Words fail me as I begin to think of expressing the gratitude that Julz and I have for your support through the duration of the 'I AM' project. The campaign wouldn't have been a success without the support of what we call our extended family - which is you. The two of us have been on this journey for the last year and to say the support has anchored us is to simplify the efforts, love and cups of teas we received from family and friends. I for one know they were moments when I was just unbearable to be around because the weight of the project was getting to me and for those moments I thank everyone who held my hand and listened to me think out loud about what to do next.
This journey began with exchanges of emails between Julia and myself, we both had a similar idea but we did not know how connected and aligned our visions were going to be until we met up to discuss the project and begin the journey. What was supposed to be an exhibition of the lives of Africans in NZ has now become a documented piece of academic, photographic and emancipatory work. The framework that guided us as we were executing the different components of the project was the spirit of Ubuntu - all for one and one for all. They were moments when we thought this isn't going to work, for all the creatives out there you may know it as the creative graph where you go from yes to oh my goodness what the f%cK are we doing, to oh this is going to be okay. At one point we had done a planning sheet and it dawned on us that to execute the project we were going to need at least $10,000. Where were two young women going to get that much from?! We fretted of course but at the same time we knew that the idea had been placed in our hearts to execute because it was necessary.
We went ahead and did everything as though we had all the resources at our disposal. At times we questioned how we were doing it and how it was going and we credited it to a higher power as well as the love and support of our family. To all the participants that shared their stories with us and gave us the honour of resharing them to the public, you are our heroes. It is not easy to share your experiences especially having to answer questions that relate to the core vulnerable aspect of your being and to have those answers shared to a public, wow. Listening back to the interviews, looking at the images and reading the stories, all we can say is we are in awe of the people you are, such brilliant people who ooze brilliance, courage and above all soft magic.
To everyone who participated in the social media aspect, thank you for listening to the call and supporting the movement. You weren't getting paid and at first we attempted to do giveaways but even without the enticement of anything you still participated, thank you so much. Initially we expected that 30 people or less were going to participate and I remember stating that even if two people share their photos, it will be a blessing and what do you know more than 60 of you participated, thank you.
To everyone that reached into their pockets when we needed to subside the $1,200 for framing the images, thank you very much. Every single cent that we received truly helped.
Thank you to:
Our participants; Mahlete Tetseke, Nefsie Dawit Tetseke, Wanjiku Kiare-Sanderson, Rowen Paul Alexander, Kiden Brown, Janina Asiedu, Kamal Sunker, Naima Ali and Chiedza Nyangoni
Friends & family of Makanaka Tuwe & Julia Glover for their love, support and guidance
African Communities Forum Incorporated
Associate Professor Evangelia Papoutsaki
Yehualashet Aboye and the Love, Cover, Protect team
Dorina Jotti for artistic guidance and curating the show
John & Rainer from The Digital Darkroom for printing the artwork
The team at Studio One Toi Tu & Auckland Council for their support and hanging of the work
Jay and the team at Factory Frames
Brent Monastra and the Copy Centre team
Laura and Adrian from Xoriguer Gin providing us with delicious gin & tonics
Meghan from Cardrona Distillery
Once again thank you very much, being a part of this project that we expect, hope and pray to play the role of a catalyst that will provide the impetus to start exploring different participatory and alternative methodologies to countering the one-dimensional representation of people of African descent in the New Zealand context. This project has strengthened my belief in the spirit of Ubuntu and that when we come together we can overcome and do amazing things.
Tatenda (thank you),