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Saturday, October 10, 2015


(A charming portrait of Miriam Makeba by Samuel Nja Kwa)

Currently current at the Durban Art Gallery is Route du Jazz/Jazz Route – an exhibition of photographs by Samuel Nja Kwa. The exhibition also acknowledges his book of the same title which traces the journey of rhythm and tells a musical history of Africa.

Born in Paris, Samuel Nja Kwa studied and grew up between Douala (Cameroon), Paris (France) and Montreal (Canada). In 1996, returning from a travel in Japan he proposes his first exhibition Visions of Japan. At the same time, he launches Le Disque Africain Magazine with friends and meets many African and Jazz musicians, whom he has photographed and interviewed. By choosing the portrait, he distinguishes himself with a very personal style. His meeting with the African American pianist Randy Weston creates the catch. Samuel becomes more interested in African roots of Jazz and slavery.

“The road and history of Jazz crosses the one of Slavery from the continent of Africa,” he explains. “It starts in Africa, developing different cultural nuances before the European invasion, culminating to its climatic arrival in the year 1917, a year that has become an anchor in its history. A product of a creative mixes between Europe and the African traditional music on American ground, it is a symbolic expression of history.

“How can we evaluate the African musical culture once it has been deported?” he adds. “A victim of a violent invasion, how can it be recreated and renewed with the European and the American influences? How has it given birth to Jazz? Are there still traces of Africa in the Jazz of today? This exposition humbly tries to answer these questions. To do this, a major place has been allowed to the individuals and the influential actors of this era, from the African continent to the Americas, crossing through Europe.”

His work includes portraits of jazz luminaries such as Miriam Makeba; Herbie Hancock; Manu Dibango and Pharoah Sanders. The exhibition can be divided into three categories (ie three exhibition areas): Backstage; Soundcheck and Live.

Some portraits of musicians have been made backstage, before or after a concert. Or after a long interview, either at the musician’s home or the hotel or in the street. It is a moment of relaxation. The musician appears at times without his instrument, an intimate moment.

Before the concert, the musicians adjust the sound of their instrument. It is also the time when some resolve small details (a change, a bridge, the order of songs, the correction of partitions, etc.). Sometimes they play other instruments.

On stage, the musicians take a certain attitude, they have facial expressions. Samuel aims to capture those moments which illustrate their personality.

A hundred photos with dimensions will be determined according to the design. 80% of the photographs are in black and white.

The exhibition is located in DAG’s Gallery 4 and runs until October 26: The Durban Art Gallery is situated on the second floor of the Durban City Hall, entrance in Anton Lembede (formerly Smith) Street opposite the Playhouse. More information on 031 311 2262/6.

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