SASSEN, Viviane. Flamboya. (Rome): Contrasto, (2008).

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SASSEN, Viviane.
(Rome): Contrasto, (2008).

4to (300 × 240 mm), pp.[98] (a number of which are two-thirds in width). 49 colour photographs. Short story by Moses Isegawa, Essay by Edo Dijksterhuis. Design by SYB. Plain self-endpapers; strip of binder’s adhesive showing through on front pastedown at gutter as often with this title. Colour photo-illustrated paper-covered boards, text in white; head and foot of spine and corners lightly rubbed. Former owner’s name embossed discreetly to bottom corner of title-page. Near-fine copy of a book that is prone to wear.

First edition. ‘Vivianne Sassen’s images of native Africans in her book Flamboya are both portraits and non-portraits. Often the faces of her models are hidden by heavy shadows, pieces of foliage or body paint, so that they become universal - symbols for an idea of Africa, and probably for Sassen’s own relationship with Africa. Although born and raised primarily in Holland, from the ages of two to five she lived in a Kenyan village with her father, who was a doctor.

Flamboya is a complicated book about identity expressed through representation, playing with portrait conventions and cultural preconceptions. Of course, the work displays an awareness of the chequered history of Europeans representing Africans, but deals with it, as it were, by simply ignoring it. For the most part, Sassen is focusing on young Africans today, westernized - ‘corrupted’? - by global corporate consumerism’ (Badger).

Parr, M. and Badger, G., The Photobook: A History vol. III p.241.


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