“I Am a Different Me”

The social implications of being gay are brought to the fore in a new exhibition at the Franco Namibian Cultural Centre in collaboration with the Goethe Institut, the Other Foundation and Outright Namibia.
The collection of photographs titled “I Am a Different Me” delves into the spectrum of identities bestowed upon the LGBTI community by society as well as how they see themselves from a personal perspective.
The exhibition which will be on show until 13 October 2016 is anchored by four seasoned female artists, Julia Hango of “Naked Spaces”, Tuli Mekondjo of “The bellowing Mind”, Silke Berens and Jo Rogge.
The photographs on show are derived from a transformation process following a workshop held at Out-Right Namibia using the methodology ‘Looking In, Looking Out’ (LiLo). Hango explained that the exhibition started in August with So Namibia, which provided funding for the first collective art works by female artists focusing on the LGBTI community.
“We approached Outright Namibia, and requested for female participants which would like to be a part of the exhibition. After the selection of participants, the partner institutions held a workshop which primarily sensitized woman on identity issues, specifically gender binary, which involves the classification of sex and gender into two distinct, opposite and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine qualities, which the LGBTI community often strays away from” Hango explained.
The “I Am a Different Me” exhibition showcases portrait photography that at first glimpse captures ordinary males, females, and transgender individuals. Some grace the portrait with sullen expressions, unblinking and unsmiling to the camera, whilst others posed for their portraits like the Mona Lisa, with mysterious expressions and just a hint of a smile. However what makes the photographs endearing aside from the earnest expressions, great contrasting of colour and lighting photographic skill is that they represent two portrait versions of the same person.
The viewer is presented with how participants interpret concepts around self-image and how they are seen by their communities, families and friends, in two different portraits of themselves. But which one is which, is often a matter of guessing.
Through this process individuals claimed their own bodies by reaffirming themselves. The exhibition also includes abstract canvases incorporating the use of language by society to express the views on this community such as “Moffie” and other slang terms which are derogatory.
The “I am A Different Me” exhibition demonstrates how the arts can play a vital role in the reconditioning of societal norms and values, and showcases through exquisite photograph, an untold story of the LGBTI community, breaking away from the collective lens of stigma to individual traits and idiosyncrasies of fluid identities.