I was invited to provide a photograph for a group portfolio show by Mia and Adriana, who photographed my sister’s wedding. The theme of the show is “RSVP”, an acronym for a French phrase meaning “please respond”. I chose to print this image, “Torn Propaganda, Maputo 2007″. I shot this in Maputo this past spring at the Mercado Municipal. This is my favorite image from the past year – the kind of picture that grows on me. When I made my first large print of it, I saw a few faces that I had not even noticed before. Sorry, I’m not going to upload a high resolution version to look at. You’ll have to buy a print or get yourself to Paris, France where it will be shown this month. The portfolio show will also be exhibited in Columbia next spring. I had to write a brief statement to go along with the print – it’s the first time I’ve written an artist statement for a single image. Here goes:
“Torn Propaganda, Maputo” includes fragments of a poster promoting the celebration of “Heroes Day”, a national holiday celebrating the founders of Mozambique’s independence movement. This invitation to celebrate places Armando Guebuza, the current president and leader of the dominant Frelimo political party, front and center. Guebuza is placed among the two “Heroes”, Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel. The response to this message is ambiguous – the cause of the defilement is unclear. It could be read as an angry act of protest by a disillusioned Maputian, struggling under difficult economic conditions. On the other hand, the poster may have been torn by chance as the crowds of people stream in and out of the Mercado Municipal where the image was found.
The absence of physical depth gives way to the dimension of time that is central to the image. Time has painted much of Mozambique’s history onto this wall. The faces of its people are scattered and obscured within the remains of messages posted upon its surface. Like many of the old colonial buildings in Maputo, the wall of this building is crumbling. Years of civil war, opposing cold war influence from the Soviet Union and the west, disease, poverty and natural disasters have allowed the process of decay to take its course.