EBIFANANYI: A PICTURE, DRAWING OR PAINTING
Having spent only one week in Uganda, I decided to prolong my stay with the Ebifananyi exposition by Andrea Stultiens and Canon Griffin at the FOMU, Museum of Photography in Antwerp. Not only travelling back in space, but travelling back in time as well. Wandering through an archive of photo collections, drawings and paintings. Reaching back to a history some rather leave in the colonial past… But at the same encouraging different narratives on Uganda’s history, showing that there’s more than just a colonial past.
Ebifananyi is a noun derived from the verb Kufanana, which means “to resemble”. A Luganda word used for a picture, drawing or painting and thus emphasizing their qualities as likenesses. Ebifananyi is also the title of a series of eight publications by Dutch photographer Andrea Stultiens. Each book focuses on a Ugandan photo collection and could be considered a keepsake of its great historic value.
Andrea & Canon
Andrea doesn’t feel too comfortable calling herself a photographer. Instead, she describes herself as someone who really likes history and does things with photographs. When she first went to Uganda, she initially went as a tourist and not as a photographer. She believed that photographers who work in a context they don’t really know, makes them skim a surface at best. However, that changed when she noticed she could work in places she was not familiar with, as long as she used photography as a way to engage. And so she did when she exposed her first meaningful project in Kampala.
When she met Canon - who’s a Ugandan artist - during this exposition, they initiated a partnership by creating the platform HIPUganda. HIP stands for “history in progress” but also for “history in photographs”, as they aim to digitalize photographic material to prevent the loss of historical collections. Both blessed with artistic flair, they’re bringing these collections back to live by connecting their content to audiences through art. And so they did for the Ebifananyi exposition at the FOMU.
Black & white
The Ebifananyi exposition takes you on a colorful journey through an archive of black and white photographs. Each book is presented as a chapter highlighted in a bold color. Greeted by the meaning of the word Ebifananyi, painted on a burgundy red wall, the exposition further guides you through self-portraits, photo collections of families, presidential photos and the photo archive of a school and medical institution. All presented as an engagement between the owner of the collection, several Ugandan artists and you as the audience of this exposition. Thus, creating history in progress, a continuous conversation evoked by what we feel when we see. Because the narrative of a story captured in the likenesses of a picture, drawing or painting, changes and takes on a different color in the eye of the beholder. An idea in which I find great comfort as this exposition finally starts the narrative on African history, from an African point of view.
The exhibition runs until the 18th of February, grab your tickets here. Also: the publications by Andrea Stultiens can be bought in the FOMU shop.
Text by Laetitia Sabiti
Pics by Laetitia Sabiti & Andrea Stultiens