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An Interview with Juror’s Choice winner Miora Rajaonary

Q: What inspired you to start your series LAMBA?

As an African artist, I truly believe that we live in a very inspiring era, because so many of us have taken the opportunity to tell our own stories. I really was inspired and felt empowered by this entire artistic movement to reclaim our narratives. Starting this project was a reason to go back, and a way for me to reconnect with my people, and celebrate my culture.

Q: What are your photographic influences?

Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita have been very strong influences. I have a very vivid memory of the first time I saw Malick Sidibe’s photo as a teenager. He’s documenting was so far from the usual clichés that were published about Africa. His work conveyed this unique mix of joy, innocence and pride. It resonated with me because, looking back at my childhood, this is how I pictured myself : naive, happy, and proud. I was raised by a father who never missed an opportunity to tell his children and grandchildren the story of his family, and remind them where they are from. These stories played an important role in the  construction of my identity, because they sounded epic.

 

Three  years ago, I also encountered the incredible work of Ramilijaona, a studio photographer that prospered during the 1930 in Antananarivo, my home city. Suddenly I could relate even more, because the pictures were taken in my hometown. I was struck by the elegance and dignity of his subjects.  I realized this was also what I wanted to do: portray my people with the outmost dignity.

Q: What would you like people to take away from your series?

I would like them to take away two things:

 

First of all, that Madagascar, which happens to be a paradise island, is more than the lemurs, giants baobabs, and the poverty and disease that they might see in mainstream media. It is a land populated by unique people with a singular culture they cherish and try to preserve.

 

The second thing is that whoever we are in the world, we should not lose our essence. And culture is such an important part of our essence, It should not dictate our existence but it certainly must be preserved.

Q: Which photographer, dead or alive, would you want to collaborate with?

Ramilijoana.

Q: If space and budget were not issues, where would you want to exhibit your work? 

One day, I would love to set up a JR-style exhibition of my work with massive posters of LAMBA on the walls of my native city, Antananarivo.

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