Spanish artist Cristina de Middel blends documentary and conceptual photographic practices to create a series of photographs, which offers a contemporary interpretation of the 1954 novel My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, by celebrated Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola. Influenced by Yoruba traditions and folklore, Tutuola’s story is narrated by a young boy who escapes an attack on his village by entering into a forbidden bush inhabited by ghosts. Through mythological tales of the boy’s haunted and often violent journey to reunite with his family, the author addresses themes of war, religion, displacement and the diversity of cultures in his native region of Abeokuta.
Created in 2014, This is What Hatred Did, reconfigures the bush, characters, and traditional imagery of Tutuola’s story with the people and architecture of the Lagosian neighborhood of Makoko. Once an 18th-century fishing village on stilts, it is now a floating slum with its own rules, infamously deemed as the “Venice of Africa”. De Middel’s installation of photographs shift between staged depictions of otherworldly figures and happenings to street portraits and moments of the everyday, challenging the notions of fact and fiction. The unconventional narrative of Tutuola’s story is mirrored in the exhibition, which is comprised of groups of photographs against a vibrant foliage textile. Like Tutuola, de Middel is interested in taking meaning from ancient stories and myth to help navigate the complex issues of the region.
Cristina de Middel is a photographer whose work investigates photography’s ambiguous relationship to truth. Blending documentary and conceptual photographic practices, she plays with reconstructions and archetypes that blur the lines between reality and fiction. After a successful career as a photojournalist, de Middel stepped outside of the photojournalistic gaze. She then produced the critically acclaimed series The Afronauts in 2012, which explored the history of a failed space program in Zambia in the 1960s through staged reenactments of obscure narratives. De Middel’s work shows that fiction can serve as the subject of photography just as well as facts can, highlighting that our expectation that photography must always make reference to reality is flawed.
De Middel has exhibited extensively internationally and has received numerous awards and nominations, including PhotoFolio Arles 2012, the Deutsche Börse Prize, POPCAP’ 13, and the Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography in New York. De Middel lives and works in Mexico.