Project space GH36 in Berlin Mitte is pleased to announce the exhibition Inner Africa presenting works by photographer Uwe Michael Neumann together with historical objects from his private African collection. The photographic diary of Central African dazzling land and seascapes, moments from everyday life in big cities, snapshots of animals span throughout the 3 years of the photographers life and work in various Central African states.
The historical statuettes, masks and other ritual objects from his private collection – many of which are rare and valuable collectibles – impress and kindle our admiration for African art, ethnography and local customs. Among the ongoing discourse on the issue of restitution to the African museums of the valuable objects once taken away and now parts of big Museum collections all over the world – the pieces from this private collection present a small yet rich portion of the enormous African cultural heritage within the postcolonial discourse.
How much do we actually know about Africa except for the established klischees of exotic nature, safari and promise of adventure? To what extent is this exhibition a projection of our fantasies about this vast continent with its traumatic past and it’s troubled present?
Just to note – it was in Berlin almost a hundred years ago when the European imperial powers met to divide the African continent into colonies – which was a purely burocratic procedure of drawing borders – actually rectangular areas of land that were subsequently distributed as colonies between the European empires of the time – all that irrespective of the actual borders of the existing African countries of the time.
Since then not much has changed about the state borders in Africa. This exhibition wouldn’t dare to solve all these questions but just to point to them.
Text. Dr. Lily Fürstenow.
UWE MICHAEL NEUMANN
Inner Africa – An evolving photographic diary into the heart of black Africa by Uwe Michael Neumann.
This exhibition of Uwe Michael Neumann (b. 1961) was born of a love of photography and Africa, its unique landscapes, its people and its nature. It reflects the long journey of Neumann’s life from Germany, to the great heart of Africa.
That adventure was given wings in November 2014, when Neumann attended the wedding of a daughter of the Sultan of Foumban, Princess Janina, in Foumban, north-west of Cameroon. There he met and became friends with the famous French photographer and producer, Alain Denis who inspired him to become a professional photographer, instructing him in portrait and landscape photography.
This was a long way from his birthplace and childhood in Cologne, Germany. He developed a love of photography when he got his first camera, a Polaroid, at the age of eight years old. From 1982 to 1988, Neumann diverted from photography, studying law at Cologne State University. But his love of photography, driven by curiosity and the desire to see new things and discover and show their beauty, always called him back.
He conducted his first photo tour in Provence, France in 1992. In 1998 he visited New York where he further developed his photographic style; experimenting with verticals and keystone/perspectives.
Launching into the field of international cooperation he combined his daily work with his photography in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Finland, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Sweden and Ukraine.
After his life-changing visit to Cameroon in 2014 Neumann returned there in February 2015 taking photographs of Central Africa’s unique nature and everyday life, which differed greatly from Europe, and even tourist destinations in Africa like Kenya and the Republic of South Africa. During his stay in Central Africa, he lived in Yaoundé, Cameroon and travelled frequently to Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Chad and Congo Brazzaville, among the poorest countries in the world. There he worked and became friends with Berlin-based photographer and film producer Jacob Steiger. Steiger shared knowledge about camera technique and post-production.
He also visited and photographed Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Benin, Kenya, Egypt and the Republic of South Africa.
Seeing many different countries challenged his views and propelled him to capture the pure reality of each new place in his photos. Neumann focused on often-overlooked treasures in nature, and beauty in places seemingly dominated by poverty.
In October 2017 Neumann returned to Berlin and worked on over 90,000 photos from Africa, launching his first exhibition in May 2018 in ‘Animus Kunstgalerie’ near Berlin.
Uwe Michael Neumann