An entire year writing, reading and taking pictures of stories

So I started looking for photographers. I was conscious of consuming images because what really are they more than snapshots of stories that are visually presented? My choices for the most significant cultural experiences of 2016 reflect my shift to photography and my attention to the world outside of South Africa, as well as my desire to read novels to help inspire the writing I do.

Lowland HTML0 Lowland tells the love story between two brothers who grew up in the marshy lowlands of Calcutta. One of them is a politician, and the other is a professor.

The story tells of a family that is ripped to pieces by the violence of politics. It is a story of political violence. Lowland is about the loss of India and the hemorrhaging of an entire nation that isn’t able to fulfill the promise of its independence. Lahiri is a poetic and subtle writer. The prose in this book will take the reader away.

Yet she is so more than just this. Lahiri is a witness to loss. She is one of the best writers that focuses on the human experience of sadness. The Lowland is an epic work of fiction; however, for writers who write literary non-fiction (like me), Lahiri’s expertise in the art of writing provides an immense source of motivation.

The cover of the novel ‘Citizen’ was written by Claudia Rankine.

Between 2015 and 2016, Claudia Rankine wrote a number of long pieces concerning Serena Williams.

Every article was a way to honor the athlete as well as consider what she means to America, which has always struggled to respect women and people of color and has never known how to do with non-apologetic black women.

So, I’ve been looking to read Rankine’s epic poem Citizen for a while. When race relations erupted in the US and South Africa, South Africa, and the US and the notion about the value of lives lived by blacks began to be stale and turned into a philosophical debate, the focus of a heated discussion regarding the importance and significance of the concept of identity in a multi-cultural world – I was interested about what Rankine could have to say.

Citizen begins by recounting, in the second person, a string of racist incidents experienced by Rankine and friends of hers, the kind of insidious did-that-really-just-happen affronts that startle in the moment and later expand, poisonously, in the mind.

The cumulative force of micro-aggressions is self-deliberation. All of this is inexplicably relentless. Rankine keeps us safe from the endless violence of racism.

The recognition of the insanity of racism demonstrates its enormity. It also reflects the humanity of the people who, like Rankine, endured thousands of instances that were designed to tear us down.

  1. Ruddy Roye (Sept 16 – Oct 29, 2016; Stephen Kasher Gallery, New York)

When I was visiting New York for a meeting in the latter part of September, a colleague who writes about the culture and arts scene in The Village Voice took me to see a range of exhibitions. One of the most impactful was an exhibit that showcased Jamaican photographer Radcliffe “Ruddy” Roye‘s photographs. The show featured 20 large-scale images of Roye, including many from his neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn, as well as his long-term, bigger project called Living is a Protest.

Roye has been a popular figure on Instagram and Instagram, but this doesn’t diminish his professionalism as a photographer. In fact, it is the opposite. The ease of access to his images and the fact that he has 250,000 followers provide him with an impressive platform. This is in a period where images of black protest are often altered, edited, and rewritten to fit into the standard narratives concerning riots and rage.

The media has a method to erase the stories of those whom society is not willing to confront. My humble way is putting these stories in the eyes of people by establishing a real and ongoing dialogue on the questions.

Ruddy Roye on Instagram, Storytelling, and Risking the Angry Black Man Label. (Please be aware that this video can be viewed on Vimeo.)

Roye is a humble man, an urban photographer who lives with his subjects. The close relationship between him and the issues he is training his lens on is apparent as it is impressive.

While Roye has been hailed as a member of a dazzling photographer group made up of blacks who are documenting their participation in the Black Lives Matters movement, The image that most struck me was a dark-skinned pair of two men, glistening with sweat, holding rainbow flags, clapping hands and gazing at each other in a display of queer pride. There is no hashtag required because all black lives matter.

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