Ekow Eshun curates an exhibition inspired by activism and agency

The writer, curator and broadcaster has collaborated with the Fund for Global Human Rights on an exhibition in London that brings together work by photographers whose practice centres on community and collaboration

The Fund for Global Human Rights is a charity working with activists across Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Southeast Asia – four regions of the world that it is spotlighting in Face to Face, a new public exhibition in King’s Cross Tunnel and the surrounding Outside Art Project space, which launched earlier this year.

The free exhibition has been curated by writer, broadcaster and former ICA director Ekow Eshun, who recently authored Africa State of Mind, a book examining new photographic work from across the continent.

Mahtab Hussain image in King's Cross exhibition
Man in cemetery ‘Going Back Home to Where I Came From’, 2013, by Mahtab Hussain
James Brown, from the series The Royal House of Allure, 2019 by Sabelo Mlangeni

The eight photographers featured in Face to Face have produced work related to the four regions where the fund has a presence. They were selected not just for the way their work resonates visually, but also because of their practice, working closely with local communities in a way that “mirrors the values and approach of the fund”.

George Osodi was chosen for his series Oil Rich Niger Delta, which he worked on for four years alongside the local people. Elsewhere, in the making of his Ovahimba Youth Self-Portraits series, Kyle Weeks gave the Himba people in northern Namibia control of the shutter release as a way of partially redressing the subject-photographer relationship.

Vapwakuapi Thom (aged 18) self-portrait in Okangwati, Namibia, 2013, from the series Ovahimba Youth Self Portraits, 2012-2014 by Kyle Weeks
Alejandro Cartagena image of carpoolers in King's Cross exhibition
From the series Carpoolers, 2011 by Alejandro Cartagena

Medina Dugger’s series is inspired by Muslim women in Lagos, Nigeria, and reframes the hijab as a form of self-expression, rather than oppression. Also set in Lagos is Sabelo Mlangeni’s series The House of Allure, which saw the photographer spend two months embedding himself in the eponymous Nigerian queer safe house. Face to Face also features the work of photographers Alejandro Cartegena, Margaret Courtney-Clarke, Mahtab Hussain and Dhruv Malhotra.

Eshun wanted the show “to highlight social documentary photography that functions as a form of engagement, dispensing with the ostensible objectivity of reportage photography and focusing instead on the subjective validity of lived experience,” he says. “In the process, the exhibition conjures compelling images that, as the philosopher Gilles Deleuze put it, create ‘impressions which force us to look, encounters which force us to interpret, expressions which force us to think’.”

Top image and above: installation view. Photos: Luke White, courtesy The Fund for Global Human Rights
Installation view. Photo: Luke White, courtesy The Fund for Global Human Rights
Keys and Latticework, from the series Enshroud, 2018-ongoing, by Medina Dugger
Ogoni Boy, 2007, from the series Oil Rich Niger Delta, 2003-2007 by George Osodi
Installation view. Photo: Luke White, courtesy The Fund for Global Human Rights
Installation view. Photo: Luke White, courtesy The Fund for Global Human Rights

Face to Face is on display around King’s Cross, London from October 7 – November 1; facetoface.photos