Print Study Room: Human Rights and Development

“Human Rights and Development” with Program Director and Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Nurcan Atalan-Helicke

Students in this course examine global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the extent to which a rights-based development approach has been embedded into the design and implementation of SDGs. In review of case studies from the United States and the world, students discussed why there are still concerns about balancing economic, environmental, and social aspects of development, and challenges to achieving equality in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, age, and ability. This class is an Environmental Studies, Gender Studies, and Black Studies course, and provides an interdisciplinary framework to examine challenges to human development amidst a pandemic.

Assignment

Students researched how artists from the African continent reflect on challenging issues and incorporate gender, health, environment, immigration, and well-being in general into their art. The students submitted a long essay incorporating the artist’s background, country of origin, the theme highlighted by the artwork, and how that connects to class themes, while the shorter reflections below provide a glimpse of the artist and their art from the lens of human rights and development.

A black and white photograph of a black person posing in sunglasses in front of a backdrop of an airplane.
Sanlé Sory, Je vais décoller, 1977, printed 2017, gelatin silver print, 19 7/8 x 16 in., The Jack Shear Collection of Photography at the Tang Teaching Museum, 2018.13.3
Ibrahim Sanlé Sory was born in 1943 in the French colony of the Republic of Upper Volta, which is now known as Burkina Faso. Sanlé Sory began as an apprentice to local Ghanians and captured highway accidents on his motorbike. Although he had many talents as an illustrator and reporter, his primary passion was photography. He launched his own studio, Volta Photo Studio, in Bobo-Dioulasso, which was in the heart of Burkina Faso at that time. Starting age eighteen, he developed and printed his own photographs and portraits. He mainly took 6 x 6 black and white portraits of individuals or groups of people. Word of his work spread quickly among the crowds of Bobo-Dioulasso and he was soon recognized as the go-to photographer of the city. By hosting dance parties, Sanlé Sory not only attracted young adults to city life, but unintentionally cultivated a new and developing culture with his generation. And his work is symbolic of this.
A large white barrel says “AFRIKA OIL?” on it in red and a black man’s head leans out of the top with a plastic bottle in his mouth.
Barthélémy Toguo, Stupid African President 3 (Afrika Oil), 2006, digital inkjet print, 42 7/8 x 30 7/8 in., gift of the artist, 2012.7.3
Afrika Oil? is the third installment in the series Stupid African President by Barthélémy Toguo. Toguo is a Cameroonian and French artist whose focus lies in showing the reality of political themes versus how they are commonly perceived. Completed in 2006, Afrika Oil? is a photographic representation of the exploitation and environmental degradation of resource-rich African states that stem from the region’s colonial history. The artwork itself is seemingly simple at first glance, but possesses a powerful message. A man is crouching in an oil drum with the words “Afrika Oil?” painted in red letters against the white background of the oil drum. An empty plastic water bottle lays erect in his mouth. Oil extraction is a main source of environmental degradation in these countries, most notably through water contamination.
A large, black glitter skull contains pieces of a photograph of a man looking at smaller human skulls. The jaw of the large skull has four legs attached to it.
Wangechi Mutu, Ovarian Cysts [from Histology of the Different Classes of Uterine Tumors], 2006, collage on digital print, 23 x 17 in., gift of Michael Jenkins and Javier Romero, 2016.27.4
The gynecological history of women, specifically women of color, has been wrought with stereotypes, cruelty, and dehumanization. Wangechi Mutu explores this history through her collection Histology of the Different Classes of Uterine Tumors. Ovarian Cysts uses material and thematic contrast to comment on the crises of medical racism and genital mutilation faced by Black women. Images pulled from antique medical journals represent the detrimental legacy of medical tradition and conservatism, whereas clippings of bare legs literally emerging from a large skull and bold glitter speaks to the emergence of female liberation and modernity.
A black and white photograph of a black person posing in sunglasses in front of a backdrop of an airplane.
Sanlé Sory, Je vais décoller, 1977, printed 2017, gelatin silver print, 19 7/8 x 16 in., The Jack Shear Collection of Photography at the Tang Teaching Museum, 2018.13.3
Sanlé Sory began his photography career in the early 1960s, right when Burkina Faso regained independence from the French. In the same year, the artist returned to his hometown Bobo-Dioulasso and created his own photography studio, also known as Volta Photo, at only eighteen years of age. However, his artwork did not reach wider audiences until he was in his 70s. Not until French music producer Florent Mazzoleni discovered his 1960 album cover shoots, the images of the youth he took in his studio, and was in awe about them did he achieve worldwide recognition.
A large white barrel says “AFRIKA OIL?” on it in red and a black man’s head leans out of the top with a plastic bottle in his mouth.
Barthélémy Toguo, Stupid African President 3 (Afrika Oil), 2006, digital inkjet print, 42 7/8 x 30 7/8 in., gift of the artist, 2012.7.3
Barthélémy Toguo studied at art academies in the Ivory Coast, France, and Germany. Toguo’s work has been displayed in galleries on five continents. Common themes throughout his work include migration, colonialism, race, and the relationship between the global North and South. Toguo’s 2005-2008 Stupid African President portrait series represents African politicians and issues of leadership within economic, environmental and political contexts.
Three black men in sunglasses pose around a vase holding pink flowers. They are in front of a gold, black, and white backdrop and are standing on a floral fabric.
Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou, Untitled, 2012, chromogenic print on paper, 59 x 59 3.8 in., Tang purchase with support from Jack Bell Gallery, 2020.25.3
Maxwell Baskins ’23 and Jasmine Leong ’23
Photographer Leonce Raphael Agbojélou explores the rich culture in Porto Novo, Benin, with the mission to give value back to his culture and country. His 2012 portrait series, Musclemen, depicts young male bodybuilders found on the streets of Porto Novo. Muscular men wearing traditional printed African fabric against a matching background holding fake flowers complement the brightly patterned fabric, yet the patterns and flowers contrast the notion of masculinity that his subjects so strongly portray. This display of power and appreciation for the culture reveals themes of masculinity, history, and the economy in Benin.
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Fatou Kandé Senghor, Giving Birth, 2015, video with color, sound, 30:00, gift of the artist, 2016.3.1
Fatou Kandé Senghor is a talented Senegalese filmmaker whose numerous films speak upon a variety of themes related to African culture. She is also the creator of Waru Studio in Dakar, which is a platform for young creators to meet and conduct research and artistic experiments through new technologies. Dakar, the capital of Senegal, is a chief coastal port located in West Africa with a population of approximately 1 million people. Senegal is a secular republic and a Muslim country; 95% of this country’s population is Muslim. Gender inequities exist in Senegal: Women have significantly less access than men to western education. Women are less likely to own land, and less likely to be represented in elected and appointed offices of government. Senghor’s 2015 documentary titled Giving Birth observes the story of a ceramist named Seni Awa Camara, who has been awarded with a gift of creating unique clay figurines.
A black and white photograph of a black person posing in sunglasses in front of a backdrop of an airplane.
Sanlé Sory, Je vais décoller, 1977, printed 2017, gelatin silver print, 19 7/8 x 16 in., The Jack Shear Collection of Photography at the Tang Teaching Museum, 2018.13.3
Ibrahima Sanlé Sory was born in the rural Nianiagara district of Burkina Faso in 1943. At that time, the country was a French colony called Upper Volta. Upper Volta (or Haute-Volta) was established from territories that had been parts of the colonies of Upper Senegal and the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) in 1919 as a colony of French West Africa. Burkina Faso gained its independence in 1960, the same year Sory began his photography career. As the country started to urbanize and economically develop itself, it opened up to integration and relations with neighboring countries.
A large white barrel says “AFRIKA OIL?” on it in red and a black man’s head leans out of the top with a plastic bottle in his mouth.
Barthélémy Toguo, Stupid African President 3 (Afrika Oil), 2006, digital inkjet print, 42 7/8 x 30 7/8 in., gift of the artist, 2012.7.3

