South African photographer Justin Dingwall and lawyer and model Thando Hopa have recently collaborated on a new project featuring photographic portraits that address albinism as a key theme. Both the model and the photographer have created a series of poignant images that invite audiences to reflect on – and rethink – attitudes towards beauty, skin colour, corporeality and albinism as a condition caused by a lack of melanin in the skin that can affect people from every ethnic background.
In addition to the presentation of these striking visual images, Dingwall and Hopa aim to inspire a public debate about the historical taboos that surround the subject of albinism, as well as draw attention to the devastating levels of discrimination, threats of physical violence and actual bodily harm many people with albinism have experienced throughout history because of the superstitions that persist in some societies around the world.
Dingwall and Hopa’s series of photographs taken between 2014 and 2015 will be displayed in a new solo exhibition – titled, “ALBUS” (27 November 2016 – 13 January 2017) at the ArtCo Gallery, Aachen, Germany.
The social and political significance of the photographic series, and its importance as the focus of a major international exhibition, is expressed in the press release that states:
“In many parts of the world, the discourse surrounding albinism is characterised frequently by folklore, deeply-rooted prejudices and falsehoods… Although [people with albinism] are not under an immediate threat in South Africa, children with albinism continue to be the scorn of their classmates in the school playground and are, as adults, ostracised and discriminated against. Albinism weighs heavily on their families and is considered a curse. As a rule, an objective discussion of this subject is taboo in South Africa.”
Speaking about the political aesthetics of his artwork, photographer Justin Dingwall said:
“My series is not about race, but about the aesthetic power and grace of being different, of departing from the norm.”
A comprehensive art book about this photographic series – also titled “ALBUS” has been published to accompany the exhibition, featuring 48 colour illustrations, as well as essays by Klaus Honnef, Pierre Lombart, Johan Myburg and Robyn Sassen – each text examining the artistic, religious and political iconography depicted in the portraiture. The 128-page book concludes with poetry by the internationally renowned South African writer and performance poet Lebogang (‘Lebo’) Mashile.
For further information about the ALBUS exhibition (27 November 2016 – 13 January 2017), and the accompanying art book, please visit the ArtCo Gallery website at http://www.artco-art.com/.
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