Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Meetings with Remarkable People #6: Gloria Oyarzabal

Jul 25, 2017 - Federico Clavarino

Travelling to Africa can take a white European person to an uncomfortable spot: you can see the vestiges of colonial occupation, its consequences upon present-day African societies, the signs left in our imaginations, the implications of racism and Eurocentrism. The easiest reaction to all of this is guilt, and guilt often only leads to temporary self-loathing and a feeling of impotence, or just to the cynical acceptance of a situation. Historical contingence is thus transformed into destiny, which amounts to a reaffirmation of existing prejudice and to ruinous strategies based on charity and the like.

Another option is to assume that history and culture are living entities we can act upon: a feeling of responsibility seems to me a better starting point than white middle-class guilt. Part of this effort stands in deconstructing cultural stereotypes and working on our own narratives.

After living in Mali for three years, doing research on what she refers to as “the idea of Africa that Europe has created for its own benefit”, Gloria Oyarzabal started work on “La Picnolepsia de Tshombé”, a complex project that consists of a photobook and a multimedia installation, and that explores the connections between Franco’s Spain and the international intrigue that shaped an important moment of the history of the DRC (the murder of P. Lumumba).

“Elmina Strategy”, of which you can see a few photographs here, is a short photography-based essay about present day Elmina, that was the base for centuries of slave trade in Ghana. It is a meditation on how the welfare of Europe was built on suffering and terror. Some of the best photographs of this series are very dialectic images that try to establish links between the past and the present, or that highlight the interplay between reality and its image.

Gloria is now working on a longer, more ambitious project called “Susanna and the Elders”, and that addresses the extremely complex issues of Afro-feminism and ideological decolonisation.