The Namibians examines the process through which we try to understand far away places and unfamiliar cultures. The viewer is invited to turn the pages of an altered book, a project that was born of my need to unpack my expectations about traveling to the African continent for the first time in 2014. The original book, The Africans by western journalist David Lamb, is a product of the 1980’s when celebrity-driven “Aid to Africa” songs like “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” were at the top of the charts. It is a time capsule of how educated, well-meaning Westerners in the 80’s viewed “The Dark Continent” during its post-colonial period, as a backwards place which needed our help to fight off disease, famine and unrest. As a kind of artifact of my childhood, The Africans allowed me to reflect on my understanding of Africa’s colonial past and postcolonial present. At the same time, I was learning about the history of the recently formed African nation of Namibia, where ecotourism is an important piece of the developing post-Apartheid economy. Once I began my journey around that vast country, meeting Namibians and exploring amazing landscapes through my role as “Western ecotourist,” this altered book became my private space to reflect on everything I was experiencing in a far away place I had only ever imagined.
In the "Encounters" show at UCF, the altered book sat on a document camera which projected an image of each viewer’s hands turning its pages. By engaging with the book through the educational technology of doc cam and projector, the viewer becomes an extended part of the iterative experience of understanding a far away place and culture. The book also becomes a performance through its projected image, generating a public viewing of private reflections.
Read a review of this work in the Orlando Weekly.
Altered book, 2014