Lexicon, 22 March 2014 - 5 June 2014

'Lexicon draws on Sassen’s memories. For her, Africa was a formative experience. She spent three years of her early childhood in a remote village in Kenya, returning to the Netherlands with her family when she was five. ‘To me, Africa is vivid colours and strong contrasts of light and dark,’ she says. ‘I remember looking at women and children sitting under the trees sheltering from the sun and, even as a child, seeing these graphic shapes.’

Sassen is obsessed with the blackness of black skin. ‘It’s a more beautiful skin color,’ she says. ‘When I’m the only white person in a black society, I feel very nude. And when I see other white people in Africa, they’re white, pinkish, ugly, and sweating. I’m aware of the whole debate about my depicting black people in Africa as a white European woman, and of me being in control because I’m carrying the camera. But I'm not really interested in that debate, because for me the work comes from a very personal private place. When I’m in Africa, I feel like I’m coming home, yet I also feel like I’m not one of them.’

‘Africa’ is a loaded subject and Sassen’s work is haunted with issues about the representation of the exotic other. However, in the end, we can’t tell if the problem is hers or ours, whether the photographer is framing her subjects or her viewers.'

Lexicon, 22 March 2014 - 5 June 2014
City Gallery
Wellington, New Zealand