IDENTITY // A SAASUM - ST.ART collaboration

By: Violet India Chaudoir

St Andrews Africa Summit (SAASUM) is a student based initiative which consistently welcomes and develops discussions on Africa, Africans and African affairs whether they be political, social or artistic. Throughout term-time SAASUM organises events and multimedia platforms whereby these conversations can take place, redirecting the St. Andrews eye-line internationally, beyond the Scottish cliffs and borders. 

Each year any artists or creatives traveling to Africa are encouraged to harness their words, lens and materials to create art pieces based on a theme SAASUM introduces. In 2015 SAASUM’s exposition was built on the concept of ‘Africa Through Your Eyes’ and used photography to correct and realign the warped perceptions media formulates of African people and culture. The focus on individuals, as opposed to larger institutions, was returned to in SAASUM’s latest Multi-Media Pop-Up exhibition, titled ‘Identity’, which drew gallery-goers closer to the people of Africa, their gestures, their expressions and their beauty. 

In SAASUM's most recent showcase the artworks produced and their theme posed a series of intriguing questions:

How is one’s identity formed? Is it moulded by one’s surroundings - the community and culture you live in, or does each choice we make reconfigure and alter our identity slightly? Are we our own agents, or are we products of our context? Can art or alternate depictions of ourselves change how we consider each other? Can one’s identity really be snapped in a second, caught in a moment by a camera or with the sweep of the brush? 

The vast amount of responses, which were both varied in content and medium, were curated by SAASUM very elegantly to demonstrate both the range and the quality of the work sent in. The pieces were only heightened by the space they were placed in. Spoiled hairdresser proved an excellent location for the exhibition, and resembled to some extent a real gallery space. Whilst the space was small, it felt intimate rather than restrictive, and the mirror’s adorning each wall provided the illusion of a larger room. Skilled DJs maintained a casual vibe and the complimentary South African wine ensured that conversation never faltered. As for the artworks themselves, artists captured people's sunlit profiles, the limbs of individuals and communities were caught dancing and running across landscapes, streets and school grounds. The freshness of each child’s faces and the wizened skin of each elderly man and woman were displayed using prints of a high quality which both retained the detail and the vibrancy of the moments originally experienced. An addition to the multimedia gallery which must be noted was the screening of a trailer for ‘Does Volunteerism Need Saving? #PoorPeople’ an upcoming documentary directed by Imogen Hooper and Omar Ali which addresses the advantages and disadvantages of volunteerism. I pray SAASUM does a screening of the documentary when it is released for it looks impressively filmed and the content asks some challenging and important questions. 

Perhaps to emphasis the success of the show I should have recorded the buzz of talk, all focused on the perceptions of Africa, that filled the room, or photographed the silent auction box which was filled with bids (another new feature added to SAASUM’s exhibition). If you couldn’t make the exhibition, do look through the superb pieces SAASUM and its community created, they do not deserve to go unrecognised. Or better yet, don't click 'Interesting' on another SAASUM event, go and you won't be disappointed! 

To find out more about the documentary on Volunteerism, follow this link 

Photography and artwork were taken by Maddy Bazil, Sian Venables, Kidst Halle, Emma Rebein, Hassein Merghani, Camila Chumaceiro and Alexandrina Fleming

ST.ART Magazine