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Farren van Wyk in conversation with Alessia Glaviano

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Alessia Glaviano: I think you’re very talented! Maybe it would be good for you to have an experience abroad.

Farren van Wyk: It’s not the plan to stay here. I have sacrificed finding my own place to be able to finance my projects and a lot of other things. During the past few years that I’ve been working, all of that money went into my photographic work. So I have been able to go to South Africa for months and I financed it myself. I’ve never received any funding, the biggest Dutch cultural arts organization, the Mondriaan Foundation, has declined me three times.  This is the first funding prize that I am ever receiving in my life.

Alessia Glaviano: Well, you deserve it. Your work is really exquisite, the black and white, the quality, the pictures, the concept… Everything is great about it. I would love to see you grow as an artist and do more projects. What is your dream? Where would you like to go? 

Farren van Wyk: I thought about moving to Amsterdam, or Utrecht. I would love to be a part time teacher at the photography school where I got my bachelor’s degree, and then be able to do my projects during the summer months. That means that I would come back and I would have a job. I would have a bit more stability. That’s my dream. Actually, I met an American in March, I’m in a long distance relationship, he’s in Brooklyn. I’m gonna try to move there because I don’t feel settled here, I don’t have my own place here, and neither in South Africa. I need to get off the farm, go to Brooklyn, and see how it is to be there with him and then figure it out from there.

Alessia Glaviano: Can you tell me a little bit more about the project? How did you work at it?

Farren van Wyk: It just started with my brothers watching movies. They were into doing hair. As taking care of your hair is also actually a very South African thing, I thought: let me capture that. I was influenced by JD ‘Okhai Ojeikere’s hair project of African ladies from the 1950s, whenever I saw it, it blew my mind. And I started to feed off of that, capturing their hair from the back or zooming into the waves, but still seeing the contours of the face. It started with that, with the braids, the waves, the durags… And then I realised I wanted to show that we live in a very typical Dutch agricultural farm: there are barns, there are stable doors, round windows, we still have a roof that’s made of hay. I wanted to mix these elements because I think there is a superficial notion of what a Western farmer looks like and where he or she lives. I knew that the pictures that are out there of how these farmers look do not represent us, we do not look anything like them. I became aware of this iconography; I became aware that the Western world –which is predominantly white, and that actually speaks about white people– dominates the international media outlets in every single kind of form, and then it kind of clicked. I was digging into what is already out there, versus what we are doing and how I can mix the two. I also went back to Dana Lixenberg and Deana Lawson’s works. I started studying anthropology for my master’s degree in 2021. I also researched the first portraits that were taken in South Africa by white anthropologists with Western backgrounds, photographing people almost naked to enhance racial ideas. So there’s one image where there were the four of us, we have bedsheets at the back, and my brothers have a Tupac and Biggie t-shirt, and I have an Aaliyah t-shirt on, and then the youngest brother has the LeBron Cleveland Cavaliers jersey, the year that they became NBA champions. I knew bits of that history and I was trying to piece it together as a puzzle. It starts all in my brain, there are all these puzzle pieces. And then I try to figure out how to put it together and what makes sense, but also, sometimes my gut would just tell me, “We’re gonna put these together and you just gonna make the image and then you will figure it out later.”\


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