Pieter Hugo 20
Pieter Hugo (b.1976, Johannesburg, Gauteng) is a Cape Town based photographer documenting the innate eccentricities of various rituals, backgrounds, customs and conventions in contemporary Africa. From bourgeois lifestyles in Ghana and Liberia, to extreme pop-culture versus underground sub-culture in Nigeria, to the tragic tedium of suburban South Africa, Hugo portrays the affect of Western culture, specifically regarding constructs of ‘otherness’ and ‘outsider’ politics. His images portray inherited obsolesces, polemic handme-downs, and ad-hoc influences from the West, and the residuum of corporate interests, exposing Africa as a complex yet abused and corrupted resource. Following the tradition of documentary photography, Hugo hinges his approach upon the periphery, the fringe, and the marginalized. Even with the richness and vastness of Africa and its many cultures, built upon fractured negotiations, nuances of difference, and contested geographies, the continent still sits with the pit of colonialism sinking deep into its socio-economic core. Within this murky, often corrupt
space there is a high probability of finding strange hybrids and cultural chimera’s. South Africa is at the forefront of this schizophrenic cultural paradigm, where heritage, tradition, and fraternity all permeate to reinforce mutations of age-old colonial issues. In this vein, the first series that established Hugo as an internationally recognized artist is Look Aside. Created between 2003-2006, this series focuses on superficial prejudices that play a pivotal role in the fabrication of the status quo; documenting people who have appearances that make other people ‘look aside’. He brings to the fore our preconceptions, making us question our own unfounded perceptions about otherness and difference. These portraits include people with disfigurement, blindness, and albinos, meant to be unsettling, uncompromisingly extracting an awareness of apathy and pathos. These images imbue a sense of disbelief and repulsion, urging one to encounter difference upfront using dramatic frontal portraits, exposing the artifice of the status quo. Hugo decinstructs what constitutes the norm, specifically
reflecting upon the invented realities of race, class, and the like. Other important series’ include The Hyena & Other Men (2005), Nollywood (2008), Permanent Error (2010), where Hugo dissects the imitation of the West and infestation by the West in some form or other. He pairs strife with its counterpoint in opulence, power with its antithesis in fragility, forged in the remains of multiple, distinct cultural identities, all struggling to match the pace of a ubiquitous, hegemonic drive for progress and profit, largely to the detriment of the proletariat and the environment. Kin (2013) is perhaps the subtlest series that Hugo has produced in this regard, with every image becoming a meditation in juxtaposition to the next image. Each image entices one to truly observe, curated in narrative clusters, not seeming to have any clear coherency, but somehow crafting a uniform story about the notion of ‘home’. Kin is about the slightof-hand situations in life, piecing together moments that sometimes bind us and other times divide us. Consisting of varying, contrasting
A catalogue detailing the works and artists included in the third iJusi portfolio, curated by Pieter Hugo.