‘Africa’ is being exhibited at The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Ebisu, Tokyo featuring works by the pioneer social documentary photographer Sebastião Salgado.
Salgado studied law and agriculture in Brazil, before acquiring a master’s degree in economics in America. Although he worked for a short time at the Ministry of Finance in Brazil, the oppression imposed by the country’s military regime drove him to seek asylum in France. Subsequently he was awarded a doctorate in agricultural economics from the University of Paris and took up photography after starting work with the International Coffee Organization.
Salgado’s arresting 1984 images of the drought and famine in the Sahel area south of the Sahara Desert brought his name instant recognition. Since then, spanning a period of over thirty years, he has dedicated much of his career as a professional photographer to chronicling Africa.
Observers are presented with an overview of thirty-three years of Salgado’s life as a photographer, and the reasons for his particular interest in Africa are made evident in the images included in the exhibition. One hundred works selected from Salgado’s most important projects are featured, including ‘Workers’ and ‘Exodus’, as well as ‘Genesis’, the cycle he is currently working on.
Salgado’s images of Rwanda are especially noteworthy. While visiting Rwanda as an economist he developed a system that would allow the people there to earn a living through their labour on tea plantations. The photographs Salgado took of these people energetically working in the tea fields are juxtaposed with photographs of Rwandan refugees. The images of the refugees depict people who were displaced after the massacres and conflicts between the Hutu and the Tutsi: orphaned children holding food rations, cholera victims with heads hung low and the corpses of those slaughtered. Despite many international relief projects set up to aid the problems of conflict, hunger and desertification that Africa is facing, the situation there continues to alternate between progress and decline. This present-day sense of instability in Africa resonates within Salgado’s images.
Yet not all of the photographs exhibited are of such a horrific nature. There are also images that inspire a sense of hope for the future: refugees who have escaped the fighting bathed in dappled sunlight, faces of those who can still smile despite the severe circumstances they are in, and dense forests yet untouched by human hands. Precisely for this reason, ‘Africa’ leaves us with no choice but to believe that now is a time when learning more about Africa is of great significance and importance. Through the images in ‘Africa’, the viewer is given a chance to bear witness and raise awareness of the Africa Salgado depicts.
Sebastião Salgado AFRICA
Location: The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 2F Exhibition Gallery (more)
Date: Until Sun Dec 13
Open: 10am-6pm (Thurs and Fri 8pm), entry stops 30 minutes before closing.
closed Mon (Tues if Mon is a nat. holiday)
Admission: Adults 800, university students 700, junior high and high school students and senior citizens (over 65) 600
Translated by Virginia Okno