Moving away from stereotypes of strife, these images aim to capture the continent how it really is
Obscuring the distinction between documentary and fiction, Cristina de Middel has never been interested in maintaining the rigid stereotypes of photojournalism. Tired by the genre’s tendency to cast pathetic fallacy over the African continent, her latest project, This Is What Hatred Did, aims to dispel some of the myths surrounding what life's really like in Nigeria, toeing the line between real and imagined.
“We have lots of information about Boko Haram, the missing girls, violence, oil, etc but we know very little about what it is like to live in the biggest city in Africa.” Middel continues, “I understand people need to stay informed about the world drama, but this information maybe needs to be considered with the world’s beauty in order to build a fair portrait of it.”
Following a loose narrative based on a children’s book published in the 50s entitled My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Amos Tutuola, a non-linear tale of a boy fleeing from slave traders and becoming lost in the woods for 30 years. Middel became inspired to mobilise the author’s words from the page, using a mixture of photography and illustration to present the story in a three-dimensional context. “I had never in my life read anything like that, I was really obsessed with the book. It presented a very good opportunity for me to develop further my opinion on the way photography has traditionally treated Africa,” she says.
“I hope people can enjoy a story about Africa that does not victimise the continent and that brings some useful information to get rid of the cliché. I hope people can get interested in better understanding a continent that probably had the worst marketing campaign in history thanks to traditional documentary photography.”