgeist and add insight to political critique. Identities are individual and collective narratives that provide answers to the questions: ‘Who am i?’ and ‘Who are we?’ I believe that the artist can create and talk about art only from his/her subjective position.To have a political responsibility that extends beyond the artistic territory is too much of a burden which could jeopardize the artist’s creativity and freedom. In such a case, the art serves a function, becoming a manifesto.” – Monica de Miranda

Lola Flash, Troubling the Waters, 2020, from the series syzygy – the vision. Courtesy of the artist and Karen Jenkins Johnson Gallery.

My grandmother Lola, she was Native American so thinking about the Native American ancestry definitely makes me also think about being African American. Both of those cultures have always had double or triple spirit people as higher ups [or] people that are looked at in esteem. Also, this idea of honoring the land, my background, my DNA, feels very grounding and like I’m of the earth. I think that those two backgrounds just make me feel very, very confident. I often talk about coming from people who were enslaved, and how they had the chutzpah to think about freedom. I feel blessed, and that’s part of Afrofuturism.” – Lola Flash

PhotoIreland Festival runs from June 30 to August 27 with thanks to guest curators Renée Mussai & Catherine E McKinley.

Full details at 2023.photoireland.org

Words: Michael McDermott



The key to the city. Straight to your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter.


National Museum 2024 – English


The key to the city. Straight to your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter.