Good storytelling strengthens social movements
Photographic artist JR has produced these giant photographic portraits of Kenyan women and used the images to create water resistant roofing materials for Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa.
Now THIS is good art. Not only does it provide a useful visual function by literally putting a face to the sprawling slums. But it provides a useful function by improving the structure of the buildings themselves.
It must be far too easy for the wealthy to avoid the reality of slums. If you’re not poor you just don’t go anywhere near them. This installation brings the lives of the poor to the lives of the wealthy in a very clever way, by air. Of course planes must fly over these areas!
And what’s most effective is the images themselves. It’s not your stereotypical victimising wide eyed stare. These are images of vibrant, awesome and empowered women. It gives lie to the common perception (mostly perpetuated by neocolonial ‘aid’ agencies) that women living in poverty in Africa are passively accepting of the impacts of colonial economics on their lives. These images (well, to me anyway) show that these women are not only very aware of the causes of the poverty they experience but are also active participants in the saying ‘the whole world’s watching’. Pertinent given our current economic climate.
I really hope this work gets the attention it truly deserves.
props: Wooster Collective
Selected tag: Slums
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Régine Debatty writes about the intersection between art, design and technology on her blog we-make-money-not-art.com.
She also contributes to various design and art magazines, curates art shows and lectures internationally.