In Luganda, the widest spoken minority language in Uganda, the word for photograph is ebifananyi. The term means ‘likenesses’, and can relate to drawings and paintings as well as to photographs. Ebifananyi are things that look like something else.
Photographer/researcher Andrea Stultiens embarked on a long-term research project about this particular conceptualisation of photographs that seems so unfamiliar from a Western perspective. Stultiens focused on the capacity of photographs as ‘encounters’: the site where a camera, a camera operator and a photographed reality meet, and where meaning is created in interaction with the audience watching the images.
Through a series of exhibitions in Uganda and Europe, and eight publications co-published by Paradox and History in Progress Uganda (HIPUganda), Stultiens investigated the differences between ebifananyi/photographs and the historical and cultural context of their creation and use. Through ‘correspondence’, a term borrowed from anthropologist Tim Ingold, different actors – photographs, image makers and audience – embarked on a shared path and engaged with each other’s positions.
The exhibition Mutualities in the gallery of the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) shows a selection of works that deal with the mutability of likenesses, and marks the occasion of Andrea Stultiens’ dissertation defence at the PhDArts program at KABK/Leiden University.