Ed Cross Fine Art is proud to exhibit recent works by the artists Keyezua and Mário Macilau, curated
by Katherine Finerty, at the photography art fair Unseen Amsterdam 2018.
The two artists presented both approach ideas of identity, capability, and visibility through powerful and poetic photographic imagery. Keyezua’s series FORTIA (2017) is a deeply personal project employing collaborative art-making as a source of mourning and empowerment. Mário Macilau’s series Profit Corner (2015-2018), covering the striking yet dangerous Maputo Municipal open pit waste dumpsite, is shown alongside the newest work in his Faith series (2015-2018), addressing the spiritual practice of animinsm in contemporary Mozambique. Both artists profoundly believe in the places they document and people they represent, viewing their artistic practices as tools for social change. They employ a sensitive lens to dispel an other-ing gaze in favour of a sense of awe yet understanding – a gesture of collective belief and agency. Thus neither photographer is reduced to the role of interpreter, mediator, or impresario – they serve as confidantes, advocates, and storytellers.
Keyezua’s practice challenges the often prejudiced and stigmatised narrative about Africa and empowers creative voices to gain ownership of their indigenous stories and contemporary self-representation. In FORTIA the artist references her own binational Angolan-Dutch identity by casting a powerful black female body adorned in a bustling, romanticised red dress and juxtaposing the white and blue colours associated with the traditional Dutch milk girl and unique handmade Angolan masks. Each mask was created by a group of disabled men, in honour of her own disabled father, and conveys a distinct narrative meaning through its design and title. “FORTIA was a ritual,” the artist reflects, “But it was also me exploring the materials that we have in my country and how art can also be connected to therapy for those that are going through difficulty. I was also exploring how it can be connected to innovation, how it can be connected to images that celebrate the survivors of sickness or of war that are physically disabled.” By affirming the capability and dignity brimming within this vulnerable, alienated group, Keyezua positions her socially-engaged art practice as a form of healing with the power to transform sorrow into strength.
In a similar vein, Mário Macilau also works with ‘the ghosts of society’ – socially isolated groups and subcultures – activating subjects and their stories though his psychologically sensitive yet loaded lens. “As a photographer, I believe in the power of images,” Macilau states, “I've been exploring the relationship that exists between the environment, human beings, and time.” In his celebrated, ongoing series Faith, Macilau documents preservations of ancient Mozambican culture through contemporary practices including distinctly local yet diverse conceptions of God, the cosmos, and the supernatural – all ultimately seeking coherence, meaning, and connection. His hauntingly potent photograph Invisible Faith, for example, further
complicates the notion of the veil with its portrayal of a young woman of indigenous animist faith counter- intuitively wearing a Muslim cover due to impoverished resources rather than religious affiliation. Accompanying this piece are works from Macilau’s series Profit Corner set in the Maputo Municipal dumpsite which serves as a significant livelihood for local people without any other work opportunities and recently experienced a tragic landside. The cinematic moments captured are full of individual character amidst ominous natural power, capturing the inner world of this specific environment – its shades of light and darkness, its moments of climax and silence, its truths. Profit Corner celebrates the resilience of silenced, hardworking voices, whilst also calling into question society for overlooking their disadvantaged youth. Within these two series an honest and trust-worthy eye is ever-present, casting a contemplation that is triumphant yet also critical.
Both Keyezua’s and Macilau’s practices encompass documentary impetuses at once geopolitical and poetic, inviting viewers into powerful, intimate moments. These researched-based series reflect on the silenced realities of each of the artists’ everyday contexts – disability, labour, spirituality, ritual – alongside the hope of individual agency ultimately captured through a process of respect that makes visible the invisible. The works give voice to repressed histories, socio-economic oppression, and gendered identity politics, whilst still conveying the underlying beauty, dignity, and resilience that drive the human spirit and our collective consciousness. This display for Unseen seeks to share inclusive stories about reclaiming inner and outer strength, presenting us with fears and struggles alongside dreams and dignity. It is a testament to the capacity of art to empower people physically and spiritually as well as politically and economically – endowing them with the strength to not just survive, but indeed thrive.
– Text by Katherine Finerty