This month, ACCRA [dot] ALT is featuring photographer and digital artist Josephine Kuuire (of Mumbles Photography) in an exhibition of her images in “Second Chance” at Brazil House, James Town from 18 March – 15 April.
The exhibition witnessed more than a hundred young artists and significant innovators excited about Josephine’s images, discussing among other things, visual representation, suicide and the creative process in a Q&A session that followed the viewing. In a chat with visitors at the exhibition, Josephine mentioned that her images had been called “naked, bold and unafraid”.
Those are quite accurate words. “Second Chance” is a collector of moments that are evocative and haunting. The photographs document the trajectory of Josephine’s struggles from age 7 to last year. Her story unfolds through a mantra of framed images, each beginning with the phrase “The Day I” as in “The Day Everything Boiled Up” and “The Day I Almost Died Pt. 2” and “The Day [she] Picked The Perfect Mask.”
Josephine’s expression of intimacy with herself becomes a kind of public and shared intimacy with the viewer. “Second Chance” is an exploration of intimacy – with the self, the image, the human form, emotions, memories, kinship. It counteracts the policing of women’s sexuality while critiquing conservative and uniform standards of behaviour and beauty for Ghanaian women. Josephine uses intimacy as an instrument of resistance and a mechanism to trigger a healing process while also inhabiting a reality that persists in normalizing social repression.
After the opening, we got a chance to sit down with Josephine to discuss the exhibition and some of our favorite images.
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ADA: There’s the pronoun ‘i’ in almost all of the photo’s captions. Granted, these are self-portraits, and therefore, about you but the question still begs: how thin is the line between self-love and self-absorption?
JK: There is a thin line between the two. You can almost say they are the same thing. They both deal with wellbeing and emotions. It’s quite difficult to separate the two or even pinpoint a difference between them. I think it’s something each and everyone has to practice or do. We all need to look out for our own selves – we may think we have people on our side but there’s no guarantee that they’ll always be there. You will be left with yourself and if you don’t know how to handle yourself well, you may end up losing it.
ADA: Here in Ghana, we are neglecting to take mental health experiences such as depression seriously. Would you say this disregard affected you in any way?
JK: Depression is one of the major illnesses in Ghana. And yes, I believe it did affect me at some point in my struggles. There were moments that I did not want to associate with anyone or even get out of bed in the morning. I don’t think what I went through was deep depression but I am sort of glad I went through it because I now know what it feels like to be depressed. I know not to get to that point again.
Most times when you are going through tough times, you need to step away from that scene and do something else that relaxes you and makes you happy. For me, it’s photographs. It’s my comfort zone. My therapist.
ADA: It’s quite ironic how your lips are plastered in “The Day My Words Were Heard.” One could read that along the lines of silence being the loudest form of communication. Was that your intended message?
JK: Yes, that was the intended message. I am an introvert. I hardly speak or express myself through words and it is something that has limited me in a lot of ways. So although my lips were plastered, it’s just a way of saying, “Though I am quiet, you can still hear me”.
ADA: In “The Day I Was Called Fat,” we can’t see your face but there’s a somber mood in the image. How have experiences of body shaming – by others and yourself – affected the production of this work?
JK: I am reminded almost every day about how big I have gotten over the last couple of years. Those comments are always in the negative and it’s just human nature to feel bad when someone says negative things to you. So imagine if its something that is said to you on a daily basis. At some point, it begins to get into your head and it frustrates you.
The image [The Day I Was Called Fat] is very dark with light coming from one side – almost like a silhouette of just one side of my body. It’s my way of telling and showing that I am aware of my sudden gain of quite a large amount of weight and as the days go by, it is something that I do work on. Nothing you want to achieve happens in just one day. It takes a while and soon I will get there.
ADA: ”The Day I Found My Best Friend” suggests that you are your own best friend. What does that mean to be your best friend?
JK: A best friend I believe is someone who knows everything about you and is always there for you. Sometimes it’s good to have conversations with yourself – to talk to yourself. Not in your head but out loud. You’d be amazed at the things you would discover. Talking to yourself I think is the best way to know yourself more. Nobody knows you more than you.
ADA: ”The Day I Picked The Perfect Mask” – and it happens to be your face. Tell us about it.
JK: The whole point of this image is to be yourself. It’s easier to be yourself than to be someone else. I picked the perfect mask which was myself. I was finally able to realize I wanted to be myself and no one else.
ADA: Would you say you saved yourself?
JK: No, I didn’t do it all on my own. There were influences from family and friends. No matter what you are going through in life, I don’t believe you can go through it all on your own. Sometimes you need a group to support even if it’s just to sit next to you and not talk.
*Interview by Moshood Balogun
“Second Chance” is open to the public for viewing and sale at Brazil House in James Town, Monday – Friday 11am – 3pm.
Appointments for viewing and sale on the weekend can be arranged by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org at least three (3) days in advance .