New Imaginings

Intertwined Imaginaries

Words and photographs by Tamary Kudita

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Photographer Tamary Kudita’s powerful portraits aim to retell and recentre the often obscured histories of Zimbabweans and other African cultures. Drawing from fabrics and mixing African and European histories, she uses fantastical imagination to explore identities.

My work attempts to convey a truthful narrative, one that demonstrates how I engage
with matters of invisibility, re-contextualisation, appropriation and subversion to preconceived ideas of Black personhood through the lens of Zimbabwe. It also speaks directly to the common reality among people of colour of an obscured history, which often negates our individual stories.

My practice aims to offer complex readings on the presence of the past and how it informs our ways of seeing. Looking at it from this vantage point, I had to ask myself, “Where does perception start?” Questioning my role and my responsibility as a photographer led me to challenge the perception-enhancing power of photography by highlighting narratives it missed along the way.

I like to juxtapose ideas around modernity and tradition, fantasy and reality, endings and beginnings. Through my use of costuming and the pairing of props, I create a visual language which merges African culture with aspects of Western influence - interrogating the idea behind centres and peripheries.
I explore the place of African fabric in the refashioning of cultural, racial and gendered identities as well as its use as a vehicle to challenge power structures that render certain people’s histories and cultural expressions invisible.

My work gestures towards ways in which I embark on a cultural remaking of the self and other, contributing to new imaginings of African identities. Stemming from the desire to recognise the lived truth of others, my art explores several intertwined imaginaries documented through domestic, metropolitan and non-linear spaces.

Some of the women and men in my art have dual heritages which were shaped by patterns of migration. Part of their sense of identity is characterised by a shared culture which influences how they interpret the world. As an artist, I aim to weave these narratives together to bring healing, pride and harmony.

I create suggestive worlds by placing clues about their lives and their sometimes-invented characters into the compositions. Through these fantastical portraits, I attempt to create a new literature which borrows from both Romanticism and Realism. I marry the two movements to tell the story of our traumatised nation without letting the weight of history collapse our own histories. When I started creating my series, I thought about what the world would look like through the lens of a Black woman, in a time where there is talk of democracy but where chaos and degradation become the everyday reality.

In the same way, Romanticism took a metaphorical approach to art, while Realism took a literal one, I portray everyday people from contemporary life in Zimbabwe, as well as larger-than-life heroes who exist in history. I also express the aspect of Realism through the social message in which history is mediated: I aimed to create a life of adventure and a new reality which transmits my sitters’ hopes and dreams.

In a world filled with limited facts and plenty of misinformation, it is important to acknowledge that the things we own - the clothes we wear and the objects we value - tell stories about who we are, what we value, and where we come from.

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Words and photographs by

Tamary Kudita

Tamary Kudita was born in Zimbabwe while her ancestry can be traced back to the Orange Free State, historical Boer state in Southern Africa. She st… Learn more

This article is part of Issue #16

Cover of  Issue #16
Pluriverse Confluence Alliance

A critique of the prevailing narratives that shape our lives: challenging oppressive systems, revitalising cultural narratives, unveiling obscured …

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