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Fotografie Chantal van lobbrecht

Charmaine de Heij

Charmaine de Heij (1992, Alphen aan den Rijn) recently obtained her Master Photography and Society at Royal Academy of Art, The Hague (KABK). A photographic approach is at the core of Charmaine’s artistic practice. This approach often takes shape in photographs with portrait elements and still lifes. In addition to staging photographs, archives are often used as a basis. Through collages, these historical photographs gain a new meaning. A method that is regularly applied as a way of decolonising archives.

With her dual identity as a Surinamese and Dutch person she wants to create a shared understanding on topics as slavery and colonial history.Her visual work is designed to challenge people’s perspectives, to lead the outsider inside into realms they may not yet have been exposed to and to offer recognition and representation to those who are already familiar. She encourages the viewer to ask questions and explore what lies beyond their current understanding. By using photography as an educational tool, Charmaine aims to create a meaningful effect and engage the viewer in a dialogue. She invites the viewer to think and reflect critically with her.

The Netherlands is the Best

Charmaine de Heij, C-prints and publication, 2024

The Netherlands is the Best is a visual examination of the absurd remnants of colonialism still embedded in Dutch society. A well known example are the statues of sea “heroes” that flaunt themselves in various city squares. On Marktplaats, however, you will also come across iron chains and shackles that were once used to secure enslaved people. For the enthusiast, there are maps for sale of the Dutch colonies in 1840, nice for the living room wall? Another ad offers a bracelet with VOC charms. What do these and many other sales advertisements say about contemporary society and the way we look at a violent and underexposed history?

The project furthermore exposes the inappropriate glorification and trivialisation that are still present in some corners of society. Although the king, Willem-Alexander, officially and recently apologized for the slavery past, it remains unclear to some why these apologies were made due to a general lack of knowledge about our colonial past. Charmaine thinks it’s necessary to stay in dialogue and show that it is an ongoing relevant conversation.

With her latest photo series and book, Charmaine challenges viewers to ask questions and explore what lies beyond their frame of reference and understanding. Using photography as an educational tool, she aims to create a meaningful effect and engage the viewer in a dialogue.

CharmainedeHeij VisualStorytellers ansichtkaart 1


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