Ubuntu - I Am because We Are

In august of 2015 photographer Rebecca Fertinel (°1991) was invited to a wedding by her friend Tracy Tansia. Here, Fertinel was introduced to the warm, unabashed life-approach of the Congolese community in Belgium and the Bantu concept ‘Ubuntu’: that you really only become human when you are connected to everything and everyone.

In Fertinel’s photographic documentary, the concept of Ubuntu seems to intertwine with the desire to belong to a group and maintain a group identity in a changing environment, as we can deduce from the guest’s uniform appearance.

The photographed scenes seem to take place in an indefinable era, at an indefinable place. This is not due to the black-and-white photography, but to the ‘classic’ clothes and hairstyles, which become timeless in the absence of time-bound colors. Only when we look at the settings for certain architectural elements or spatial accessories, we understand that we are not in the United States in the 1950s, or Kinshasa in the seventies. We are in Flemish cultural centers and church halls in 2017.

Everyone in a similar situation has experienced the desire to connect with certain traditions on the one hand, while simultaneously feeling different and no longer seamlessly connected with the old culture on the other hand. "Ni Congolais, ni Belge." Within the group, the individual feels strong, but outside the group he or she will feel lonely and deviant. We need each other.

Looking for ways to go beyond the registration of the uncomfortable, artificial togetherness, she started to emphasize the moments in which the guests no longer seem to know what attitude they should adopt and start to resemble the photographer in their lostness. See, everyone is looking for a place in life. That is the beauty of Ubuntu.

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