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Alexander Zaxarov
Sep 23, 2021

Viviane Sassen's first monograph, Flamboya brings together photos from various trips to Africa where she lived as a child.

Although Sassen grew up in the Netherlands, she lived in Kenya from the ages of two to five as her father worked in a local hospital. Her first return to the continent was in 2001 at the age of 29. Flamboya includes primarily portraits that Sassen made collaboratively with her subjects, some spontaneous and others performative.

Flamboya includes over fifty photographs taken across Africa—from Cape Town to Kenya to Zambia—that disregard traditional boundaries of genres and tackle the problematic bond between photography, imperialism, and the colonial imagination. Viviane Sassen’s aesthetic vocabulary suggestively recalls documentary as much as staged photography and relies on a visual economy that invites the formulation of multiple interpretations. Seen through Sassen’s lens, the ethnic 'Other' interrogates the traditional nexus laid between vision, knowledge, and power, which lies at the heart of the history and ideology of photography.

"As long as I can remember, I have felt very close to Africa. This is most probably due to the fact that I lived with my family in Kenya when I was a child. Yet, this very experience of closeness has also engendered contradictory feelings. While feeling to be a part of this world, I have also kept on being aware of the fact that I would never really be a part of it. Very soon, I have come to understand that I would always remain a stranger. In this way I try in my work to figure this ambiguity. You feel close but at the same time distant. And that is something that is most of times absent in traditional Western depictions of Africa, always clearly reflecting the interpretation and gaze of Westerners." — Viviane Sassen

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Alexander Zaxarov
Sep 23, 2021

Viviane Sassen's first monograph, Flamboya brings together photos from various trips to Africa where she lived as a child.

Although Sassen grew up in the Netherlands, she lived in Kenya from the ages of two to five as her father worked in a local hospital. Her first return to the continent was in 2001 at the age of 29. Flamboya includes primarily portraits that Sassen made collaboratively with her subjects, some spontaneous and others performative.

Flamboya includes over fifty photographs taken across Africa—from Cape Town to Kenya to Zambia—that disregard traditional boundaries of genres and tackle the problematic bond between photography, imperialism, and the colonial imagination. Viviane Sassen’s aesthetic vocabulary suggestively recalls documentary as much as staged photography and relies on a visual economy that invites the formulation of multiple interpretations. Seen through Sassen’s lens, the ethnic 'Other' interrogates the traditional nexus laid between vision, knowledge, and power, which lies at the heart of the history and ideology of photography.

"As long as I can remember, I have felt very close to Africa. This is most probably due to the fact that I lived with my family in Kenya when I was a child. Yet, this very experience of closeness has also engendered contradictory feelings. While feeling to be a part of this world, I have also kept on being aware of the fact that I would never really be a part of it. Very soon, I have come to understand that I would always remain a stranger. In this way I try in my work to figure this ambiguity. You feel close but at the same time distant. And that is something that is most of times absent in traditional Western depictions of Africa, always clearly reflecting the interpretation and gaze of Westerners." — Viviane Sassen

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