Event / 14 Jul – 15 Jul 2021

More Than A Number: Symposium 1

“We’re more than sand and the seashore, we’re more than numbers.”

- Bob Marley, Wake Up and Live, 1979

More Than a Number is a part of Ffotogallery’s Photography and Africa series, which looks to explore our thinking of an Africa caught between modernity and tradition, and how different cultures can produce meaning through images. Through a series of artist workshops, symposia and online content, More Than a Number invites the audience to engage with the exceptional and thought-provoking work of 11 photographers from Africa. It encourages us to look deeply and clearly into the face of the individual in front of you and engage in a conversation. As Elbert Hubbard wrote, “If men could only know each other, they would neither idolise nor hate”.

Cultural difference and questions of identity within the ‘rights of recognition’ have, for many of the people who have been regulated to the margins of society, been front-line battles in establishing their identity and human worth (Hall, 1992). What happens when we neglect people’s material culture and not truly value it or represent it everywhere for everyone to engage with? And how can we as the audience, be that as individuals or cultural organisations, draw conclusions from what we already know and understand about Africa and Africans through a visual medium. And finally, how can we as cultural organisations in the West be more responsible in how we represent photography from Africa?

More Than a Number is centred around three themes: Representing Fearlessness, Zones of Contact, and Radical Sociality. Amina Kadous, Brian Otieno, Sarah Waiswa and Wafaa Samir’s projects offer highly subjective visions of African identity while exploring what true freedom and fearlessness in art looks like. Nana Kofi Acquah, Salih Basheer, Tom Saater and Yoriyas Yassine Alaoui teleport the audience into their zones of contact, and explore the idea of remaking and reimagining our identities. Maheder Haileselassie Tadese, Steven Chikosi and Jacques Nkinzingabo’s projects remind of us of the importance of preserving and caring for our material culture, cultural heritage and its impact, especially in regard to questions of migration, decolonisation, belonging and experience.

Rights of representation need to happen and need to continue happening through a visual medium such as photography. Historically, to be seen and looked at - across race, gender and class - is a human right. The launch of the More Than a Number online exhibition and first symposium is scheduled for the 14th of July 2021.


The first More Than a Number symposium will feature curators from throughout Africa as its guest-speakers, who will discuss issues around the exposure and representation of local photographers and visual artists in Africa. The questions addressed will include:

  • Is there enough critical discourse to situate and appraise the work being produced by photographers from Africa?
  • Is there such a thing as an African visual aesthetic?
  • What are some of the experiences and challenges met when curating an exhibition/festival in Africa – (I invite you to look critically and reflect on your journey when you started).
  • How can we ensure that photographers in Africa have the same opportunities as other practitioners, and are treated fairly and respectfully as international photographers?
  • What are some of the policies put in place to protect and care for visual artists working in Africa?
  • How do you think transparency amongst artists and institutions/organisations can be achieved?
  • (This question is for the exhibiting artists:) What steps, methods or measures do you take (if any) in your work to ensure that your work represents a “realistic” or “accurate” or “truthful” image of Africa?
  • How can we ensure that audiences gain genuine insight, understanding and meaning from photographs, especially those coming from Africa?

Later in the summer of 2021, three artist workshops will be held online: centred around the three themes explored earlier - Representing Fearlessness, Zones of Contact and Radical Sociality - each artist will engage in a conversation with the audience about their work. And finally, to coincide with the Cardiff-based Diffusion Festival 2021 (October 2021), a physical exhibition and second symposium will be presented to further explore many of the conversations around More Than a Number and Photography and Africa.

More Than a Number Online Exhibition https://ffotoview.org/