Barthélémy Toguo was born in Cameroon in 1967, and currently splits his time living between Bandjoun, Cameroon and Paris, France. Toguo has used a variety of mediums in his artwork over the course of his career, including film, photography, and watercolor paints, and often appears as subjects in his own pieces. His photographic works are often described as a combination of performance art and portrait photography, which are useful to reflect on a variety of social and political issues, including race, war, immigration, and the environment.

Cameroon is an oil rich country and also considered one of the most mineral rich countries in West Africa. Most of the oil and gas exploration in Cameroon is done offshore in the Gulf of Guinea by multinational corporations (MNCs) which has a negative effect on the marine life and water quality. While many may consider the foreign involvement in Cameroon to be beneficial for the economy, the opposite effects continue to occur.

A black and white photograph of a black woman with her head turned and chin touching her shoulder, she is looking towards the camera. There are leaves in the background.
Zanele Muholi, HeVi Oslo [from Somnyama Ngonyama (Hail the Dark Lioness)], 2016, gelatin silver print, 39 ½ x 29 ¾ in., purchased with generous funding from Nancy Herman Frehling ’65 and Leslie Cypen Diamond ’96, 2016.30.2
This artwork is from a collection, called Somnyama Ngonyama (Hail the Dark Lioness), by Zanele Muholi. It gives visibility to a group that do not see positive and accurate representations of themselves often: black members of the LGBTQ+ community in South Africa. Muholi wanted people to connect with, and to see themselves in the artwork, as their overall goal was to give visibility to the black queer community. Their powerful artwork speaks to issues within the South African constitution, which is meant to enshrine rights for the queer community and the individuals within it, too many of whom experience hate crimes, marginalization, and multi-level oppression.
A large white barrel says “AFRIKA OIL?” on it in red and a black man’s head leans out of the top with a plastic bottle in his mouth.
Barthélémy Toguo, Stupid African President 3 (Afrika Oil), 2006, digital inkjet print, 42 7/8 x 30 7/8 in., gift of the artist, 2012.7.3
Barthélémy Toguo is a 54-year-old artist from Cameroon. His series Stupid African President consists of theatrical mise en scenes that critique the leadership in Africa. In his third installment, Toguo explores Africa’s wealth in terms of oil and its distribution. The stark contrast between the red letters on the white barrel represents a need for communication, and the question mark is a query into the allocation of Africa’s resources. Water and fossil fuel extraction are interconnected and related. Fossil fuel producers use water for fracking, processing oil and gas, and creating electricity. This close relationship is dangerous because the post-production water is either unsafe or depleted. Water is often contaminated, and its storage facilities can release hazardous fumes which are harmful to the local population. Non-reused water is disposed of and wasted.
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Pattern by Nathan Bloom ’21
Inspired by the performance Honey Baby in the exhibition Janine Antoni & Stephen Petronio: Entangle
The Tang Pattern Project celebrates the Museum’s 20th anniversary. Organized by Head of Design Jean Tschanz-Egger, past and current Tang Design Interns created patterns inspired by the Museum’s exhibition and event history.