Woman of Namibia – An Exhibition on Perception
“Society tells women they are Godless. Rather than condemn the ones perpetuating the violence, society tells women it’s how they act or how they dress.” These were the words of Dominic von Strösser when he opened his photographic exhibition titled ‘Woman of Namibia’ at La Bonne Table restaurant in the Franco Namibian Cultural Centre last week. The exhibition runs until 09 March 2016.
Dominic described his work as focused on socially-conscious photography which delves into the pride of being a Namibian woman. However as his work progressed, the theme of the project changed focussing more on the perception of women in society. Dominic explained that “Gender violence is a symptom of a much larger issue: that woman still hold subordinate roles in society which is reflected in the way they are depicted or perceived as being weak, meek, demure or as objects that are sexualised.”
For the exhibition, the photographs adorn the dark red walls of La Bonne Table aptly displaying a gallery of women with neutral facial expressions yet contrasting between different races, age, sexualities and creed but all still fundamentally Namibian.
Except for one image of a smiling women, the rest conveys the same bland, but striking convergence on neutrality. Yet, in their diversity they provide a stark monochromatic vista of the manifold spirit of Namibian women. The entire exhibition confronts the viewer with different rooms filled with different women.
Dominic urged the audience to gaze at the large portraits of women with a critical eye, asking everybody to decide for herself or himself how they would expect this woman to act in society. Then he said “when a man has a neutral expression in social circles, he is regarded as important, or having something to say, however when a woman has a neutral expression society imposes social identities such as ‘the resting bitch face’.
In his photography, Dominic utilizes a more vintage form of the art, using a 50-year old large format camera for exposure onto black & white film. With the help of an outdated enlarger, he projects them on the outsized photographic paper, thus creating images devoid of any modern digital manipulation. This technique enables him to capture more realistic images.
His work is unique from the rest as it tries to combine African feminist thought with visual arts, a combination that remains elusive in traditional African societies.